Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

“What’s a little boy have to do to get something to eat around here?”

The question came from somewhere below the crowd. I looked down into the big brown eyes of my adorable son and instantly felt remorse. My son and I had not communicated effectively.

It was years ago at a large Christmas party. Dozens of family members and friends were happily exchanging toasts, admiring outfits, and exchanging choice bits of news and gossip. Food was everywhere. Food was overflowing tables, sideboards, and the plates of the grazing parents and teenagers. At that time, my son was only knee-high. Midway between the crowd’s knees and elbows, he was looking up with his puppy face. His plate was empty.

Knowing that there would be an abundance of goodies, I went to the party confident that my son would find plenty of food to his liking. I turned him loose after telling him to help himself. Unfortunately, he was vertically disadvantaged. My baby boy knew there was food up there somewhere, but he was too short to see or reach it. He was going hungry in the midst of plenty.

I learned three valuable lessons at that holiday party. First, you can’t assume that whether they be toddlers or adults that they will find what they want even when it’s all around them.

Second, wee tots will speak up when they’re being ignored or neglected, but you can’t count on customers or clients doing that. Third, effective communication is critical to everyone having a good time and going home satisfied.

Everyone has their own agendas and issues to be addressed. Everyone is a current or potential customer/client. Every business is striving to tap into that customer/client base. The competition intensifies during the holiday season, but it shouldn’t slack off when the decorations are taken down.

The holidays are filled with opportunities to communicate effectively, to strengthen existing ties and to forge new ones. The goodwill and fellowship of the season permeate business transaction, creating positive interactions that ideally will endure throughout the new year and those that will follow. But that won’t happen without on-going reinforcement through effective communications.

Having what current and potential customers/clients are seeking is basic to business. Letting them know what you have it is basic communication. Designing and implementing marketing strategies that are targeted to their needs and priorities is effective communication. And effective communication, backed by solid performance, keeps clients/customers coming back for more.

Customers/clients might be equated with guests attending a holiday party. Some go to the party confidently. They know what they want, how much it is likely to cost, how soon it can be delivered, and what guarantees stand behind the products or services they are seeking. Others are tentative guests.

They may be out of the mainstream, standing alone on the sidelines. They may be struggling to define why they’re at the party. They may not really know what they want or need even when it’s all around them. Like my son at that long-ago Christmas gathering, they may holding an empty plate and wondering what they have to do to get it filled.

Successful businesses know how to fill those plates. They do it by identifying and reaching out to potential clients/customers, by staying in touch with current ones, by soliciting feedback and reacting positively to it, by doing business on realities, not assumptions and by treating every customer/client as the most important guest at the party.

They never leave anyone asking, “What must I do to get something on my plate?”

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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