Communication is the Key to Success

When I started Arkansas Flag and Banner, Inc. in 1975 I sought customers by selling door to door. In the 80’s, not long after my daughter was born, I moved the business into my home and reached out to customers via the telephone. The 1990’s was the beginning of data mining and I expanded into direct mail. And so did everyone else.

My mailbox was so full of advertising pieces that I found myself disgusted by all the frivolous waste. I assumed my customers were as sick of junk mail as me, so I put all my efforts into this new-fangled world wide web opportunity. I never completely gave up on any of my prior sales channels, except yellow page advertising, but I did redirect or reduce spending on some of them.

Today, I find Google AdWords, though necessary, extremely expensive and have decided to reinvest in direct mail.

The problem, for me, with direct mail is analyzing the results. Sure, our sales increased but how, why and with whom? So, this month I made the decision to hire a direct mail company to help us with the match back. The first week was fine. I was my usual overly optimistic self. The second week we were assigned our new account manager. I couldn’t understand a word she said. Not because she was foreign or unintelligent, but our communication just wasn’t connecting. So I thought maybe it was me. I asked my people to sit in on a conference call with her and they couldn’t understand her either. This time we made the excuse that maybe there were just too many people involved on the call. So, a person to person call was made between my employee and my new non-communicable account manager. After this third call it was apparent, we were not going to be able to work with our new account exec.

We were all disheartened. What we’d thought was going to be a new, creative and exciting time at had begun with excruciating frustration.

If you can’t understand what someone is trying to tell you, don’t be afraid to tell them so. Ask them to repeat and explain it again and try hard to listen. If, for whatever reason, they can’t get their meaning across, then you should not feign politeness and waste everyone’s time. You must speak the truth for the good of your company and theirs.

I graciously called our new direct mail company’s main office and told them our predicament. I wasn’t accusing, they were understanding and we were both glad I called. It doesn’t matter how good your grades are or how smart you are, if you can’t communicate all is lost.

There’s really only two options in a situation like this: end our business relationship or assign us a new account manager. Week four is coming up. I’m still optimistic.