When Marketing Masks the Message

Man there’s been a lot of controversy around the interwebs lately, and it’s sparked a few posts for this week! I’ve got views on a lot of the issues, but this blog isn’t about touting my views, it’s about marketing and business and people. So, today’s post will dive into some marketing issues around a lot of the controversial subjects that we face in our society. No matter which side you’re on, I think we can all agree that lately, the marketing has started to mask the message for a lot of organizations. What do I mean by this? I mean that the heart of the issues is so lost in the hype that neither side can make real progress.

Take Susan G. Komen, an organization with the mission to find a cure for breast cancer. I think this organization started out with a strong purpose and vision, and effectively raised money and emotional support for those facing a battle with cancer. But, between the “Save the Tatas” bracelets, the Planned Parenthood funding controversy, and the general “bandwagon” mentality, the charity seems to be more focused on the marketing than the message. They want the cute t-shirts, the trending Twitter hashtags, and the “cool kids” more than they want to find a cure. Honestly, how many people actually donate to breast cancer research by doing something other than purchase the “I heart boobies” bands? When you spend more on branding, advertising, and merchandise than you do on your actual product (in this case, donations/grants for cancer research), the marketing has masked the message. Sure, everyone is more aware, and sure, they’re “donating” to the cause when they buy a $5 plastic wristband… but when it cost a dollar in materials, a dollar in advertising, a dollar in salaries, and a dollar in distribution, people would’ve been much better off to just donate $2 directly to a lab that focuses on cancer research! But, we don’t want to do that, because then no one will know that we heart boobs, no one will know that we’re cool and good because we donated, and no one will want to re-Tweet or Like our Facebook status for being an awesome human being.

Then there’s the KONY2012 video that went viral last week. My first exposure to it was a photo in my news feed from my 8th grade cousin, showing her and three friends with “KONY2012” markered onto their hands with cute exclamation points and bright, multi-colored font. I figured it was some club they were in, not a movement against a warlord. Then I started seeing the critics of KONY2012, and I have to admit, I felt like the marketing had masked the message. It’s like the directors were so worried about winning an award for their video, going viral, or “raising awareness” that they hurt their message to help those in Uganda. Great, you watched and shared a video… but did you actually donate? Did you sign up to go on a mission trip? Did you take any action other than the flying leap onto the bandwagon?

What about charity galas, where everyone is willing to pay $5,000 for a little 8×10 inch picture of some horror around the world, and they’re “generous” because the picture was really only worth $5, and they had chicken instead of steak for their dinner? Or the charity events where everyone gets together to hoop and holler about how the cause is so worthy, but they’ve spent all their money throwing the event to improve “community”. Don’t get me wrong, humans need community and support systems, but when the advertisement focuses so much on the fun, convenience, excitement, whatever of the event, instead of the reason behind the event, we have a problem. The celebration of accomplishment is necessary for morale, awareness, and solidarity, but we can’t lose sight of the reason for the gathering.

In these cases, it’s not that the message is bad, wrong, or otherwise unworthy. It’s that the people with the egos have gotten involved and twisted it into something that’s selfish. It’s about saying, “I had millions of hits on YouTube. My cause is superior to your cause. My fancy charity work is way better than your behind-the-scenes work.” How many people go to Africa to dig wells for clean water? How many people go to Vietnam to volunteer in an orphanage? How many people are willing to donate their time, money or their bodies to medical research? Very few, relative to the amount that will write on their hands or buy the t-shirt. And the few that go or give rarely receive recognition. Because for them, it’s about the message, not about the marketing. It’s not about being in the humanity club, where we’re all supposed to care about each other, so we pretend to care by adding to our fashion collection or our social calendar. There’s a lot that’s wrong in this world, and marketers can help make us aware of ways that we can help find or provide a solution. But don’t get confused… it’s not about the marketing.

Scarcity Revisited

Readers, if you haven’t been to grocery store or a gas station lately, heads up! The Cadbury cream eggs are back! For a limited time only! No, but seriously, they really are here for a limited time only, hence the title, “Scarcity Revisited”. I wrote a post about the Starbucks seasonal offerings a few months ago, and seeing the Cadbury egg put scarcity right in the front of my mind.

The scarcity effect makes people radically alter their behavior. My husband is in a body building phase, so he’s on a strict diet and exercise regimen to craft the optimal physique. And, he’s hardcore… counting calories, graphs, intermittent fasting, the works. Guess what got to him? That’s right, the Cadbury cream egg. And, it wasn’t just one bite… no, he had to buy three, because they were on sale, buy 2-get 1 free. So, now we’ve got scarcity AND “deal” syndrome kicking his calorie-counting, well-sculpted butt! (Sorry, but the guy has been doing a ridiculous amount of squats, if I’m going to mention him in the article, I should make note of the effects of his training. That and the phrasing just works for that sentence, so it’s a win all around. Just sayin’!). Humans are hard-wired to see “deal” and “limited time” and automatically start into purchase mode. Sure, we know that the cream eggs will be around again next year, and at most places, they cost less than a dollar, so the savings isn’t a huge sum. But, it’s not necessarily about the money or the timing, it’s about the overwhelming need to make sure we don’t miss out on an opportunity.

Scarcity is a great tool for marketers, and in this case, it worked as intended: they picked up new customers who wouldn’t otherwise have made a purchase from the brand. What “limited time” offer broke your New Year’s resolution?

The First Rule of Fight Club

No logos, no visible brands... is this good or bad for the retailers that sold me clothes?

Dress: JC Penney

Cardigan and Tights: Target

Belt: NY & Co.

Pumps: Alfani Step ‘n Flex

Necklace: Forever21

Earrings: Silpada

Like the outfit? Click here for more details!

 

Today’s post is a bit of a marketing rabbit hole on branding, and I’m going to throw around some academic jargon. It’ll be a fun walk down memory lane undergraduate classes! In all seriousness, though, I wonder about the differences between clothing makers that put their label all over their products vs. retailers that let the product stand on its own. So, let’s go for a dive, shall we?

Awareness for the masses vs. “the club”. In theory, all publicity is good publicity, right? So, plastering a recognizable logo on every available surface of your product should raise awareness, resulting in more sales. The problem is, some brands sell exclusivity. If you want to be part of the super secret club, you buy this brand. So, what happens when you see tons of other people walking around advertising the super secret club? It makes it less secret, and therefore, less appealing to join, since apparently, it’s open to the masses. When people buy access to “the club”, they don’t want to be reminded that someone who’s not just like them can also buy access to “the club”. This is particularly true for high-end brands, like one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories. It can’t be one-of-a-kind if you see someone else walking around with the same thing! Thus, making your product particularly recognizable by the masses may actually be harmful to your brand. If you’re selling exclusivity, you don’t want the masses to know about your brand (the first rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club!). Only those with the highest salaries, most refined taste, or most trendy wardrobes belong in your target market, and if they’re truly “in”, they’ll know your product without the visible logo.

Aspirational brand devaluation. This is closely tied with the decision to sell exclusivity. An aspirational product is something that symbolizes the group you want to join, and when you finally obtain the product, you’ve “arrived” (like all the facial bruises that identify other Fight Club members!). High-end clothing and accessories are often marks of career success, so many young people see purchasing their first Armani suit or Blahnik heels as a signal that they’ve now joined the successful peer group. But again, no one aspires to be just like everyone else. This may seem counter-intuitive, since this product purchase means that you’re now a member of the most desirable group, so the other members will accept you. But, if you have to run around screaming to everyone that you’re one of the cool kids, you’re probably not that cool in reality. Label junkies tend to seem like they’re just posing as a member of the group, which means the product becomes associated with “fake” members. Soon, the product falls from aspirational status to cheap imitation status in the eyes of customers who dictate which products are aspirational.

Imitation is easy. Congrats, you’ve built a successful brand with a recognizable logo or signature design! Now everyone knows that when they see that logo, they’re getting quality, reliability, luxury, and great customer service… except it’s easy to slap a logo on a fake. And, those fakes on the market that proudly display your hard-earned reputation via the logo are further contributing to the brand devaluation. It’s much more difficult to imitate quality stitching, luxurious fabric, real leather, or precise time-keeping, which is why many high-end brands would rather let their discerning customers “recognize” the brand through personal experience with each item. Take the case of Louboutin’s attempt to trademark the red color they use for their signature soles. Several other shoe manufacturers started using red soles in their designs of lesser quality, which Louboutin felt impacted the integrity of their brand. Since it’s widely known that red soles = Louboutin, it’s difficult for the average consumer to tell the difference between the knock-offs and the original. If customers were required to learn the differences in the brands through experience, Louboutin would not be so upset about the use of the color red. And, if you’re selling exclusivity, your customers will be happy (in fact, they’ll prefer) to spend the extra time feeling, using, and understanding what makes your products different from another brand.

So, now we’ve come to the marketer’s dilemma: to logo or not to logo? This issue is much more easily settled when you have a defined target segment (who you’re selling to), a strong brand identity (what it is you’re selling), and a thorough understanding of what your customers value (why your customers choose you over the next guy). I’m not in the super secret club in the fashion world, but I do understand the first rule of fight club ๐Ÿ™‚ Like the outfit? Click here for more details!

A Marketer’s Holiday

Many people resent Valentine’s Day because they feel like the evil marketers at the greeting card, chocolate, and flower stores colluded to dupe them into buying more useless junk that they (and their significant others) don’t need. As a marketer, I can’t decide if I should be offended, or applauding the genius.

From the offended stance, I would say that the whole Valentine’s Day craze isn’t totally a marketer’s fault. I mean, people have to actually buy into this whole scheme, right? It’s also interesting that no one gets up in arms about St. Patrick’s Day, even though it’s a commercialized holiday as well. Maybe it’s because St. Patrick’s Day is all about drinking green beer and pinching people, instead of buying flowers? Maybe it’s because everyone has the ability to participate at different levels, and no one feels left out if they’re single (heck, you probably fare better when you’re single on St. Patrick’s Day!). Either way, I don’t place the blame totally at the marketer’s feet. As a society, we push for more, more, more, and the company’s bottom line needs to rise, rise, rise. And, quite frankly, “if you sell it, they will buy it”. Valentine’s Day bears and heart-shaped boxes would’ve died if no one bought those items, but people DO buy them, to the tune of millions of dollars. It’s like the latest toy craze, but for adults! So, if I’m going to get offended at the “evil marketer” accusation, I’d like to point a few fingers at society at large, and the obsession with outdoing the Jones in every aspect of gift-giving and purchasing.

However, I could also choose to applaud the marketers who increased sales profitably in a variety of industries with a single branding of one random day in February. People like to give and receive, and people like to compete and set expectations. Why not capitalize on this? Isn’t it a marketer’s job to see unmet needs in the market, and produce a product or service (or, in this case, a day) to meet those needs? Love is one of the strongest emotions to tap as a marketer, so what better way to sell something than to make a whole day dedicated to love? This is particularly valuable, since most of the items associated with Valentine’s Day have no utilitarian value. The flowers die, the chocolate makes you fat, and the bears just waste space. But humans value the ridiculous things that others do to show love. It’s such an intangible, immeasurable thing, that if you as a marketer can put some kind of price on it, you’ll hit a gold mine.

So yes, I must agree that Valentine’s Day is really a marketer’s holiday. My husband and I tend to shy away from commercialized holidays, and we’re working to make sure we don’t fall into the trap of marketers (it helps to have some inside information ๐Ÿ™‚ ). But, I must admit, it made my day when flowers showed up at the office yesterday, the day BEFORE Valentine’s Day. We’re not flower people, and I know that my flowers will probably only last for a few days. But the sweet thought, the nice note, and the pop of color on a dreary day can make even the cynic’s heart melt. See… I knew it was marketing genius!

UPDATE: Newsy, a site that uses multiple resources to get the full view of a story, sent me a link to a video they produced on Valentine’s Day. Take a look at some of the crazy spending people do to show someone how much they care!

Will Power

We all have aspirations, and for some, those include being a model or celebrity. For me, those aspirations included being a professional singer, so I was willing to sacrifice a lot of time, money, and tears to achieve that dream. I started thinking about will power, and wondering if it takes more power to say, “no”, or more power to keep pressing on when everyone else is saying, “no”.

In an effort to pursue my dream in high school, I joined a modeling and talent agency. A friend of mine had heard a commercial or received a flyer about an audition at a hotel ballroom, so I decided to go as well. Even then, I was incredibly skeptical of agencies, wary that they only wanted to scam me out of my money. This agency had a great hook: we don’t get paid until you get paid. Pretty classic pitch, actually. The problem was that, in order to even go to a call, you needed a book of headshots. As I was not trying to model, I thought this was stupid, but it’s what you had to have to see the casting directors. And, we had to use their photographer, because he knew EXACTLY what the directors were looking for in the photos. After over-paying for the photos, we had to pay for a weekend at a hotel for me to perform for the directors (along with thousands of others, scheduled to sing on stage one after the other). I was excited to get a few callbacks, until I realized that the callbacks were for a voice teacher and a stage teacher. Most of the performers got similar callbacks. In short, after nearly a grand spent with a “free” agency, I stopped returning their calls.

Timeshares are supposed to be a lucrative offer. You get to vacation in gorgeous locations, make tons of money back on your investment, and generally allow you to “get in on the ground floor of an amazing opportunity!” A lot of people fall prey to the free breakfast, offers for a cruise in exchange for just 30 minutes of your time, and the beautiful beach-front property that you have the ability to purchase before anyone else!

Both of these situations test your will power. They test your knowledge that if it soundsย too good to be true, it probably is. In the case of the agency, they had one shining success story, and for an ambitious high school girl, that’s all it took. Surely, I could be their next success! The timeshares have one or two outstanding ROIs to report, and once again, everyone thinks that surely, they’ll be the next big millionaire after making such a wise (and oh so unique) investment. These are examples of marketers (albeit, very clever and successful marketers) using their powers to fleece people. They push every emotional button, and use every social construct to pressure you into doing something that you know in your mind to be wrong, even though your heart really wants to believe in the “magic”. I’ll admit, I fell for it once! Maybe that’s why I want to use my will power to be an honest marketer, with customers who feel great about the solution I’ve described to them?

Get ’em Hooked

The screensaver with the "upgrade" option.

 

I had a pretty humorous exchange with my boss yesterday about the Kindle Fire he received for Christmas. He was testing out all the different buttons, settings, and options, and he was excited to show me the screensaver he’d picked out. The screensaver is a picture of a coral reef, and every few seconds, some bubbles float up, and a blue or an orange fish swim across the screen. Pretty engaging little picture, I must say! He commented that he wished there were more bubbles and more fish, and I said that there was probably an option on the settings menu to make the fish and bubbles come up faster, or in different patterns. Upon clicking into the settings menu, he was given the option to purchase an “upgrade” to the screensaver app that would give him all sorts of options on speed, fish variety, and many other COOL features!! I laughed and said, “Smart marketers”. He shook his head and said, “Evil marketers!” He didn’t buy the upgrade, but I found this to be a classic marketing case. So, what did the app marketers do right, and why couldn’t they close the sale?

Hook ’em up front. These marketers used the tried-and-true “free trial”, which allows the customer to decide, risk-free, if they like the product. This has become particularly popular in the tech world, since the results are immediate, and once people learn to use the system, the opportunity cost to switch is generally high enough that they’ll just click “purchase” at the end of the trial. For things like games online, customers want to keep their score, and for the low, low price of $1, they can keep playing!

Make ’em think it was their idea. Marketers know that if someone decides they want something on their own, it’s much easier to convince them that the something they want, is something you provide (as opposed to trying to convince them that they want anything in the first place). So, my boss decided that he wanted more control of the settings all by himself. This means that when he went into the settings menu, he was already primed to do something to meet the needs he already saw for himself. It’s marketing gold if you can find a way to have a natural lead-in to paid features, such that customers already want the feature, and it just so happens that you have the feature available… for a small fee. Depending on the product, the “small fee” might make customers shake their head and think, “evil marketer”, or they might be glad that the provider has already thought of ways to meet their needs.

Make ’em think it’s not frivolous. This is where the app marketers failed to close the sale with my boss. I don’t know how much the upgrade cost, but it was enough that my boss thought it wasn’t worth it. There could be several explanations for this; maybe he thought it was too frivolous, or he didn’t want to be “duped” by the “gimmick” (see his reaction to the “evil marketer”), or maybe he just isn’t the type of person to spend money on apps for his mobile devices. People are willing to spend money on tons of frivolous online endeavors, from Angry Birds, to Farmville, to using real dollars to purchase gold on WoW, so it’s not that the product itself just won’t sell. Huge volume sales are the key to profitability for many of these apps. Of the millions of people with access, you only need to capture a small percentage of them to make a decent revenue. Again, marketing gold if you can convince the customer that your game, app, or “virtual capital” is worth dollars in real life.

I still think the Kindle app people were smart marketers, even though they failed to coax my boss into a purchase. Have you ever been “hooked”? Were you impressed or annoyed at the marketing ploy?

Gift Giving

In case you have been too busy to notice, Christmas is in 12 days! I’ve been running around like a mad woman with Christmas cards, rehearsals for the Christmas show, and getting ready for Christmas travel. One thing I have NOT been doing, however, is shopping for Christmas gifts. Both my family and my husband’s family decided to do something a little different this year, and I think it’s going to become a new tradition.

My husband’s parents live in Florida, and we’d already planned to fly there for Christmas. They suggested driving down to the Keys, in lieu of gifts, and we heartily agreed that this would be a wonderful plan! So, we’re all splitting the cost, with the parents picking up the tab for the hotel, and the kids pitching in for meals and activities. My parents also asked for our thoughts on taking a trip, instead of doing gifts, but since we’re already traveling, we decided that two trips in December would be a little too much. So, instead, we’re doing dinner and a show! My parents are getting the musical tickets, and the kids are splitting the cost of dinner at a nice restaurant. My extended family stopped doing “traditional” gifts a long time ago. For as long as I can remember, we would draw names, and only exchange a gift with one of the many aunts, uncles, or cousins, with a pretty low spending limit. This ensured that we weren’t having to travel with tons of boxes, and we weren’t blowing our entire savings on Christmas gifts for our (huge) family. And, in recent years, we started doing a white elephant exchange with homemade gifts, or gifts under $5, and donating the money we would have spent to a church or charity cause.

So, what does all of this have to do with marketing? Quite a lot, actually! Americans, in particular, have this constant need to buy more stuff, to “keep up with the Jones”. As a marketer, part of my job is to convince you that the stuff my company sells is better than the stuff another company sells. But, when I start hearing that people “need” this trinket or that pair of shoes, this giftcard or that fancy wrapping, it makes me a little sad. We all have so much in this country, but yet we feel the need for more. Many people are working in soul-crushing jobs for soul-crushing hours, just to afford more stuff that they don’t have time to use (on account of their time at their job, after all!) I would love to see more marketers sell experiences this Christmas, sell a good cause, and sell time with family. And, not in the “Kiss Begins with Kay” kind of way, but the “making memories to last a lifetime” kind of way, cheesy though that may be.

Gifts aren’t bad, but when it turns into a stressful, resentful, and generally unpleasant obligation, it ceases to be a gift! So, consider going a little non-traditional this year, if the last-minute shopping just isn’t on your to-list ๐Ÿ™‚ And, for the more practical and frugal, here’s a somewhat humorous list of gift-giving tips from the ERE blog!

Deal Conversions

I’ve bought a few daily deals in the last year, and I’ve found it to be an interesting experience. The golden egg in the deal world is a repeat customer that pays full price. So, have any of these daily deals converted me?

I’ve bought deals from Living Social, Groupon, and TravelZoo. For me, food tends to be a great option, so all but one of my deals was strictly to try out a new restaurant or directly involved food. I bought a Living Social coupon to Let’s Art Party, a Groupon deal to Black Finn and a Murder Mystery Dinner Bed and Breakfast, and a TravelZoo deal at Rafain. The buying experience on each site was about the same: simple, quick, immediate receipt. I received my vouchers in a timely manner, and I’ve only had issues using one of the vouchers. When I had an issue with a Groupon voucher, the company refunded my money, true to policy, no questions asked. My refund showed up on my credit card bill a few days later, just as promised. So, from a site preference standpoint, none of these three sites has influenced my likelihood to convert.

The venue experience, however, is the deal-breaker. This makes perfect sense, as the deal is not trying to convert me from one daily deal site to another, but from a non-patron to a loyal (or at least one-time, full-price paying customer) of the company providing the coupon. And, it’s not rocket science, if you provide a great experience to every customer, they’ll come back. Sales people try to make the pitch that the coupon will significantly impact your business, but I would temper that assessment with the caveat that people must be willing to spend full-price if your company is actually going to reap long-term benefits. For example, my husband and I are willing to spend Rafain-level money on dinner sometimes, so you want us to buy your coupon to try you out, since we’ll definitely be spending that kind of money at some point in the future. This is the difficulty in coupons and promotions in general, since it’s incredibly difficult to measure whether or not you’re actually reaching people with strong potential to become paying customers.

Now for the conversion: the TravelZoo coupon to Rafain converted us from Fogo de Chao diners to Rafain diners. We’ve tried one other Brazilian steakhouse in the DFW area, and it was terrible. The meat was poor quality for the money, the selection was scant, and the service was mediocre. We determined that if we’re going to pay for a nice dinner, we’ll shell out the extra cash for something like Fogo de Chao. But, Rafain blew us away! We went on a Sunday night, and they treated us like royalty. No shortage of attention when it came to bringing around decadent meat selections, folding the napkins when we left the table, and keeping the sides fresh. Excellent quality, selection, and service have kept Rafain in our conversations for the last 3 weeks, and we’ve been raving about the experience to friends and family. Rafain converted us by delivering an experience on-par (if not better) than its competitors.

Let’s Art Party is another one that converted me. The BYOB and paint-a-canvas classes are becoming really popular, and I’ve seen several friends’ positive reviews on Facebook. But, I’ve just never wanted to pull the trigger, until I saw the Living Social deal for half off. If the evening was terrible, at least I didn’t spend too much on it. The evening was amazing! Not only did I go, I took my mom, and we made a girls’ night out of it. Let’s Art Party converted BOTH of us, and we’re planning to take my sister to a class in the near future. They’re ending up with a paying customer that they didn’t even need a coupon to reel in, because they provided such a wonderful experience to the two coupon holders. My painting is hanging in my office at work, and again, I’ve been telling all my friends about the great evening I had at Let’s Art Party.

The other two places don’t deserve another mention, since I don’t really want to give them the publicity that the other two amazing venues received. Another golden egg aspect, is the social media and word of mouth you receive if you exceed expectations. By delivering top-notch experiences, Rafain and Let’s Art Party now have the benefit of my online and in-person reviews, which reach much further than just the initial reach of a coupon. It’s becoming harder and harder to convert people via deals, but if you can deliver greatness, you’ll get benefits far beyond what the sales rep can show you.

Shut Up

Ask anyone to describe me, and one of the first words out of their mouth will be, “talkative”. I LOVE to talk, and I sometimes joke that I’d be quite happy to carry on a conversation with a rock, if it came down to it. But, I’ve learned, sometimes I just need to shut up.

To me, the most uncomfortable portion of a conversation is silence. So, naturally, I minimize the discomfort by talking through the silence. The problem is that many times, the other person needs a minute to collect their thoughts to answer my question or comment on the point I just made, so blabbering through actually makes everything take longer. For example, I’m more knowledgeable about how to make changes to the company website. I tend to give a full explanation or offer two different options for making a change. When my boss gives me the confusion/”I’m thinking” look, I assume it means that I need to further explain the options. In reality, it usually just means he’s thinking, and if I’d give him a second of silence, he could choose an option.I’m trying to learn to let people think, instead of assuming that I need to fill the silence with more explanations to “help” my counterpart.

Another problem is that I tend to assume everything requires a drawn-out explanation of my logic in reaching a conclusion. While I think it’s helpful to have an explanation of your methods handy, I do think that in business, it’s better to just state your point. Then, if your colleagues need more detail, they can ask for it. This is also true in personal relationships, and this point hit me in the face this morning. While getting ready for work, I decided to tell my still-asleep husband that I didn’t want him to wash the light-colored laundry, because I had some sweaters that needed special treatment, so I planned to wash that load when I returned home from class. He rolls over, and says, “Don’t do the laundry, got it.” Sigh! I should have just told him that and let him sleep! Personal partners and business partners may take what you say at face-value, so practice making your point compelling enough on the surface to render your long explanation unnecessary.

Last, we discussed “talking past the sale” during our recent training session, and I’ve found this to be a common problem for any type of business. If you’ve already sold your idea, product, or services, STOP. The customer already believes you, so don’t risk losing the sale by continuing to talk and giving them a reason to change their mind. For job seekers, this is particularly important, as we tend to think that giving a potential employer more information is better. I’ve talked several times about transparency and credibility, and I think that learning to stop talking once you’ve convinced them of your ability is a good skill to have. (Again, we’re not talking about lying or intentionally side-stepping the truth, but if they don’t ask you about something after you’ve proven you’re a great fit, don’t give them a reason to find something wrong with you!)

I write this post while pointing a finger directly at myself, as my love for talking sometimes gets the best of me ๐Ÿ™‚ So, have you found it helpful to just shut up? Does anyone else have trouble shutting up?

Talking So They’ll Listen

I just came home from a sales training session in Atlanta, GA, and we discussed some tips for talking so they’ll listen. In particular, we discussed the results of a brain dominance test that measures how you prefer to make decisions, receive information, and generally deal with people. This is similar to many different personality tests, but the results of this particular session really hit home for me.

First, I found out that I’m basically completely different than all my colleagues. Well, I already knew this! A few differences that I am well aware of: I’m a girl, I’m young, I’m “creative” instead of “technical”, I’m fast-paced and “hyper”, and I have no experience in the industry instead of 15-25 years’ experience in aviation. These obvious differences present their own challenges, but the brain dominance test revealed that I prefer to look at the big picture, instead of focusing in on every detail. Literally ALL of my colleagues are more detail-oriented vs. considering the entire picture. Neither way is right or wrong, but it sheds a little light on a particular challenge I’ve been facing with the implementation of the CRM.

To me, implementing the Customer Relationship Management System is a strategic move to improve data collection, analysis, and sharing at all levels of the organization, and across all functions of the organization. To my sales reps, it’s an extra 20 minutes each day doing data entry. I see reports of aggregate data that tell a story about the market and our place in the market, and my reps see customers’ names and phone numbers, completely unrelated to the market as a whole. Thus, while I’m hammering home the point about how great it is for everyone, they’re tuned out because they don’t see the value for their day-to-day operations.

It’s not rocket science that people think differently, learn differently, and make decisions differently. But talking so they’ll listen is pretty difficult, and if you’re not even sure what language they’re speaking, you’ll have miscommunications. Now that I know what language makes them listen, I’m going to start giving more detail about how the CRM provides value to them on a day-to-day basis, instead of painting such a broad picture. This is just one area that I’ve missed the mark in communicating benefits, and business requires you to move out of your communication comfort zone on a regular basis. So, next time you’re making your pitch (not just the sales pitch, but the “give me a raise” pitch, the “lower my rate for advertising” pitch, or the “my department needs better software” pitch), do you know what language your AUDIENCE is speaking? Do you know what words will make them hear you? Dig into their heads a little, and dig into your head a little, and use the information to find a way to talk so they’ll listen!