Selling You – using the personal factor to grow your business
According to Statistics New Zealand as of February 2018 there were almost 535,000 businesses operating in New Zealand. Of that number about ~519,000 (97%) of them had less than 20 employees and 374,500 (70%) had no paid employees. In other words New Zealand is a nation of small business people where the person who owns the business is the one who does the work and interacts with the customer directly. The simple fact is, for the vast majority of businesses out there, the people working in it are the ‘brand’ not the company name and logo. So we are going to talk about how this comes about, and how to use it in your marketing.
A real word example
Copy Express is a prime example of this effect. Both Natasha and myself do design work, print the orders, and we both serve the customer directly. In fact, even though we keep saying that firstname.lastname@example.org is a group email and either one or both of us might process an order, we still get emailed directly by name to take care of jobs.
What causes this to happen
There are two factors I feel that drive this effect, we are social animals and we don’t like random or abstract things. Our minds will always try to make patterns out of random patterns and where possible humanise it. (Giving rise to such things as seeing the face of famous people on food and every big company seems to have a mascot or iconic image of some kind.) We associate a company with the people we deal with, both positive and negative. So if you get bad customer service from a business, you’re far less likely to go back to them in the future regardless if that person serves you again or not. On the other hand if they get great personal service they are more inclined to go back to deal with that same person again.
The power of word of mouth marketing
It’s always been a very powerful tool in the marketing toolbox, but in this social media dominated landscape, it’s becoming the most important. Where before a person who had a good (or bad) experience with a business, as exemplified by the person they dealt with, would tell a few friends, now they talk about it on various online platforms to hundreds or thousands of people. (In fact I’ve noticed anecdotal evidence that the social media posts of someone who has had experience with a company is the number one way for internet savvy people to research a company before doing business with them.) So as the ‘face’ of the business company what can you do to build up this personal marketing power?
The basic tool set
Here’s the basics you need to consider when using the personal touch as part of your marketing
- Sell your skills and experience
Competing on price is a losing game. No matter how cheap you are, someone is always willing to go cheaper than you. Something that you can’t be beaten on is your experience and your skills. How many years have you worked in the industry, the range of services you offer, what skills from other professions do you bring to the table, these are just some examples of what makes you different from the rest. Don’t make it a list of skills, instead condense it down to a few key highlights (generally 5-9 examples) which you can stick on the back of a business card or flyer. The single most important one, often the call to action, should be put front and centre so they know what makes you unique.
- Brag on social media and your website
As mentioned before, a growing trend is to research businesses by peoples social media posts. Don’t be afraid to ask people to post about you on their own pages. Put up your own social media posts and ask for comments about their experiences with something you sell. If you get nice thank you emails, ask if you can quote them on your website or Facebook page. A dozen good testimonials / recommendations will promote you more than a brochure full of information.
- Write your ads to talk about how YOU WILL FIX THEIR PROBLEMS, not what you ‘sell’
As we have said many times in the past, people will only look for you when they need a problem solved now. The trouble is, that a lot of marketing we see isn’t about solving problems, it’s about listing products or services. Find a problem that people will have and talk about how you will fix it for them. There’s room on the ‘back of the flyer’ to list all the things you can do, what people need to see on the front is how you are going to help them.
- Treat your customers like people not like products
Something as simple as ‘Hello, you’ve reached Copy Express and you’re speaking to Rob. How can I be of help?’ can have a powerful effect on your customers. They get to know that there is a person who is on the end and they want to help them. A ‘how are you today?’ or ‘what can we do for you on this rainy morning’ are examples of taking a personal touch and not just following a call centre script. It costs you a few seconds of your time, but it opens up a personal line of communication which puts them at ease and makes it easier for you to work with them.
- Give people options to customise what they get from you
Following on from fixing their problems, we have given them options. I’ve lost count the number of times we ended up increasing a customer’s order by giving them a couple other options to choose from. A simple next step up in the pricing tiers will often make a sale as they see how much cheaper per unit it becomes. Likewise a ‘consider this product upgrade’ also will have more success than you might realise. Sometimes a downgrade might seal the deal instead. The key thing is that you’ve spent the time to consider their needs and given them choices.
- Don’t rely on stock responses
It’s all too easy to rely on stock responses to emails. Heck, Gmail will automatically offer you one line replies to all your emails. (Yes, we have been known to use them ourselves.) Instead take time to condense what they have sent to you into one or two lines and then give them the answer. Only drop to a shorter one line response if you have a chain of emails where they can look back at previous answers if needed. Don’t be afraid to email questions back to them if there’s something that you don’t understand. Also try to avoid the rote signature line, unless the system you are using forces you to do so.
- Manage their expectations
There’s the old standby business expression of ‘under promise and over deliver’, which is a very basic but also a very effective business practice. With that you also have to manage people’s expectations. People might not realise what they want isn’t practical or might be more than (and more expensive) than what they need. Explain your logic and offer a range of choices of what you can do and let them pick what suits them. They have come to you to solve a problem, so help them better understand it and what needs to be done to fix it.
- Manage your industry talk
This is a personal quirk of mine, as I really do enjoy working in the printing industry and want to help people understand how cool it is. Problem is that sometimes I can get over detailed/technical or worse accidentally drift into mansplaining. So a good habit to be in is to think ‘does it solve their problem to know this’ when I talk to customers. It is a balancing act between this and managing their expectations. If you learn how to control your industry talk, then it will go a long way in helping you give a great impression with your customers.
- Use your website/social media page to link to you as the person
This one can be tricky as you don’t want people in your personal private spaces. What you can do though is to link to some of the things you do that impress people. Do you do charitable work, involved in a leisure pursuit, or do something else noteworthy? There is no harm in linking this as part of the ‘about me’ section of your site or putting the cross link about an event you are involved in as part of your social media feed.
There is more you can do to add a personal touch to your marketing, but that can take more time and effort to do and falls outside this primer to the subject. The key thing is that you are selling you, as that’s what makes you unique from all the other businesses doing what you do. Customers remember who looked after them when they needed help, even years later. Before working at Copy Express I used to work for Warehouse Stationery, and for several of my early years at CE, I ended up meeting people who I served back then and they remembered me and the service I gave them. Since I’ve been working at Copy Express we have customers who we haven’t had dealings with for years but they still come back to us because we took the time to use the personal touch with their needs and they remembered that.
The key takeaway is this. The most unique part of any business is the people, that’s what you are selling more than any product, and that is what brings your customers back time and again.
Want more great advice for marketing your business, or need help coming up with the next idea to get you and your company out there? Come and see us at Copy Express. We will work with you, finding the right solution to your budget and time to get the best return.