Monday, October 20, 2008

Cynical and not listening

Business owners are among the most suspicious, cynical bunch of people you’ll ever market to. They have learned to tune you out. They're so busy heading off impending catastrophes that they rigorously filter out any inputs that don't directly address their problems of the day.

Here’s an embarrassing example. Just before presenting a workshop on personal communication to a group of business owners, I sent the group leader a one-page outline citing my seven strategies. He forwarded the document to the group. So on workshop day I compressed my introductory remarks and jumped right into things. Then one entrepreneur stopped me cold. He asked what I was there to talk about.

I explained, it’s about those seven strategies. And he said, “what strategies?” "It was in the memo you got last week," I said. “Well, I didn't read it,” he said indignantly. “Did anyone else read it?”

He looked around the room. Not one entrepreneur put up their hand. Even the leader said, “I just skimmed it.”

“We’re busy people,” said the first entrepreneur. He made it clear I had erred in assuming this group had read an email addressed to them about a meeting they’d be attending. And he was right. I had violated one of my own cardinal rules of communication. I had assumed my audience knew what I was talking about.

Many marketers make the same mistake. They assume their target market knows what business they're in. They assume their customers know what services they offer. They assume prospects understand the benefits of dealing with them.

Never take any of that for granted. You have to explain yourself, anew, every time. You have to explicitly describe the benefits you offer clients. Because they have no interest in knowing anything about you until you’ve proven you can help them. So they won't be listening until they need you - and when they do, you need to be speaking their language, not yours.

As they say in the shampoo business, "Lather. Rinse. Repeat."

1 comment:

Dat said...

That's great advice. I've messed things up by assuming many times. I find that I have to patiently repeat things over and over. You can follow up with a business owner a week later and they think that you just talked because they've been so busy in between.