Not so long ago in the history of the world, birthday greetings were delivered in-person, over the phone (which was attached to the wall), or via a printed card (usually mailed). I suppose a few people sent telegrams, but that was pretty much it. This year on my birthday (quite recently) I received greetings8 different ways:

  1. My wife celebrated with mein-person.
  2. Friends and family called on thephone.
  3. One daughter connected viavideo chat.
  4. A niece and nephew senttext messages.<
  5. A friend sent ane-cardfrom his iPhone (they have an app for that)
  6. The patriarch of the family sent aprinted cardin the mail (they have a stamp for that).
  7. Many friends sent best wishes throughFacebook(because it’s easy – and nice.)
  8. One friend sent a note through my website’s[email protected]. (

I appreciated all of them. It reminded me how much personal communication has changed in such a short time. This is true of business communication, too. Not so long ago in the physical world we did business face to face. We called on the phone. We sent materials through the mail. Now we are also bloggers and commentators, Tweeters and followers, Facebook page owners and fans, LinkedIn connections, virtual meeting participants, email senders and recipients, white paper posters and downloaders, and even avatars that engage other avatars.So what does it all mean? Is this progress? Are we communicating more effectively? It’s not a one size fits all question and certainly not a simple answer.

The need to communicate effectively with customers, prospects, partners, industry, and others has never been greater. You need to convey:

  • who you are and what you do
  • what differentiates your products, services, and philosophy from others
  • how you understand your customers and how you help them solve problems
  • why you are interested in continuing to learn about them and their needs

Why mention these seemingly obvious purposes? In short, too many companies simply don’t succeed here. Websites are still flat and don’t engage. Too many communication programs don’t align with strategic goals and don’t foster dialogue to grow relationships. Too many programs still don’t support communication with mobile devices. New technologies don’t make us better communicators, but they do give us more, and sometimes better, choices.

Businesses have a great need to communicate efficiently. To many that means reaching out and connecting with large and dispersed audiences via print, email, online meetings, blogs, micro-blogs, online communities, surveys, polls, thought leadership websites as well as product / service websites. The key is to do so in a way that recognizes the demographics and preferences of your audience, supports your need to know when to connect with those who are making buying decisions, and helps foster better relationships. To me, that distinguishes strategies and programs designed to be effective, not merely efficient.

A basic definition is that communication is “what I hear”, not “what you say”. If I’m on a device or platform that can’t “hear” you (read mobile, social, or other web devices or destinations you don’t support), communication may not succeed at all. If you don’t provide me a mechanism to talk back, then are we really having a conversation?

At the end of the day, relationships are still the name of the game. People do business with people they like, people they trust. A handshake will trump a virtual one every time. You may use the most advanced digital technologies ever known in the attempt to communicate, just don’t forget why you’re trying.

If you would like to share examples of how companies you know communicate (or don’t), please comment here. For more on my company’s philosophy and services, please And… if you happen to be reading this on your special day – Happy Birthday.