On election night, 7 May last year, the media and a great deal of the electorate were baffled by the results as they seemed so contrary to what the pollsters had been predicting – namely a hung Parliament.
Unlike the political commentariat and most of the louder voices on social media, I wasn’t quite so shaken by the declaration of a Tory majority, as, unlike the media and Westminster village, I hadn’t placed as much faith in the pollsters’ predictions.
That’s because, from the work we do everyday with business customers, we know how it takes a range of techniques to find out what the public wants – and so we suspected the market researchers’ confidence in the polling results sounded a bit hollow.
A time and a place that suits me – not you
That’s a suspicion that was borne out by the findings published in the last few weeks about “what went wrong” with the pollsters.
Basically, the opinion trackers admitted they’d over-relied on one way of measuring sentiment – online polls. They’d also failed to talk to older people who were that bit harder to get hold of, and who preferred to speak on the phone. These points were well aired on a series of programmes on Radio 4.
That meant that, in marketing terms, they’d done what too many of our clients do: use one approach for all customer communication.
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We meet brands every day who over-rely on emails or Web chats, and who are ignoring SMS, or who only use dialers. But the fact is that customers, like voters, only really like to respond at a time and in a fashion of their own choosing, and you need to spread your net wide to accommodate that reality.
Another factor that got an airing in the analysis of what went wrong with the election’s prediction was the fact that we are all far busier now. People are simply more difficult to get hold of and you need to work with that reality. In the BBC feature, YouGov said, for example, how “It’s getting more difficult to contact people, because there are more and more demands on people’s time; those who are working are working longer hours, we are all busier people”.
Don’t lose your own “votes” – customer attention
In the market research firms’ case, all that went wrong was a bad prediction and a loss of credibility.
What’s the risk you run if you do the same, however – and don’t examine the variety of ways you need to work with to connect with customers in today’s super-busy world?
The evidence suggests that for both politics and business, you need to rely on methods where messages can be glanced at in a second – that’s your best bet. Don’t merely rely on the internet as your base of contact.
Effective communication plays a significant part in the success of any business, but we unveil why, when it comes to small businesses and startups, establishing your communication style and voice is of paramount importance.
Martin Williams is a senior account director at VoiceSage.
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