Are you giving off subtle signals that are putting off potential customers? And are these signals building confidence or wariness among your staff? Subtle signals are often more powerful than overt ones. So how do you avoid sending the wrong signals?
If you spend too much time telling and not enough asking, then the subtle message is that the buyer is a sales target. The same applies to staff. At a recent restaurant launch the owner talked about the brilliant things that had been done but that one group of people had made it harder and needed to do better. The good news motivated, but the subtle message, sucking energy from the room, was “we bear grudges”.
Advice: Always stay focused on others. Keep your disappointments private.
Doing the right thing is assumed — but putting extra attention on having done the right thing may give the subtle message that it is special. It could suggest that you done the right thing this time, but normally you don't.
Advice: Help people to see that you always do the right thing by your actions, not your words.
In business we care far more about whether the job is done well, than whether there was a challenge on the way. Customers aren't going to buy it because they are sympathetic about the problems you had. So focus on the outcomes, not the journey. Tell people what they want and need to know — the job has been done and it has been done well.
Advice: Quality matters and so does the perception of quality.
The subtle signals in phrases like “I think you should” and “what you need to do now” highlight your desire to make choices for others, for the right reasons perhaps, but in the wrong way. Customers like to make their own choices. So facilitate these choices by asking questions to help them make their own decision — and support the choices they do make.
Advice: Influence comes more from supporting small choices, not defining large ones.
Most conversational questioning isn't deeply considered and an off the cuff reply can send a damaging subtle message. For example, “how many employees do you have?” assumes a business model that relies on internally-resourced work, but perhaps you use efficient outsourcing arrangements. If so, then the subtle message in a reply of, say, “four” is that you’re a very small business. Is that really representative?
Advice: Be alert to the underlying question and give a considered response that answers that question.
As humans we have to make assumptions all the time, usually based on some internal model of how the world works. A statement that means one thing in our model of the world may mean something very different in the other person's world. Therefore checking what assumptions have been made is always worthwhile. Do this by asking clarifying questions.
Advice: Check understanding. Often.
When you align the subtle signals to the overt ones you'll be seen as consistent and always on message, and that's something the truly great businesses do brilliantly.
I started running marketing workshops for my customers back in January 2007 and I haven’t looked back since. Each workshop has helped me to develop relationships with my customers, find new customers, demonstrate my expertise and most importantly, help my clients grow their businesses.
Some workshops have been easy to fill, others harder. And whilst no one could say that they’ve been easy money, I’ve made a great profit out of each and every one of them and generated significant amounts of business after the event from the delegates in the room. You could say that I’ve had such a good experience with them that I’ve become quite evangelical about running them! In fact, I recommend that many of my clients run them for their customers too.
But many of the business owners I speak to can’t quite get to grips with the idea of running a workshop. They know it’s a good idea, but they get that sort of glazed look in their eyes when I mention it, and I can see them thinking “Just agree with her and she’ll stop pushing you”. But I can see that for most business owners, running a workshop is scary.
So why wouldn’t you run a workshop? Why might it be a bad idea? Well having done a bit of a brainstorm, I have a few theories.
Firstly I think people are scared. “Who do I think I am to run a workshop on X, Y or Z”. They’re worried about being lynched by their competitors for daring to put themselves out there as an authority on the subject. But you can’t run your business for the benefit of your competitors. You have to do what’s right for you, your business and your customers. If you think that you have some knowledge that will help your customers, why not share it?
I also think they’re worried about being “found out”. Found out by their customers for not being the world authority on their subject. Worried about having someone in the room who knows more than them. Worried about looking like a fool.
Well you know what? Maybe there will be someone in the room who knows more than you. Unless you’re a professor in your subject, the chances are that you don’t know it all. But if you’re clear about what you are good at and who this workshop is for, you will add value to your delegates and you won’t look like a fool. I promise.
People are also worried about no-one coming. Selling 20 spaces on a workshop is not easy. Even if people tell you it’s a good idea to run a workshop on the subject of your choice, getting those people to commit financially and making sure they’re available on the day isn’t easy. It takes skill, tenacity and organisation to fill a workshop. And that puts people off. Either they’ve tried it and had their fingers burnt, or the sheer scale of what they need to do puts them off.
Having filled workshops and conferences for more than three years now I know how tough it is. But I promise you that the benefits far outweigh the hard work.
Companies are generally very good at collecting customer data. They have processes and systems in place to record every touch point a customer has with them. Whether it be in-store, online, through an email or direct mail campaign or via telesales and telemarketing, behaviour is tracked from various sources and saved into various systems.
However, all too often this data is not integrated, it is stored in different locations or departments (web databases/offline databases/telesales databases etc) and is never consolidated into one central location. As a result companies fail to create an individual customer view and ultimately miss seeing the value of their data.
This is because segmented customer data can’t be analysed for trends or buying habits and opportunities to cross sell or up sell are missed. Most importantly, you cannot build a relationship with your customer without knowing everything about them.
By using an intelligent data management solution that will automatically pull customer data from your various sources into one central database, you can start to build an individual view of each customer, learn everything about them and begin to build valuable, meaningful relationships.
When you can see, on one simple interface who your customer is, their browsing and buying history, what messages they respond to, how they respond, at what time, what they like and don’t like you can communicate with them in a relevant and targeted way, learn about them and understand how they interact with you. By doing this you begin to add real value to your data.
The next step needs to be taken in data capture and individual customer views need to be created to ensure trends and behaviours aren’t missed or ignored and businesses can begin to learn about every aspect of their customer.