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By Donald Levin

You hear about corporate and marketing/sales strategy every day. How about communication strategy? How best can you get your message understood by decision-makers and those who influence them?

1. Know your audiences. Most executives say they know their employees, buyers, buying influences, shareholders, and other targets. The smartest do but constantly find ways to know them better. You need to study research on what they really want. Commission periodic surveys to quantify preferences and interests. Get firsthand knowledge by continually talking to them.

2. Study how they receive and absorb communication--so you can put your message through their accepted channels, or create new avenues to get their attention. Ask people in each audience how they learn and how they'd like to learn.

Consider special stationery, colored paper, new type faces, audio and videotape, ads in local or new media, informal seminars, diskette study programs, and anonymous feedback via questionnaires and self-addressed envelopes.

3. Test your communication. Gather reactions from a small but representative group. See if you idea is getting through--simply, memorably, with a motivating call to action. Modify the communication as indicated and repeat it with increasingly larger groups.

4. Evaluate response. Build in mechanisms to get feedback quickly, quantitatively, and with valuable comment.

It' s amazing how many execs don't press for full evaluation or don't believe the evaluation they receive. If you mail batches of 10,000 pieces and record the number of sales call requests from
each batch, don't stop there. Track the inquiries through to sale and payment, to achieve a thorough evaluation.
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