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Bad Sales and Marketing
May 12, 2011

Bad Sales and Marketing

Bad sales and marketing means talking about yourself, your product or your service instead of your customer!


Have you ever watched a TV commercial that went on and on about how good the advertiser was? You probably saw one last night! Car commercials are some of the worst offenders in this category, and the lengths to which car manufacturers try to appear so “cool” and technologically advanced while talking exclusively about their cars sometimes amazes me. Sure, you will sometimes see what I called a “you”-centric ad which focuses on the customer like sales and marketing should. However, more often than not you will see all kinds of slick special effects to highlight how sleek the car is and lots and lots of narrative about how “we have done this...” or added that or innovated something else to come up with the coolest car in the world. Unfortunately, that kind of advertising will only appeal to people who were interested in that specific car to begin with, for the most part. The rest of us get bored and roll our eyes. Why is it that so many marketers and advertisers still fail to take their eyes off of themselves and tailor their message to and about their customers instead?

The best description I have come across for what good marketing should be was during my research for some articles I wrote on advertising. I came across a phrase by an early pioneer in the field, John E. Kennedy, who describes advertising as ”salesmanship in print” (this was the start of the 1900s and they did not have radio or TV!). It struck me that this is exactly what I preach to my own customers - and whoever will listen! - with regards to creating good advertising copy: that it should speak to your customers just like your best salespeople do. It should be personable, knowledgeable and consultative. Being personable means that you should not make your sales, marketing and advertising like a sterile, formal announcement but should inject some warmth into your message. Being knowledgeable refers to the fact that you are aware of your customer's situation and problems and that you focus on these exclusively. Being consultative means that you understand that the process is a back-and-forth where you do more listening and understanding than communicating!

What I call Sales and Marketing for “You” begins and ends with your customer - “you”. The word “you” is to remind you to use that word in your customer communications, be they written, verbal, electronic or otherwise. Rather than say, “Big Sale!”, why not say, “Save up to 50%!” The second is “you”-centric because it speaks to your customer while the former is simply an announcement that assumes that someone will care enough to follow its instructions. In actual fact, announcements are a thing of the past, where a company could simply put out a message like some kind of authority and people would flock to buy their product or service. You have heard and you know that consumers today are more cynical and do not trust sales and marketing messages any more. Customers today have to be cajoled and humored and spoken to intelligently. They have to be won over like a friend you have had a fight with but want to make up with. You have to tread lightly in reaching out to customers and forming relationships with them. Understand that the customer-seller relationship is fragile and must be handled with care!

A great test of whether or not your sales and marketing lives up to the philosophy of “You” Messaging is to simply read it to your customer. If you have created an ad or a marketing piece, can one of your salespeople use it verbatim in talking to a customer? Thinking about how you speak to your customers in person will make sure that you have the right tone and focus in your message. For example, would your salesperson see and customer and simply talk about how great your latest features are for 15 minutes? Probably not. They would begin by asking customers questions and then inserting comments about features and such as appropriate to answer to customer needs. This is the second part of creating an effective message and approach: make sure that you are focused on your customer and what they want. To that end, be prepared to ask about and discuss their problems as much as possible. Remember that your product or service is only of value to your customer to the extent that it answers to a concern of their and makes their lives better in some shape or form. Instead of saying, “we've just make our machines more powerful!” ask, “do you sometimes suffer from a lack of power on big jobs?” Turn it around to make it about what the customer is doing and what the sales and marketing process unfold by itself!

If your sales and marketing does not speak to your customer about them, you may be missing the boat!


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