Marketers should never underestimate the difficulty of their task. The current selling environment is distrust. The customer’s (client’s, patient’s) initial response to a marketing message is, “I don’t believe you!”
There are good reasons for this. Our current political environment is hearing blatant lies from our leaders. We have been disappointed again and again with the products and services that we purchase.
Have you had experiences like mine? About three years ago my wife and I bought a Nikon Colorpix underwater camera.. I was an expensive purchase of several hundred dollars. The telephoto feature isn’t working and the factory warranty has expired. Wouldn’t you think it would provide many years of reliable service? (More than three years?)
I’m sure you have seen the annual Peanuts comic strip of Lucy pulling away the football when Charlie Brown tries to kick it. When our customers look at us, THEY SEE LUCY!
Simply having credentials like educational degrees and professional designations isn’t enough to instill confidence in our customers. Those are only meeting the minimum requirements for them to deal with us. With today’s high rate of change, they don’t really care how long we have been in business.
How can we give our customers the reassurance they need to do business with us confidently?
- Be aware of the things that frustrate customers and address them. What are the “broken windows” in your business? Can a customer reach you or leave a message without getting stuck in “voice mail hell?” Is the receptionist or whoever answers the telephone warm and enthusiastic with a “be of service” attitude? Are service issues handled promptly?
- Manage customer expectations. Southwest Airlines does a great job of this. “It’s going to be ugly, but we’ll leave on time and get you to your destination on time.”
- Get and use testimonials. Today, audio and video testimonials can be gathered inexpensively for use in audio and video presentations. The best testimonials include the name, picture, location and relevant reference (job, parent, etc.) for the person giving the testimonial, so the prospective customer thinks, “This is a real person, like me.” The testimonial should relate to a positive experience, a benefit received or a problem solved. A disclaimer that different results might be experienced might be required. The governing body for some professions restrict what can be included in a testimonial. Find out what IS allowed and use that. You might need legal counsel for this. A professional speaker didn’t bother writing a sales letter or creating a brochure, instead he just sent a box full of testimonials to successfully promote himself.
- Find customers who will vouch for you. If a prospective customer is skeptical or has an objection, talking to a happy customer can give them reassurance that they believe.
- Get referrals. Prospective customers might not believe you, but they will usually believe their friends. Word of mouth is the most trusted promotion. As your business grows, your customer base should grow. If you keep your customers and each customer refers one friend, you’ve doubled your business!
- Establish your credibility for your target market. Write books. (Now you can inexpensively self-publish via Amazon.com.) Write a newsletter. Do public speaking at events where your prospective customers are likely to go. Work on establishing connections with the media using press releases and pitch letters. Keep a file of media appearances. Associate yourself with prominent people to “borrow” their credibility.
- Guarantee what you sell and honor your guarantee. Give as strong of a guarantee or warranty as you can, for as long as you can. A promotional story or testimonial could be of a customer who used a guarantee with good results. Customers often forget about the guarantee after they own the product, so it might not be as great of a risk as you might think. Track returns and calculate what you can afford. You might be able to build a cushion in your price so you still make a profit with high returns. (Generally high return rates should be avoided.)
Take these steps to overcome a prospective customer’s skepticism, and you will have a much better chance of making a sale.
If you would like assistance building confidence in the marketplace, please email Michael Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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