Prospects and Persuasion

Every business starts with a belief that they have a product or service that others need and will buy. The business usually starts slowly, as time, energy, research, and an untold number of conversations with friends, colleagues, external advisors, and potential customers begins to congeal into a Vision, Mission, and Purpose.

Assuming the business has achieved a reasonable measure of market traction, and as the business pushes through its initial months and years, the structure, strategies, and tactics of the business solidifies. Processes and practices are formed, refined, integrated, and executed by employees, each with specific roles and responsibilities to create and retain customers. We call it Customer Building.

But, it’s not just about creating customers. Ultimately, it is about thrilling your customers to promote retention and long-term advocacy. To create, thrill, and retain customers is, truly, a never-ending set of activities.

What is included in the process of customer creation? It must involve:

  1. Understanding the opportunity and the prospect’s business needs and concerns,
  2. Creating trust in you and your company,
  3. Solving prospect problems aligned to your company’s offering,
  4. Effectively communicating how your company can and will accomplish the objectives, and
  5. Building an ongoing relationship.

Some would describe the above process as selling … the requisite steps in closing a sale.

In certain business settings and industries, these individuals would be titled as Sales Representatives, Sales Managers, Vice President of Sales, and similar titles. These companies are business-to-business oriented, and are in industries that are more typically product-driven and transactional.

Other businesses would prefer to describe the same process as customer or business development, and have the same objective – closing a sale.  These individuals frequently have titles that either say Business Development or Customer Development, or offer no indication that a core role and responsibility includes “selling” – regardless of the label assigned to it. These companies are also business-to-business oriented, but are in industries that are services-driven and far less transactional.

Many companies that emphasize “customer development” are lawyers, accountants, bankers, wealth advisors, consultants, architects, and engineers – and in other professions that have a longer vision of customer creation. Many of these individuals are owners, principals, and associates in their companies, or hold CEO, President, General Manager, and other titles that signify leadership rather than selling responsibilities.

Regardless of the title or label, the “selling” process is the same. Only the language is different.

You are persuading a prospect to become a client.

Customer Experience Continuity

Here is a real life story about poor customer service and the challenge of maintaining customer loyalty.

I decided to have a quick lunch at a favorite restaurant chain. Their menu choices, food quality, service and atmosphere have consistently appealed to me for many years; a predicable experience that I enjoyed. Yet, twice this year I have experienced poor service quality from this restaurant at two of their locations.

I will not share the name of the restaurant. Instead, I want to use this experience to illustrate the importance of customer service and how, in its absence, customer retention is at risk.

The restaurant was busy, vibrant with customers enjoying their food. I was greeted, taken to a booth and told that my server would be there soon. Exactly 18 minutes later I was given a glass of water. I quietly asked the server to get the manager, who arrived quickly. I explained what had happened, being civil and respectful of him and making certain that other customers were completely unaware of our conversation.

Continue reading “Customer Experience Continuity”

The FIVE Ps of Branding

Branding has classically dealt with the FOUR P’s of Product, Place, Price and Promotions. While all are relevant to building your brand, in today’s marketplace brand differentiation remains a major challenge for many businesses. We believe a strong business case can be made to add a fifth “P” and that it is and has been arguably the most important component to the definition of brand value.

Whether your business is small or quite large, or operating in the B2B or B2C marketplace, the classic “delta” or gap between your brand and your competition has been your product’s features and to varying degrees its price. The convenience or ambiance of Place and the reassurance and encouragement of Promotions can entice, enhancing the brand and growing market share. But, too often consumers and businesses alike see strikingly little differentiation in the options before them. Sometimes a brand choice or purchasing decision can be less about the perception of added brand value and more about parity, or minimal brand value. Think commodity.

We believe the FOUR Ps of Brand Development should be FIVE Ps, with People (your ENGAGED employees) being the FIFTH component, and arguably the most powerful. Whether it is a product or service you are selling, it’s the people that directly execute your brand that ultimately supports the brand messages and confirms a customer’s buying decision, or pushes them away, that drives them to seek a competitor. 

Please consider the following scenario. Let’s assume that you have invested and carefully defined your brand over many years through the 4 Ps. Let’s also assume that your brand strategy is effectively growing your business, that your customers routinely experience the brand value you have crafted. What happens, however, if a customer has a significantly negative experience? What happens if the negative experience is repeated or is so severe that the customer chooses to broadcast their disappointment or anger to others?

Maybe it is a rude receptionist or a critical product delivery that was late or never arrived. Maybe it is a non-attentive server at the restaurant you have walked into or a sales or customer service representative that doesn’t return your call. Observe your business closely. Look at it from the eyes of your customer.

  •  Will the customer forgive and forget based upon the brand value previously delivered, or flee?

 

  •  Will your brand survive one negative incident? Will it survive two or three?

 

  •  What is that numerical tipping point for each of your customers?

 

  • How frequently is the strength of your brand – the loyalty of your customers to that brand – being tested?

According to research the overwhelming majority of customers do not complain to a company about its product or service – they simply walk away. But, they tell others about those negative experiences, and tell their story in social media where the damage to your company’s brand is multiplied. The final brand component – the promise delivered and the final differentiation are your employees. Your PEOPLE.  Look at your points of interaction with your customers. Regardless of how small or seemingly inconsequential, pay attention to all. Given the incredible diversity of product and service choices – for consumers and for business – are your employees consistently delivering your brand or are they eroding it?