Ask Customers This in 2018

Ask Customers This

Sometimes, assumptions can hold our businesses down. I have come to recognize at least one assumption that often keeps businesses from selling more to their existing customers. The benefit of escaping that assumption can mean increasing your revenue by ten to twenty percent—or more.  The assumption is that your customers—even the loyal, longtime ones—know all of the things you offer. Why wouldn’t they? I mean, how long has your average customer been doing business with you? We are all creatures of our comfort zones. Your customers might be quite comfortable in what they buy from you today, how they have dealt with you in the past, and how they have come to think of you over time. ...
Build Your Business: How to Share Your New Story

Build Your Business: How to Share Your New Story

A new year tends to track along with new challenges and opportunities in our businesses, doesn’t it? When I speak with organizational leaders I learn about all manner of changes afoot in 2017. Some companies have acquired businesses (or have themselves been acquired). Some are introducing new products and services, or have dramatically enhanced the capabilities of existing products. Others have grown into new locations or means of distribution. Some have a new category of customer. Many others recognize that they need to reposition themselves in the marketplace in order to deal with new competitors. ...
Three “I”s that Build Professional Credibility

Three “I”s that Build Professional Credibility

One of the most common missteps in customer conversation is talking about ourselves too much. There is an overload of “I, me, my” out there—which can block us from truly connecting with customers, prospects, and colleagues. Nevertheless, there are at least three “I” statements which can build your professional credibility rather than undermine it.  But first, let’s recognize that telling others what we think and feel is not a character flaw. It is instead the response to a powerful biological lure that is embedded deep within our brains. As I recently shared with subscribers to my free Message Manager Memo™, Harvard University neuroscientists Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell found that talking about ourselves triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as money, food or sex. Yes, people find immediate reward at the level of brain cells and synapses. ...

Who Feels Ownership of Your Message?

It is a common, and quite natural, question. When some new branding or corporate message is rolled out, employees and other potential messengers will wonder (or even skeptically ask aloud), “Who came up with this message anyway?”

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5 Marks of a Mangled Message

As the late Stephen Covey demonstrated during presentations of his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we often can best understand a concept by studying its opposite. So, in the spirit of understanding what it means to effectively “manage the message” all the way from strategy to real customer conversations, let’s look at the characteristics of a poorly managed message.

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When the university flunks marketing research

As I prepare for a guest lecture to a group of MBAs I am reminded of a lesson in Marketing Research 101 from Drake University. It wasn’t the kind of case study that Drake University would want to brag about, however. As a reader told me a few years ago when the story broke, “I thought it was something from The Onion. I couldn’t imagine that a university would use ‘D+’ as its marketing message…at least not with a straight face.”

Well, there are some things you just can’t make up. Drake–a very solid institution, by the way–managed to violate some basic tenets of strategy and research and, in the process, tick off much of its faculty, staff members and alumni.

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Why it’s Hard to Connect the Conversation

Most organizations aren’t that good at real-time customer conversations. You’ve likely experienced this as a consumer yourself, or you might have seen symptoms of message issues in your organization or in a client's company.. 

It’s difficult to present a coordinated and relevant series of messaging across all channels; a number of psychological and organizational forces get in the way. Here are five that separate organizations from good customer messaging:

Companies (and people) go for comfort.

Salespeople tend to call on the same people and say the same things. At networking events, teams from the same company will gather by the shrimp cocktail to talk office politics among themselves rather than engage strangers. Yet prospective buyers, members, donors, or voters would actually like to see and hear something they didn’t already know.

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Two Out of Three is Bad, Part 1: When the Message is Missing

While doing interviews for a new client, I spoke at length with one of the company’s highly decorated, A-player-type sales people. He was no fan of his company’s website. “I steer prospects away from it,“ he admitted. “It has a lot of words but doesn’t say anything.”

I asked him for specifics. He showed me a section that actually read, “our platform facilitates world-class solutions for our customers’ business 

problems.” Yikes—he was right. The company’s self-focused and vacuous message only served to make them sound like everyone else.

While working with many different types of companies, I have discovered that three components—Message, Messengers, and Management—contribute to a company’s success (or failure) in customer conversations. Some organizations are strong in two components but need to address weakness in the third. In a case when the Messengers and Management are in place but the Message itself is weak, the result is commoditization in the eyes of potential buyers.   ...

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