No one wants to be sold

no one wants to be soldHere’s a truth we seem to want to ignore — no one wants to be sold. Ever.

Think about some of your favorite stores.  Beyond the merchandise they have – what do you love about going there?  Odds are your favorite stores became your favorites because of the experience you had.  So you go back time and time again.

Now – forget about your favorite stores for a minute.  If I asked you to describe the ideal encounter with a salesperson, what would you envision?  Is it the salesperson that follows you around on the floor, repeatedly asking you if you need help or interjecting their opinion on every item you look at?

Or would it be walking in the store and having someone introduce themselves and ask how they can help you?  If you say “I’m just looking” which is universal code for leave me alone – do they?  Are they around to answer any questions you might have but otherwise, let you explore?

Let’s translate that to when you call a business looking for information.  Does the operator read from a script, barely letting you get a word in edgewise because he has two specials you need to know about?  Or are you immediately connected to someone who can either answer your questions or get you to the right source for the answers you need?

The truth is – no one wants to be sold.  When you hear the word salesman, what images pop into your mind?  The stereotypical used car salesman with the “you can drive it off the lot today” sort of sales pressure?  I don’t care who you are or what you’re in the market for, no one welcomes that sort of salesperson.  Why do we react so badly?

A bad sales person is someone who:

  • Wants you to buy today
  • Relentless
  • Talks to much about themselves and their product/service
  • Doesn’t listen
  • Makes us feel as they though they only care about the sale

When you look at that list, no wonder we run for cover.  If your favorite store had that sort of sales force, I suspect it would no longer be your favorite store.

Now – go grab your brochure, pull up your website and eavesdrop on some of your sales calls.  See any similarities?  All too often marketing materials and messages bear an uncomfortable resemblance to that pushy sales guy.  We’re so anxious to make sure the prospect knows how amazing our stuff is – we over sell and the reality is, no one wants to be sold.  Ever.

What you love about your favorite stores and your favorite brands is that they’re helpful.  Depending on your needs and the type of purchase, helpful come in the form of convenience or providing you a lot of information.

Helpful might be that you can try as many styles and sizes as you’d like and return the ones you don’t want for free (like Zappos) or it might be a robust website that really allows the consumer to educate themselves long before they speak to a salesperson like River Pools and Spas that has over 800 pages of content and offers it all for free.

You will sell more if you sell less.

Be helpful, be someone I can trust, be approachable without putting your hand in my pocket looking for my wallet and I will come to rely on you.  When I am actually ready to buy – who do you think I’m going to by from?

You.

Fundraising is marketing

fundraising-is-marketingLet’s face it — fundraising is marketing. I love the stories of the good old days in my community.  You’ve probably already heard the same sorts of stories in your community too.  How the “founding fathers” would gather over coffee and when the community had a need, they’d each pull out their checkbook and invest in the solution.

Many of those men and women have streets or foundations (or both) named after them and their mark will forever be a part of most of the cities in our country.

There are quite a few charities that owe their start or a portion of their success to those visionary leaders.  As great as they were – those days are long gone.  I’ve received a few solicitations lately that make me wonder if there are still some area non-profits that are living back in the old glory days and haven’t fast forwarded to today.

Whether the target is a business or an individual, the game has changed and if nonprofits want to keep serving their mission, they’re going to need to make some shifts in their efforts.  They need to recognize that fundraising is marketing.  There’s no separation today and the organizations who embrace this idea will win the day and the dollars.

Here’s what non profits need to remember:

Why you? It’s a rare charity that doesn’t have a competitor who also serves the same people/cause or at least a portion of them.   If you want a donor’s dollars or even their attention, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate how you do it differently or better and you need to do that on a consistent, steady stream of communication basis.

I don’t know you so get your hand out of my pocket: The “send everyone we can think of” a solicitation letter (especially at the end of the year) is just a waste of money.   If we don’t have a relationship and your work isn’t meaningful to me, I’m not going to send you a dollar.  Don’t waste your stamps.

Slow going: The days of walking out of your first meeting with a check are gone.  Sure, it might happen once in a blue moon but in general, you’re going to have to work hard for your money.  Think marathon, not sprint.

Fewer but deeper: One of the amazing truths about Des Moines is that we’re blessed with a huge number of committed charities.  But the flip side of that truth is that no business can possibly support them all. Which means, choices have to be made.  Businesses don’t want to be one of ten logos on the back of yet another t-shirt.

Donors are opting to spend their money on fewer nonprofits but to give more to those few.  And once they’re locked in with a specific charity, it’s going to be much tougher to pry them loose.

Going, going, so gone! Our community is golf tournament and auctioned to death.  If you don’t already hold one of these, don’t start one.  And if you already have one – be ready for declining attendance or revenue unless you can make it unique.  Bravo to Des Moines based charities like YESS (Duck Derby), Childserve (Bubble Ball) and others who have taken the risk and created something one of a kind.

The Obama election fund reality:  One of the ways Obama defeated McCain back in ’08 was to race more money from more people.  The dollar amounts were smaller but the impact was bigger.  The same 20 companies (every charity has the same list) in Des Moines cannot be the title sponsor for everything.  Find ways to make it valuable for smaller companies who don’t get into the limelight every day to be your benefactors.

No one is arguing with the amazing work you do.  In fact, we want to make sure you keep doing it.  But, like the for-profit businesses have… you have to adapt to today’s economy and reality.  And soon.

In marketing, you eat the pie one bite at a time

one bite at a timeIt’s the middle of January and by now most people have gone back to life as they knew it prior to January 1st. They aren’t getting up at 5 am to jog or only eating grapefruit rinds and prunes or chewing on licorice instead of smoking.

No doubt there’s been all kinds of studies done on why we both set and violate our new year’s resolutions each January. I think one of the reasons why resolutions are so seductive and yet so elusive is because they’re too ambitious. We don’t resolve to work out once a week or lose five pounds or reduce our cigarette consumption by 20%. We want to go whole hog.  We’re going to work out six days a week, lose 50% of our body mass and stop smoking tomorrow.

No wonder we cave so quickly.

I think the same logic applies to that marketing plan you wrote in the past couple months. It was a thing of beauty – with colored Excel spread sheets, infographic-like charts and a litany of marketing tactics, each one designed to make one of your specific target markets fall to their knees.

If you have the resources (time, money and people) to execute on all of that – more power to you. Go get ‘em! But if you’re the average marketing director or business owner – you are awash in great ideas but bone dry when it comes to the resources to get it all done.

I’d like to suggest a less overwhelming way to tackle your marketing for 2015.

Prune: Look at everything you are currently doing on a consistent basis and have been doing for at least twelve months. Rank them on their effectiveness in relation to your sales goals. If you can’t measure a tactic’s effectiveness – put it at the bottom of the list. Whatever tactic is last – eliminate it and direct the time and effort towards something else.

Listen: Call up five former clients who were at one time – good, steady clients. Ask them to candidly tell you why aren’t buying from you anymore.   Be ready to probe and dig a little to get to the truth. (You’ll have to overcome that Midwest nice thing). If you hear the same thing more than twice – consider addressing that issue or missing element. If you resolve that issue somehow – make sure your entire client base and past client base knows about the change.

Take your best shot: Review that marketing plan you drafted. What’s the one tactic that you believe can have the most significant (and measurable) impact on the company’s bottom line? Keep in mind – it might be new sales, or growth from existing clients. It could also be something that reduces customer erosion or returns. Whatever it is and however it adds to the bottom line – implement it immediately and completely.

Don’t worry about the rest of the tactics for now. Get this one launched and a part of your routine. Once that is done – then you can consider adding another tactic to the mix.

Monitor and measure: This is where a lot of marketing falls flat.   If you can’t measure it, how can you possibly know if your investment of time and resources Is paying off?   People give this lip service but few will spend the time or money to actually implement a measurement program. Yes, it does take some upfront costs and time to build out the tactic in a measurable way – but isn’t that a better expense than just continuing to do something because you “think” it’s effective?

Eliminate something, listen to past customers for clues to what’s missing, add one new thing and measure it all. That’s a bite-sized way to tackle your marketing for this year that will help you stay on course!

Are you selling what your customers want to buy?

Are-you-selling-what-your customers-want-to-buyAll too often, I see businesses advertising their wares…but from their own perspective. They talk about their expertise and what they DO or MAKE, thinking that’s what people are buying. Of course, that’s not what they’re buying at all.

Hence my question — are you selling what your customers want to buy?

Confused? There’s a great story that illustrates this perfectly. A college professor stood in front of his classroom, holding a shovel. He told the class that their assignment was to write an ad, selling the shovel.

The students got to work and their ads talked about the virtues of the shovel – the hardwood handle, the forged steel blade, the balance between the blade and the handle, etc. The professor let the students go on for a while and then he stopped them and shook his head. He said, “Let me tell you the secret for selling this shovel. The secret is to realize that no one buys a shovel just because they want a shovel. They buy a shovel because they need a hole.”

No matter what it is you sell – you need to figure out what’s behind that sale. They’re not buying your service or your product. They’re buying what they get out of that service or product. When you miss that – you run the risk of not meeting that need and losing a customer.

Recently, I had a very unsatisfactory experience with a company that promised to “townhouse my house.” I think the reason they were so disappointing is because they didn’t really understand what their customers want to buy.

They believed that they were selling yard services like weeding, mowing and snow removal. As long as they could perform those chores satisfactorily – they thought I’d be happy. But I could buy those services anywhere.

What I really wanted to buy was the convenience of having someone else worry about my yard and just take care of what needed to be done. I wanted the confidence they would show up when they said they would, so I didn’t have to keep calling them back. What I really wanted was the peace of mind that I could just cross all those tasks off of my list – and my life would be easier because of it.

Ultimately – because they didn’t understand what I really was trying to buy – I stopped buying. I didn’t need or want their shovel.

So – how do you go from selling shovels to realizing that your customers want to buy a hole?

Ask better questions: Don’t just ask the standard intake questions. Develop a short list of questions that will trigger a conversation about the underlying need. Listen carefully and ask enough follow up questions so you truly know the root problem you are being hired to solve.

Hire an outsider to talk to your current customers: We have that Midwest nice thing going on so sometimes customers won’t be very candid when you ask for feedback. But, when you hire a firm to do that asking for you (or secret shop you), you’ll be amazed at what you learn. We provide this service for our clients and I’m always amazed at how much we learn.

Observe them in the wild: Watching how your customers interact with what you sell can be incredibly enlightening. They might use it in a way you hadn’t imagined or for a purpose you hadn’t considered. They may have had to create a workaround because of something that isn’t quite right. If you sell your products in a retail environment, hang out in the store and listen as people considering buying your product.

The real secret to knowing what your customers actually want to buy is to never assume. Don’t be fooled into thinking you know. Do the hard work of finding out and earn their loyalty for years to come.

Useful = today’s marketing secret

Youtility, how being useful is today's marketing secretLet’s look at the reality:

  • Fragmented media choices
  • Permission-based media on the rise
  • Ability to filter, skip, ignore irrelevant advertising
  • Nothing beats word of mouth
  • A jaded, cynical consumer
  • Consumers tuning out, taking over and talking loudly about brands

That mountain of challenges is what faces marketers every single day.  So how in the world do we earn their attention, their dollars and even tougher — their loyalty?

Author, consultant and tequila loving Jay Baer believes he has the answer and outlines it in his book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is about Help Not Hype.*  (I have 9 copies to give away — read to the end to find out how you can win!)

Jay’s premise is simple enough. If brands focus on being helpful, consumers will be drawn to them and when they’re ready to buy, that brand will have already earned the consumer’s trust — so they’re more likely to also give you their money.

Jay calls this friend-of-mine awareness (as opposed to top of mind awareness) and argues that in a congested, time starved world – if you want to keep earning market share, you need this level of connection with both customers and prospects.

The book is packed with stories, examples and very pragmatic ideas that any business — big, small, consumer or business focused — can implement.  It’s one of my favorites for 2013 — and a book you should definitely read. (Click here to order it from Amazon*)

I asked Jay a few questions about the book.  Here’s what he had to say:

If you had to describe the content of your book in a single sentence (no run ons) what would it be?  

If you sell something, you make a customer today. If you help someone, you can create a customer for life. 

What one book that you’ve read do you wish you could claim as your own?

Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by YoungMe Moon, and anything by Bill Bryson.

In your opinion, what is the one trait that all uber successful business people possess?

A true understanding of customer needs.

What’s the biggest business mistake you’ve ever made and what did you learn from it?

I botched a 1031 real estate exchange eight years ago, costing myself a ton of money. I learned to trust experts that you hire, but always follow up.

Why did you have to write this book?  What truth or insight was missing from the human consciousness — that you’ve now answered?

2 reasons. I wrote their book as a reaction to the landslide of punditry that prescribes “make your company amazing” as a strategic approach. Also, I wanted to give people a thoughtful scaffolding for why and how they should be creating content.

After someone is done reading your book — what do you hope they do as a result?

First, begin to understand how your company can insert itself gracefully into the lives of customers and prospects by being useful. Second (or maybe first), tell 3 friends to buy the book! 

Okay — the book is awesome and you should read it.  And 9 of you will get to read it for free.  Winning a copy is simple.  Leave a comment on this post and I’ll use the randomizer at random.org to pick the lucky readers!

 

*affiliate link
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