What Do Customers REALLY Want to Hear From You?

A couple of years ago, I was sitting out on the deck with some folks who had been invited over for dinner. I didn’t know them well at all. But—as we were waiting for the grill to heat up—everyone was chatting about this and that. One person sitting near me asked me what I did for a living.  I was about two sentences into my response when I realized that she seemed to be totally preoccupied with something else. So, guess what? I stopped talking. And as soon as I did, she jumped in and spent a good part of the night talking about herself.

For better or worse, right or wrong— I formed an opinion about her that evening: She wasn’t someone I wanted to invest time in. Why? Because the impression I came away with is that the thing that mattered most to her was—well—her. Again, maybe I was wrong about that. But that first impression was a lasting one. If I were to play amateur psychotherapist, my guess would be that she might have been a bit nervous that evening and felt a need to impress those of us who didn’t know her that well. And she tried to do that by talking about her job, her accolades, her qualifications.

Here’s my question to you: Is your business acting like the dinner guest that just can’t quit talking about himself or herself?

If you’re not sure, take a look at your marketing materials—your website, brochures, email campaigns, sales sheets, videos—and see if they do these things:

  • Focus primarily on the features of your product or service. (Things like “Our lawn mower has 5 cutting levels.” “Our law office gives you personalized attention.” “You’ll learn better time management in this seminar.”)
  • Loudly tout awards you’ve received or credentials you’ve earned.  (“I graduated summa cum laude from ABC University.” “We’re the #1 choice!!”)
  • Use words like “we”, “us”, “me”, “I”, “our” more than the word “you.”

If you’re doing any of these things, odds are you’re making a bad first impression on potential customers or clients who don’t know you or your business yet. And—just like I did with the dinner guest mentioned earlier—they very well may decide they don’t want to spend any more time trying to get to know you. But don’t worry. All isn’t lost. There are a couple of quick and easy things you can do to help you communicate about your business in a way that will entice potential customers to hang around and learn more about what you’re offering. And here they are:

  1. Focus on BENEFITS instead of features. People don’t buy toothpaste because it has whitening ingredients. That’s a feature. They buy that toothpaste because they want to feel more confident about their smile. They want to be more attractive. In other words, they’re buying the benefits of the whitening agents in the toothpaste. And that’s what needs to be communicated. You need to clearly explain how your product or service is going to benefit your customers. How is going to make their lives easier or better or more meaningful? If you’re only focusing on features, you’re losing sales.
  2. Show empathy and understanding by putting the customer at the center of all of your communications. If all you’re saying on your website or in your brochures or any other marketing materials are things like “we can” or “we are” or “I know” or “our solution”–you’re a bad dinner guest AND a bad communicator. People don’t care about you. They care about what you can do for them. So, how do you fix it? Here’s a quick example:

BAD: I’m an attorney with 15 years of experience in handling divorces. So I know exactly what it takes to help you with matters including property distribution, custody and spousal support.

GOOD: Going through a divorce is one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done. You have so many questions. How are you going to pay your bills? What will happen to your house? How are your children going to react? And you’re trying to figure all of this out while your entire world seems to be crumbling around you. This is where I come in. Together, we’ll find the solutions you’re looking for.

If you’re someone who’s looking for a divorce attorney and the only way you have to evaluate which attorney to use is by looking at law firm websites, which one would you choose?

In the end, it’s not so much about what customers want to hear. It’s about what human beings want to hear. If you want people to listen to you—to connect with you and buy from you—you have to connect with them. Pure and simple. And to do that, you have to show that you care about them, that you understand and empathize with their problem or challenge, and that you are listening to them. This alone will set you apart from many of your competitors. And it’s SO easy to do if you just think about it. When you keep your customers at the center of your communications, you’ll be the dinner party guest everyone wants to sit next to.

 

 

 

 

 

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Are You a Wallflower at Your Own Party?

WallflowerIf you ever went to a middle school or high school dance, you saw them. Or maybe you were one of them. The wallflowers. They literally seemed to melt into their surroundings. Maybe it was because they were afraid of being noticed. Or maybe they wanted to be noticed, but didn’t know how to get anyone’s attention. Or maybe they didn’t want to be there in the first place–but their parents made them “participate.” Whatever the reason, wallflowers were a mainstay of those dances–sitting or standing there in silence, watching everyone else having fun.

Here’s my question to you: What do you remember about the wallflowers at your school dances? Unless you made an effort to speak to them or to get to know them, my guess is that you probably don’t remember much–if anything–about them. In fact, I’m also guessing that you didn’t even see them. You were too busy having fun, talking with friends, meeting new people who brought something new to the party, and doing whatever kids did at that age during that time. Right?

So, as grown-ups who are entrepreneurs offering a service of any kind, what can we learn from thinking about the wallflowers of those school dances?

If you don’t differentiate your service offering in a clear, compelling way and if you just aren’t interesting, put your party dress away. Because NO ONE WILL NOTICE YOU!

If you offer a service–whether it’s writing or legal services or psychotherapy or plumbing or anything else–you’re selling something that’s completely invisible. People can’t see it. They can’t hold it. They can’t take a picture of it and post it on Pinterest or Facebook for all their friends to see. And that puts you and your business at a distinct disadvantage. But there’s a solution! It’s something I like to call Connection Communication.

A Mini-Case Study: My First Traffic Ticket

I can remember the very first traffic ticket I ever got. It was a cold, windy winter evening and I was on my way to a friend’s house for dinner. I had stopped at a red light and then turned right. Right on red. Right? Wrong. As soon as I did, I saw the blue lights behind me. I pulled over and the officer came to my window. He informed me that I had made an illegal turn at an intersection where right on red wasn’t allowed. I explained that I hadn’t seen the sign–probably because the wind was blowing everything around, including THAT SIGN. While I thought that was a good enough excuse to get out of a ticket, the officer didn’t. So, that was that. My parting gift was a pink sheet of paper with my name listed as “defendant” and the date and time I was scheduled to appear in traffic court. Totally sucked–particularly since I had always been a strict rule follower. In my mind, I imagined that the entire world would forever look at me as an outlaw. That was heavy stuff for a girl who wouldn’t even taste the grapes in the grocery store before buying them because she felt like that was stealing. (And–no–I still don’t taste the grapes.)

Within a couple of days after getting that ticket, I started receiving letter after letter from attorneys in the area who wanted to represent me in court. They all said the same things:

1. They knew I had gotten a ticket.

2. If I did nothing about the ticket and simply paid the fine, it could hurt my driver’s license and result in higher insurance premiums.

3. I could avoid this pain by simply hiring them to represent me in court.

4. All I had to do was call them to talk about my ticket over the phone.

I didn’t know who any of these attorneys were. I didn’t know nearly enough at that time to differentiate any of them from the others. None–that I can remember–acknowledged how I might feel about getting the ticket. None said anything that made me feel like they might be the right choice for me. And they all were going to cost me money.

So, what did I do? I did a little research about what I should do and went to court for myself. It all ended well–although I had to spend a good part of my morning waiting in a courtroom with about 150 fellow law breakers. I would have gladly paid to miss out on that–but I simply didn’t know who to trust.

 

The Lesson–and the Solution

Although I used the story of my traffic ticket to make a point, I’m not picking on attorneys. ( I am one, after all.) ANY service provider is at risk of blending in with all of his or her competitors. You become a wallflower in your own industry. That’s not good for you OR for your business. So, what can you do? Here are a few key things that make a huge difference when done correctly:

1. Know who your ideal customer is and what they need from you. If you don’t know what they need, ASK THEM! And then create solutions that will fulfill that need.

2. Know who your competition is and how they’re communicating to potential customers about their service offerings. You DON’T want to do it the same way they are. (Remember–NO WALLFLOWERS!!)

3. In all of your marketing communications–including sales letters, your website, emails, etc.–talk to your customers like human beings. And that means being conversational. Talk to them in a way that helps them see that you’re a human being, too–not just a business. Remember–people do business with people. In my traffic ticket example, all an attorney would have had to do to stand out from the crowd was to open his or her letter to me by saying something as simple as this: 

Dear Ms. Lashley, 

Getting a traffic ticket can certainly ruin your day (or your night). Believe me. I know. My name is Joe Attorney and I’d be honored if you’d allow me to take away the worry of dealing with your ticket and the court system. This is something I do every day for many other Anywhere County citizens and I’d also like to do it for you.

4. The About page on any website is typically the page that receives the most traffic. However, that’s the page that is so often the WORST page on businesses websites. People go there to find out who you are and what you can do for them. They don’t want to hear how AWESOME you are. They want hear how you can make their lives better.

5. Be clear about what you’re offering and explain it in a way that people will understand and that exudes empathy for the challenge they’re looking to you to resolve.

I’ll be talking about each of these in more depth during a series of blog posts that will be running in January. It’s not only important stuff–it’s absolutely necessary if you’re going to run a successful service-based business. And, if you’re a licensed or certified professional (like a psychotherapist, attorney, plumber, electrician, designer, trainer, etc.) interested in getting hands-on practice, direction and feedback regarding how to do all of this for your business, I’m going to be opening a pilot version of my new course, Connection Communication: Using the Power of Story to Attract (and Keep) Your Ideal Customers, within the next few weeks. You can get on the mailing list here to receive notification about when it opens. For the 5-week pilot course, I’ll be offering it at a WAY reduced rate (because you’ll be helping make this course FREAKIN’ AMAZING as we work through it) and I’ll only be taking 10 students for this first round. Why? Because we’ll be working together a LOT and I want to make sure I have enough time to spend with each person in the class to get their business “storified” for success!!