Managing Lists

Relationship building is a key component to business activity. One way to manage various kinds of relationships well is to elevate the practice of keeping good lists. Anyone in your sales department or donor relations office can vouch for this: managing lists can be a full-time job. You might have a list of current clients, hot prospects, cool prospects and those not to contact again. Keeping the lists straight and current is important.

In addition to prospect lists, you might have a variety of lists including a media, event invitees, freelancers and vendors. Once you’ve identified your contacts, organize them by the different categories. Depending on how often you use your media contacts, it’s a good idea to review the newspaper or publication to make certain your contact is current before sending something.

Designate someone in your office or department as the list keeper. When contacts are made, the list should be updated immediately, or information put in a file for a weekly update. If you have a list tracker software program, like ACT, even better. If not, putting your lists in an Excel spreadsheet is another option. Using the tabs to create separate sheets keeps everything in once place, and allows you to organize lists by subject.

List management isn’t always on top of the to-do list, but much like your own holiday list, it’s easier to update contacts on a regular basis than wait until you need to do a mailing or eblast. 

Measure the Gap

Gap Analysis

The gaps between perception and reality are directly proportional to the strength of your brand and depth of customer engagement. The question is: how do you measure those gaps and develop effective strategies to close them?

Start the process with an honest probe of the internal perceptions about your company. Uncover how you think your company is perceived by key audiences, and tease out what you think makes your company distinct from competitors. Include key leaders, board members and employees. This process identifies differences among internal perceptions and possible gaps between your perception of the company and that of key audiences.

Test Perceptions Against Reality

Next, compare your internal perceptions with those in the marketplace. Survey customers, prospects, suppliers and other key audiences to understand what’s important to them about your industry and specifically your company.

With the results from these two exercises, you can determine whether key target audiences see your company the same way you do. You can begin to answer some important questions:

  • Does what we say match what we do?
  • Is what we do different than what we’re perceived as doing?
  • Is there a difference between how our company is perceived in the marketplace versus how we’d like to be perceived?

The graphic below depicts the Gap Analysis process we use here at Bottom Line.

measure the gap

Close the Gap

As you can see, if there’s a gap between what you say you are and what you actually do, it could be an operational issue. You need to change what you say to match reality, or change how you perform so it matches your intentions.

If there’s a gap between what you do and how you are perceived, it’s likely a perception issue. You need to communicate more clearly about who you are and what you offer in the marketplace.

If there’s a gap between how you are perceived and how you’d like to be perceived, it’s likely an expectations issue. You need to manage expectations and clearly articulate who you are and what your company does that offers value in the marketplace.

One of the great benefits of this process is that you know where to work, where to devote resources and where to measure progress. Now, let’s go close those gaps, strengthen your brand and drive greater engagement internally and externally.

Communicating with Employees: Beyond Information Sharing

All businesses communicate internally, and many do it well. Some do it primarily because management has information to share with employees. Some organizations, however, recognize that internal communications help employees develop a deeper understanding of a strategic objectives, create deeper connectivity and build a culture of engagement, and prompt behaviors both on and off the job that positively influence your brand and enhance your bottom line. How? Here are a few tips to explore and apply.

Keep the big picture in mind

Employees who understand the business strategy, and particularly how what they do on the job matters to achieving that strategy, are more likely to engage their work effectively. Towers Watson has studied the ROI of effective internal communication, and the results seem clear: companies that are highly effective in their internal communications, including how they manage and communicate about change, are three and a half times more likely to financially outperform their industry peers.

Prompt connections, engage people

Pushing information out has to be done. Prioritizing information, however, and positioning it so it increases understanding, helps engage people with each other and the organization, and generates enthusiasm for individual workers and whole departments. Several of our clients wisely weigh and develop the messages and channels for their internal communications in light of what employees will receive best, not exclusively in light of what management wants to say.

Cultivate employees to live your brand

How are your customers experiencing your brand? Consistently great customer interactions are a reflection of an organization’s culture and ability to effectively turn strategy, operations and communication into positive experiences for each customer. It takes time, intentionality and leadership. Customer service training is important, but it only goes so far. Effective communications, backed up by operational excellence and a supportive culture, allow employees to deliver for the customer every time. 

Conversation in the Digital Age

Here it comes…another tips post on engaging with social media. Seems like this kind of advice is a dime a dozen these days, but we think it bears repeating. If you’re a business considering social media or looking to ramp up your existing presence, these are good rules to live by:

Be Genuine

Audiences will sense if you’re striking a false tone to hawk products or services. Likewise, they’ll shy away from those who appear to be trying too hard or need to “force” an engaging attitude. The best approach is to be a genuine reflection of your company, its industry and values. Respond in areas where you have something to say, retweet what feels like a natural fit for your company, and post in a tone that conveys the company’s philosophy.

Be Consistent

Too many companies make the mistake of jumping into social media without a plan to sustain it. Social media requires a commitment, whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly. Having a Facebook page that hasn’t been touched in six months, or a blog where the last new post is from 2012 can do more damage than having no social media presence at all. Even though it can feel casual at times, social media is a professional mirror of your organization. Treat it accordingly.

Interact with Others

It’s amazing how often people use social media simply to push their own information and products. The name—social media—implies a two-way conversation. Make it one! Review posts by others in your industry. Comment and be visible. Retweet, like or follow leaders you want to emulate, and then be wise enough to talk with them regularly after the fact. It’s social media. Be social.

Learn the Lingo

This can be difficult to get your arms around at first, but work to become familiar with terms like: like, follow, DM (direct message), RT (retweet), MT (modified tweet), hashtag (think of it like an email chain people can follow around a given topic). You’ll better understand how to leverage social media once you feel savvy about these aspects. Also do a search to find out which hashtags are popular in your industry.

Add Some Visuals

People like images! Let’s face it, we’re more likely to be pulled in by a compelling photo than we are by words alone. Use that to your advantage by incorporating relevant visuals in your posts.

Be Kind

The nature of the social media world can breed naysayers and virtual debates. Act wisely. Don’t engage trolls or get sucked into arguments. And, remember, there’s a person at the other end of a feed. When in doubt, heed your mother’s advice: If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.


Now, go out there and socialize!