Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Smell the fear

Oh my gawd!, look at my in box. Given hard times everyone is trying to fill it. The spam level has exploded and I am getting bombarded with more promotions that ever. The result is of course I spend a bit more time killing this stuff and don't look at any of it. These folks are getting desperate and the only solution to their very limited marketing imaginations is to turn up the throttle, which is increase, the volume of their customer communications. A simple answer, send more e-mails to your customers with more offers.

Does this really work? A Does it make sense?

Heck no!

I am so busy getting rid of junk communications from people I have done business with and expect to in the future that I don't even read them anymore. I find myself hitting the UNSUBSCRIBE button more just out of spite for their stupidity.

I have my own stresses, don't add yours to the pile. There must be a better way. And of course there is.

First, as the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy says, in friendly letters, DON'T PANIC!

This is the time to create stronger bonds, not alienate the customer. Here are some thoughts on how to do that.

1 - Don't Broadcast Your Panic. It stinks. The customer can smell it and is repulsed, usually pertinently. Control yourself, the big push isn't going to save the day so get smart, stop and think . . don't stampede with knee-jerk reactions. Calm down.

2 - It is all changing, the market and your customers. Define the change so you can adapt your approaches to fit it. In theory the ultimate skill of mankind is to adapt and evolve quickly so try to be a good functional human. This means the first thing is to find out the new rules. Take time to ask the customer what is going on and where they are going. Get feedback, answer questions, be useful and maintain those good relations you worked so hard to get.

3 - You are scared, they are scared, get above it even if you think the ship is sinking, get their input and project your wisdom. Be strong, not overbearing, show wisdom and strength. Become a bastion of hope, it's what Obama did and worked for him, you still don't hear a plan but the belief that one is coming keeps people tuned in and listening. Follow that path.

4 - Dialog with your customers. Engage them. Write content that encourages dialog, get their ideas and publish them to other customers. Timely, entertaining, relevant, hopeful content shows that you are on top of it, experts with strength. Listening shows you care, spreading the word, answer to questions and smart advise, all show that you are responsible, trustworthy, and concerned for them.

5 - If there ever was time to be social, this is it! Don't run off into the 'WEB.2' illusion, get real. Your customer's have a desire to do well for others, figure out how you can get into that flow. If it is sales, give some of the cash flow to charity and make a point of it, it is really your customer who is helping out, make sure he knows it and can be proud that when the chips are down what is good for him (your stuff or service) is also good for the community. There a thousand variations on this, find one that works for you.

6 - If you have a local presence, partner with local companies to make an event. Simple things, take your internal expertise, your Financial, HR, Ops, Procurement, even Execs public. Set up a simple "ask the expert" table top in a bookstore, supermarket, where ever, and offer up their experience and knowledge to those who want to learn or need knowledge. Take those dialogs, now questions from the common man, and use them as content for your email. Practical stuff that can get you newspaper and radio exposure as well as tell you customers you really care.

Use your imagination; push out with who you are, not just your "deals". Build trust and show concern. It is cheap to do, just open your heart and show you have one.

Copyright 2008 Barry W Thornton all rights reserved

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