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Client Communication

Lesson 5 from: Branding Strategies to Ignite Your Marketing

Ashlyn Carter

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Lesson Info

5. Client Communication

Next Lesson: Client Experience

Lesson Info

Client Communication

Your brand message is that what you're trying to say. Okay, we talked about positioning, that is a great example of that, and your voice is the how you say it. Think about... At least, I always picture my mom's handwriting on a thank you note or a grocery list. That is... It's just as catchy in my brain as her voice, right? Every time I see it, I know my mom wrote that. That might be the same way for you when you're writing letters to your friends. They know your handwriting, they know what it looks like. So, I want your voice to be the same way. I want your voice to communicate trust because when people hear it and see it, they know that this is you talking to them. Your messaging and your copy is the scaffolding upon which the rest of your business' branding is built. I know that it is so fun to dig straight into figuring out the hex code colors for your brand, the color palette to going straight to picking out your brand imagery to designing that logo. Those are so fun, right? I tot...

ally get that, but I want you to backtrack a minute and spend some time figuring out the things that we've talked about today: your audience, your positioning, how you're gonna communicate that through your message because copy dictates design. If we can figure out your message first, and like I said earlier, build things on top of that Fixer Upper style where we demo day down and we build on top of that, you're gonna be in a lot better position. As we wrap this up, I have some homework for you. I want you to head over to the bonuses section and grab that because there are some resources in there for finding your brand voice. I want you to download that guide and figure out how to put your brand's voice on paper. You probably have a mood board for you brand or, like I said, a color palette already picked out, but do you have your voice on paper? A quick story to illustrate this. I have a sweet sweet client turned friend, and when I was first starting to write for her I said... Her name is Jenna Kutcher and she has a great... Now she does all sorts of things, but when she was pulling me on to write for her and her business, it was for some course launches, and I said do you have any sort of brand messaging guide on hand? She said oh, I have a Jennaisms document. I said whatever that is, hand it over, and she emailed me this file and, essentially, she had just brought on her first virtual assistant to help out in her business, and she had made this list of things Jenna said from greetings to sign offs to other little quippy phrases that she said, and that was so helpful for me to use as I started communicating her brand. She had worked years on building a really solid firm foundation of her brand, and if I was gonna step in and continue to perpetuate and communicate that, I needed to be using her brand voice. So, do you have an isms document for your brand? Can you figure out how to get your brand's voice on paper? That is your homework for this section. Then we get to talk about the things like colors, textures, and patterns, and this Venn diagram that we keep going back to, figuring out what you wanna say and what your audience wants to say and where that overlap is, applies to this as well because when you're figuring out the right colors and formats to visually illustrate things in, then you also need to be thinking about what your target audience wants to see and hear from you. What would look comfortable for them? What are the colors they're attracted to, and what... There's a whole study, and I don't wanna dig into it too much because I'm not an expert on it. I am an expert at copywriting, not visual branding strategy, but I know there's so much research when it comes to picking the right colors and what certain colors communicate to people, what certain visual elements adds an enhancement to your storytelling are gonna communicate to people. So, I want you to spend some time on this as well, but I'm telling you that this comes after you've figured out your communications and your messaging, okay? Positioning comes first, and on that you can build everything else, including the fun stuff like this. So, when you organize this kind of information, we have a few ways that we do this in my business, and I teahc my students a few ways as well. You can use great tools like Trello. That is a fantastic project management tool, but in my business, we also use it to keep track of our brand messaging statements, we keep track of our colors and our hex codes for easy grabbing, but you can also keep these filed away somewhere like in HoneyBook. This is an example, behind the scenes, of how I keep track of some of the branding elements. So, when I am communicating to my clients, they are seeing the same elements carry over from my Instagram feed through my website all the way over to the communications that I'm having with them. So, when they get their emails from me, it's branded a certain way. When they get their info guide, it's branded a certain way. The workspace that we have together and we're sharing, it looks a certain way. This, again, is gonna continue to build on the no light trust factor that you have to build as a creative small business center. So, overall, branding is so important because it communicates a promise. It communicates a promise of what you do, how you do it, and what your clients can expect to pay working with you. Having that on point branding and design aesthetic is gonna help you whittle down who you serve to. So, back to our concept of figuring out what enough is, hitting those numbers so you can rest, this will all help support you with that as well. We've talked all about attracting our clients, right? Whispering to the right people. So, now we're gonna move a little bit further into communication in action, actually talking to those clients and to those ideal dream audience members. So, I will note here, for those email marketing nerds out there, I'm not gonna be talking about email marketing here. That's another one of my passion projects, but we're not gonna dig into that today. Instead, I'm talking more about the communication that happens in your inbox and in your client services process, okay? So, a little story to illustrate this. I grew up studying ballet, and I remember that my ballet teacher, when we were little, would have us sit in a circle on the floor. Her name was Miss Kitty, and we would put on our necklace to remind us to keep our chest open, we would put on our imaginary tiara to remind us to keep our head up, and Miss Kitty had to break things down in a way where we understood them at a really elementary level because, one day, she knew that we would get to the point where we needed to figure out how to do the 32 fouettés in the middle of Kitri's third act variation in Don Quixote, right? Two very different levels of talking to somebody about ballet, the same thing, right? Well, I bring that illustration because your clients and your customers are working through a sales funnel when they come to your business, and I don't want that word to sound scary. Essentially, it's just the process that you have of inching them along further in your process. So, if we look at this analogy and think through that, you kinda need to talk to your clients early on at a different stage than you will further down in the process. They're gonna need not TMI, they're gonna need basics, they're gonna need to really understand the gist of what it is that you do before you can talk to them about a little more technical and advanced things involved in your process. So, one way to maintain that you stay really on the ball when it comes to all of your brand messaging is through something called templates, and I love templates. Whenever I get stressed out in my business, I think I can do three things here. I can automate it, I can eliminate it, or I can delegate it, and automating tends to be one of the first things you do, right? Because it's just you working for your business when you first start it, and so it's easiest to just figure out ways to make the systems flow a little bit faster. So, because you are constantly communicating to your clients and your customers, figuring out ways to automate it is a lot better. So, another example of this back in the Delta days, we used templates all the time when I was communicating to Sky Miles members and to customers. So, you can use templates in your small business too. You may have used them in a corporate setting, you may have used them in whatever jobs that you work, but apply them to your creative small business too. These are gonna help you, like I said, stay on par with your brand message. So, here's a sampling of some of the different types of templates that you can have in your arsenal ready to go when it comes time for you to communicate to your customers and your clients. You can have a template ready to go when you're responding to inquiries that pop up in your inbox, you can have templates for contracts. Again, watch Christina. She's gonna talk to you a little bit more about that. You can have templates for ever single step of your work flow, in your process. I don't want you think about templates as a really canned formal way of communicating to somebody and something that's not really authentic. Think about templates as a starting point, okay? This is a way that you can start the communications, and I always want you to edit it and change it up and put your own spin on it for every single different client, but it helps you. It's gonna help you remember things, it's gonna help you stay, again, like I said, tight on your brand message and not leave any part of the process out. You can have templates for questionnaires, and how about this one? Those sticky questions that pop up in your inbox from time to time? Just create a template for it, create a bank and a database for all of these. There's so many different things, even pages of your website, something I teach my students, captions. You can template communications in your business like crazy. Here is an example, a little screenshot of one of the templates that I have housed in HoneyBook, which is what we use in my business as our client relationship management tool. So, I want you to get going and dream up a list of templates that you can use, but first, let me give you a little briefing on what you may need to do before you go template crazy. I want you to write out your workflow. The best way to do this is anytime there's a repetitive task that you start doing as you start your business, I want you to pause in between your steps and write down what you just did every single time. Yes, it takes more time on the setup, on the front end, but I promise you, it's gonna pay off in spades on the back end. You're gonna be able to have a workflow of every single time and you're gonna be able to serve your clients well because you're not gonna leave out steps along the way. So, building out your workflows for everything from creating blogs in your business to publishing your weekly newsletter to, of course, serving your clients for each different package or offering that you may offer. That's gonna be really really helpful for you. Basically, if I have done something two or three times, I try to make a workflow for it. You can house these lots of different places. Some of them in my business, on Trillo, that tool I mentioned earlier, we house them in there as a checklist for my team and I to reference. You could also put them in a tool like HoneyBook that I mentioned. We put a few of our client processes and workflows there, but again, this helps maintain that I stay tight on our message and that we're communicating the right thing to our clients. We get to step into such an incredible position as creative entrepreneurs. We get to step into a leadership position for our clients. They're trusting us, right? They've trusted us with their precious money to do something for them. So, we need to step up and give them a great experience from top to bottom, and workflows and templates can really help you master that. I have three steps for you to answer those inquiries that land in your inbox because this is so important. This is one of the very first touch points that your clients and your customers are gonna have with interacting with your brand. So, we gotta get it right, right? I was speaking at a conference recently and the organizer asked for me to look at some of the inquiry responses that... This was a conference for wedding planners. So, what were they sending back when they first got that inquiry come up in their inbox? And I looked at them and I came up with kinda three things that I told everybody they needed to start applying, and I wanna share those with you as well. So, the first thing I want you do is state the problem back. So, your ideal, your dream client has probably given a lil' golden nugget when they sent that email. They told you what they're frustrated with, probably, or their issue that they're having a hard tome solving or what they've had to go through to figure things out. A lot of times I'll get inquiries, and they say help, blah, blah, blah. This is a great thing if you get this information because now you get to state the problem back. Earlier, I said people buy when they feel heard, seen, and understood. So, how can you show your dream clients that you hear them, that you see them, and that you understand their problem? The next thing I want you to do is not give TMI, okay? It's so easy sometimes to dig in and give everything all at once, everything but the kitchen sink, but I want you to pump the brakes a little bit and give them just what they need. Here's an example of this. So, to use the analogy of a wedding planner again, my company was working with a wedding planner named Brianne, and she we had updated her messaging and her marketing copy, and it was doing great. She was getting inquiries, but she said once the inquiry comes in, I get crickets sometimes on the other end. Has that ever happened before? That's a common problem, we've all been there. So, I said send over your inquiry response email. Let's look at it. What I saw was that she was including, in an effort to be operating a business with great integrity, she was including the 8% vendor markup fee that she charged for reaching out to vendors and booking them for her brides, her clients. While this is a great piece of information, don't get me wrong, this is a great piece of information, it did not quite belong in the inquiry email. Think about the bride who's reaching out. She's at a point where she doesn't even know, really, what a vendor is or why she needs it. That's a little bit... That's maybe a little bit much. She just wants to know some basics, right? So, how can you pump the breaks and just give enough information to get them to the next step in the process? And that brings me to the third point. I want you to have a really clear call to action. When it comes to those emails that I was looking at, I saw that so many of them ended in kind of a rambling way that you don't really know what to do next, if anything. So, what I want you to do is be really clear on the call to action. I want you to tell them exactly what it is that you need them to do next. Maybe it is to click on a link and schedule a call with you, maybe it is to email back with some times where you would be available for coffee chat. Whatever it is that you need them to do next, I want you to communicate that. So, to give you a little peek behind the scenes of how we answer inquiries in my business is, like I said, we have that template all ready and built out for inquiries as they come in. So, for each inquiry, I'll update that, make it personalized, state the problem back, communicate with our clients I have heard them, and then we also send them a brochure because I want them to get a little bit of the feel of why we do what I do. We talked about positioning earlier, and I told you that you need to be able to explain to me why you do what you do the way you do in a way that's different or maybe even better than your competition or the other people that you play in the sandbox with. And in doing that, I told you that it's really important here if you charge more than somebody else, that's if there's a cheaper option out there for the same thing, right? So, what you need to do at this point, if that's you, is explain that, explain your why. One of the best ways that I have found to do this is through the brochure. So, you can do this digitally. HoneyBook gives a great example. I have actually moved to offering the PDF, So, we give them a pricing guide, a magazine for them to flip through. I have some clients and friends who send a magazine, actually, that they can flip through. So, how can you communicate and tell the story of your brand and what you do? Now, from this point, they move on to getting a link to hop on a calendar to schedule an appointment to talk to us. We use one called Acuity. I'll link it again in your bonuses section so you can check that out, but that's been a great tool for us to able to communicate with ease to our clients instead of all of the back and forth. Does this date work for you? What about this date? Does this time? Instead, make it really easy for them because I know that clients are busy and we wanna make things... We wanna grease the slide, right? You wanna make it as easy as possible for them to work with us. So, let's talk a little bit about onboarding. So, at this point, you've gotten them through your sales process at the beginning and it's time to onboard them. They raise their hand, they said they wanna work with you, they've punched in their credit card digits. Yay, you're drinkin' some champagne. They're gonna work with you. So, let's talk about onboarding right now. So, I call it Target re-shelfing syndrome, but do you know that feeling when you go through Target with your little red basket and you grab a little bit too much? You maybe pick up, at least for me, some nail polish colors that I think I need, just some... A book, a lot of different things, but then I get to checkout and I start taking a few things and putting them back. Your clients are not immune to this either, okay? We really want them to come into this excited. You don't want them to have any regret about working with you, but you want them to be fully fully confident. I mentioned leadership earlier and that you as a creative entrepreneur get to step into an incredible position of leadership with your clients. So, when you're onboarding them, how can you continue to do that and how can you communicate to them that they are in a great place, that they are... That you are the one for the job and you're gonna serve them really really well. So, what I want you to do is to reinforce and remind them of who you are, who they agreed to sigh up and to partner with. You could do this a few different ways, but I want you to talk a little bit about your why and your personality here as well, and I have some more tactical ideas for you to dig into. But there's three big reasons I want you to think about doing this, and the first is the sale isn't quite over yet. Yes, they've signed on the dotted line with your agreement and they've said they want to work with you, but you haven't walked them through the process yet. You really need to serve them well through the end, and this onboarding packet or whatever information you're sending them can be part of that puzzle. Another thing that this does is that imagine things to go awry. What if, again, lean on Christina. She'll help you they the legal stuff, but what if things go wrong? You need to be able to say that you told them exactly what to do and that you communicated things really well. This is important as you lead your clients. The last thing is that I really want you to make them happy about the decision that they made to work with you. They raised their hand, they handed over the money, so it's now time tip for you to honor that and tell them why you're excited that they have picked to work with you. So, I have kind of the anatomy here of onboarding broken down into five steps. And first of them, the first two, at least for and most businesses that I see, tend to happen together. You're sending over that contract or, I actually call it an agreement in the communications with my clients. Sometimes I feel like contract can be a scary word and agreement is a little bit less scary. So, that's what we call it, but you sent over that and their welcome email with all the information and you sent over their payment info. So, like I said, guys, probably linked together. The next part that they're getting to is your welcome packet. So, you sent a, like I said earlier, you don't wanna give TMI. You've sent just enough information here, but after they've signed and they've paid, you're probably getting to a point where the communications is a little bit more welcoming. You are giving the in's and outs of your business, why you do what you do, what they can expect in the process, all of these different aspects you're communicating now. We're gonna dig into a little bit more of the ideas that you can throw into a welcome packet, but I just wanted to show you where this is in the process. You may also, here, have a questionnaire. So many of us offer some kinda client services where we have a list of specific needs that we need communicated to us so we can do our job well, right? No matter what is. So, I usually like to send the questionnaire early on when they're excited about the process, when it hasn't gotten too overwhelming yet, or when time hasn't gotten too crazy. So, we send our questionnaires mostly at the beginning for them to fill out. The next thing that you need, again we're going to hit all of this when we talk about your welcome packets, but I want you to clearly communicate next steps. Just like I told you in your inquiry email, you need to also clearly communicate steps here as well because people don't like to be confused. So, we wanna tell them exactly what do next. So, here again is just to show you behind the scenes of my business how we organize things. We have a welcome packet template ready to go. So, again, with all templates, I just change that up just a little bit for every single client, but it has the big stuff already there. We also send them a welcome packet PDF, and in there we have a lot of different things that we need to communicate to them on things like my office hours, the days that I'll be working on their project, the timeline, how this is gonna flow, frequently asked questions, all the in's and outs we can communicate through a welcome packet. We also try to communicate those on some of our first client calls. Again, that link I told you about, Acuity, which is so good. We send in a link there because we love to get on the phone with our clients and be able to do that, and then as well the questionnaire. So, that's just another peek behind the scenes for you to see just to recap all this. It's so important for you to lead your clients and be clear about all this. I don't think the there's quite a thing as too much communication. I think packaging it in different ways is a good idea. Saying some things on the phone before they book with you, saying some things after they've booked with you, putting them in a PDF for them to flip through. You wanna make sure that you've done your due diligence and communicated everything, all the in's and outs really really well, with your people. So, onboarding is kind of the champagne toast of the process, right? They've raised their hand to work with you, you're excited that they're gonna be here. Yay, clink glasses, so exciting, but they have, like I said over and over, chiefly, this is truly a chance for you to step into a leadership position. And I want you to not take that lightly because it's up to you as a business center to give them this great experience, and just like any good relationship, they're all built, right? On solid communications, and so, we wanna do that here with your clients. Additionally, having consistency in your communications and kinda always thinking a step ahead and giving communications before they ask for it is a chance for you to add the consistency and the value and the trust that you wanna add as a business center. So, when it comes to communicating to brands on social media, 'cause I know that's one thing that you were wondering when we talked about social media or when we talk about communications, let's talk about what that looks like. I will probably say I'm not a social media expert. I have a lot of clients who are. They have a huge followings and they've really learned the art and the science of communicating on different platforms. They study the algorithm like crazy, they learn best practices for communicating on all these. So, I do wanna say, I have clients who are experts. I am not an expert, but in learning a lot from them and I'm running the social media for my business, I've learned some communications tips, and I wanna share four quick tips with you here. So, the first thing that I want you to start thinking about doing is not typing your captions or whatever copy that you're publishing on social media in the app. Now, this may sound a little bit contrary, but instead, I want you to open something like your Notes app or even type it on a computer, that's easiest for me, because sometimes we get thumb tied and we'll spell something wrong or something will be hard to understand, and it can be a lot easier if you type it out. I'll also say we found it... I had a boss one time and she said everything that needed to come to her had to come with fresh eyes. So, if something was due to the client tomorrow, it was due to her today, and we did this because that way that gave us a day to look at with fresh eyes, to totally have a new opinion and perspective on it and be able to look at the copy and the message to see if it could stand on its own. So, we get kind of in the habit of writing captions and social media posts, you know, shooting from the hip, but what I want you to start thinking about doing is how can you build in a system where you write these things in advance, and again, one of the best things for me to do is not to write on the app, to open up my Notes app on my iPhone or on my desktop computer and type it out in there. The next thing that I want you to do is to start to break up your text. So, see how... And whether there's... When it comes to best practices, the best practice for you is gonna be what works for you in your creative business, okay? So, for me, I like typing long captions, but experiment. Type long captions, type short captions, just see what works. But if you're writing a long one, please break it up. This is a copywriting principle that applies to your website, it applies to any captions of copy that you're writing, but those big text chunks and blocks are hard to read. So, they hurt our eyes and fatigue or eyes. So, I want you to start breaking it up. There's a lot of ways to do this on something like Instagram, Facebook as well, but I want you to start breaking up your text as well. Another tip I have for you is to lead with what's important. So, for example, on Instagram, you know how you see a couple of lines before it jumps? We always want to, in our copy, put... What we say is put the lead above the fold. So, we always wanna put the first message up. In journalism, you kinda learned it as an inverted pyramid, but if you can put that message up top that is eye-catching, then you run a bigger opportunity of somebody opening up and reading the whole thing. So, kinda think about that inverted pyramid, journalism style, when you're writing captions for social media. How can you catch their eye right off the bat? One of the last elements that I want you to do is to lace in storytelling in your brand voice. So, again, I always wanna take these big pie in the sky sounding things and break them down for you. So, what I actually mean there is for you to be specific. How can you use anecdotes, how can you use adjectives, how can you tell something in a way that describes it well? Don't just say we went out for Mexican last night. Tell me that you ate crunchy chips dipped in salsa and creamy margarita or guacamole and you had a salty margarita. Tell me specifics. Paint a picture for me so I can kinda step into that moment. Sensory elements work really well here, so when you're thinking about the copy and the messaging that you're using, how can you use sight and sound and smell and taste elements in your writing. Those are things that tell a better story, so this is also something for you to think about as you share on social media your message. So, let's get to the last point about communications 101, offline communications. That moment where you are at family Christmas gathering or a cocktail party and someone asks you what do you do? Have you ever had that moment where you freeze a little bit because you think it's complicated. I need to be able to say this succinctly to hem, but I don't know how to explain that. That is so common, especially for our creative entrepreneurial bubble, but what I want you to start thinking through is how can you say what you do in a nutshell and it's easy for people to understand. So, similar to some power plays that I've showed you earlier, there are three steps that you can follow to an elevator pitch. What I want you to do is lead with who you are, then I want you to tell the problem that you solve. If you can frame it this way, by talking about the problem that you solve, people understand it a little bit more. Instead of saying I'm a copywriter in circles. For example, I'm pretty sure my dad doesn't even know what I do sometimes. I say I help women and creative entrepreneurs market and sell with their words. That's the problem that I'm solving, okay? So, see how that's a broken down example of what I do. I also want you to tell me how you uniquely solve it. We talked about this with your positioning, so I want you to figure out, again, what that way that you do it is, what's different, and bake that in as well. Now, I have a last step for you, and it's not mentioned here, but I want you to memorize it. I want you to memorize your elevator pitch. Now, you may have kind of a long elevator pitch that you use when you are, maybe you're speaking a lot and you introduce yourself a little bit different, but I also want you to have a version that you use just in communications with people if it's casual, actually sounds like stuff that you would say. My husband was laughing. I remember the very first creative conferece I went to after I quit my job working in corporate marketing, I was sitting on the back patio so terrified of going to my first conference, and I was... I had a piece of paper there and I was saying it over and over again, and he came out and he's like what are you doing out here? I said I'm memorizing what to tell people I do because I didn't know... It was still difficult for me at that point to say what I wanted to do and what I was trying to do with my business. So, I really do believe that memorizing it is gonna put you at ease and it's also gonna help you when you go to some of these conferences or meetups and you get to know other people in the creative community. It's gonna help you say what you do, and then when it's clear and people understand it, they're gonna be in a position where they know, oh, I could hire her to do this, I can refer her to this person. It's gonna behoove you in the end, okay?

Class Materials

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How to Run Your Business Like a Boss
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Ratings and Reviews


Awesome class!! Super great info, Ashlyn is a great presenter!


What a great class and Ashlyn really knows her stuff! Thank you for this super helpful information!

Marta Oliehoek-Samitowska

Very helpful and informative! Ashlyn does a really great job! So much ethusiasm, lots of good advice and so many simple but handy tips!

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