Friday, October 13, 2006

Earn their respect

On my other blog I wrote recently about the day I received two phone calls (and later a letter) from banks offering money to my business. Since my capital needs are few, I saw it as a sign of the apocalypse.

But equally interesting is how it was done.

The first call came from U.S.-based Wells Fargo. Every few years ago it makes a point of trying to skim the Canadian market. But someone should tell them that Canadians aren't impressed by that Oklahoma semi-western twang - it sounds unimpressive and uneducated to our mid-lantic ears.

Here's how the thought process goes: they're calling from outside the country, therefore they don't really know me, therefore they don't really care about me. Why a marketer would bother under these conditions, I don't know.

You might say, they wouldn't be doing this if it didn't work. I agree. The question is, would it work better if they hired people who sounded more local, more informed?

People like to buy from people who are like themselves - or from people they like. The Wells Fargo wagon is leaving the depot with only three wheels.

Then there was CIBC. Nice woman wanted to give me money at prime. That's a lot higher than the 1.99% rate Wells Fargo wanted to give me. The poor woman didn't know what to say when I told her that her rate wasn't very competitive. At first she just ignored it.

When I pressed the point, she finally replied, "But that's an American bank." As if we don't already deal every day with American retailers, American insurers, American clients, American TV.

Memo to CIBC and other folks marketing to small business. Train your people better. Arm them with competitive information. Help them explain WHY we should deal with you. Price isn't everything - especially when your introductory offer can't match others in the market.

The third offer that day came from Amex. It's the third time this year they've sent me a little plastic card to play with. My seven-year-old loved the first two. I guess they think their prospects have elementary-school mentalities: "Ooh, shiny plastic card. Must sign up now."

No wonder telemarketing and direct-mail response rates are so low.

Business owners think they are important people. (I think they're right.) Marketers should treat them as such. Give them offers worthy of their stature, through channels that earn their respect.

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