It’s the holidays. Are you giving friends and family what you think they want?
Until I was nearly 40, few in my immediate family asked what I wanted for our holiday gift exchange. Instead, I ended up with well wrapped packages. How about a plaid, pleated skirt? I didn’t like it and “it didn’t like me”--- have you ever seen a 5’4” woman with curves in one? Not pretty.
I annually opened unasked-for books about 12th century architecture and acted grateful, when what I really craved was biographies, mysteries and non-fiction. And then, in the stocking are oddly wrapped “treats” of nuts, raisins and oranges when all I wanted was a candy-cane. Just one.
Here’s a clue about applying this principle to your business life. STOP creating marketing tools because you think “they want them.” Ask them.
I must have been a professional for at least 10 years before it ever occurred to me that we might not need a brochure. Naively, I assumed:
- Of course we needed one. All our competitors had them.
- People we talked to wanted us to “send them something” as they wound our conversation down. For those of you who might be as naïve as I was, they didn’t really want something. They just want to stop talking to us.
- Those with the ability to say “yes” would never make a decision on the basis of our brochure. Although such tools may have given us credibility to be “in” the game, they rarely helped differentiate ourselves from others.
Research today tells us that the number one tool that gets us into a competitive circle and/or differentiates us from the competitor is our website. It helps show who we are as people and really is designed to answer the question: Why us?
The site itself offers a first opportunity for substance. Well used, it tells people:
- Who our ideal client is. That helps to clarify why we are uniquely qualified to serve them.
- Easy ways for them to learn more about us. Through testimonials, case studies, video clip “experience takes,” those who have worked with us can describe, in real-terms, what made our work work… and, they, rather than us, are helping the prospective buyer learn more about who we really are.
- How we think. Whether through white papers, links to PowerPoint presentations, direct mail, or e-newsletters, sharing a clear point of view that shows potential clients how we approach conflicts, negotiations and problem resolution goes a long way past four color glossy brochures that are all about us.
So, you say, now what? I really would like to have something that would help me when someone seems like we might be a match, and when I know that adding additional information could provide real value.
Here are some tips:
- Still feel like you have to send something? Send something that is authentically your company. I read at least two daily local papers, two national papers (WSJ, NYT), 2-3 magazines a month and more than 50 blogs. Why in the world would What Matters send prospects a static, unchanging “all about us” brochure, when we could pull from pieces we had written and send something of interest, and include provocative “if we moved forward” questions that were all about them? This approach suggests having a portfolio of market segmented pieces, as well as individually modified pieces (white papers, fact sheets) that can always be customized for a specific target.
- Want to have something that helps Centers of Influence and current clients refer you? We all know the questions we need them to answer: Who do we work for? What do they get? Why are we qualified to serve them? What sets us apart? Why work with our principals (individually, not collectively)? Why work with our firm? At What Matters we decided, because we are always reading, we’d create a bookmark that answered all those questions. It’s a great “gift” our referral agents can use on our behalf, is designed to be totally consistent with our brand, and helps people who know and love our work say things that are real about what we do… as opposed to something so generic that it could be about anyone.
- Want to have some way of prioritizing those who think they might want/need your services? There are so many tools out there today. We love to use Survey Monkey (or similar providers like Constant Contact or My Emma). Find easy ways to help potential clients identify their own wants and needs; the self-selection process will work as well for them as it would have worked for me at 19, if someone had only asked me: “What do you really want for the holidays?”
The whole purpose of this post is to help all of us (of course, me included) stop thinking we know what people want/need and, instead, giving them more of a chance to tell us. It’s a way of getting more personal, a way of showcasing our commitment, of giving them customized information they really want and need.
In the spirit of always trying to listen, I’m curious: Do you still think people really want your brochure? Do you hear people asking you to send them something? For the last month of the year, consider asking: I could send you something… and would gladly do so, as long as you can give me three more minutes to make sure I understand what you really need.