Years and years ago I came up with a brilliant idea for attracting new business. In my daily scouring of newspapers, magazines, and other media (thankfully this was before the Internet) I’d look for advertising that I thought was poorly done. I’d rip the offending page out of the newspaper or magazine and slap a bright orange sticker on its face. The sticker said, “You would get better results with a better ad.”
Then I’d shove the marked-up ad in an envelope and send it to the CEO or CMO for whom I thought I could do better work. I’d include a note introducing myself and my agency and telling them what I could do for them.
Shockingly, I didn’t get any responses. And at first I didn’t understand why.
After all, I had taken the time to look at their advertising materials and even offered to help them out. It couldn’t be a matter of money because I hadn’t told them what I would charge for my services. So why weren’t they calling and taking me up on my generous offer?
What I’ve learned through hindsight, maturity, and the experience of getting knocked flat on my ass one time too many is that people don’t like being told they’re idiots.
And that was exactly what I was doing.
Instead of being helpful I was being presumptuous. Instead of being insightful I was being irritating. Instead of being enlightening I was being insulting. And instead of giving my prospects a real reason to contact me and do business with me I was giving them every reason to stay as far away from me as they could.
How many people who are concerned about their weight enjoy shopping in the “portly,” or “husky” department? How many people like asking for a seatbelt extender on an airplane? How many people who are concerned about their age enjoy requesting the senior discount?
How about asking the price of the special on the menu? Why do restaurant owners think it’s okay to post sumptuous specials without a price and then make us shyly ask the waiter how much it costs (or worse yet, simply not order it)?
Who wants to buy a computer from a knowledgeable IT salesperson who makes it clear we don’t know what we’re buying? Who wants to buy a car from a salesperson who asks if we “…need to check with our spouse first?”
What middle-aged person just getting back into a fitness regime wants to walk into a hard body gym? What father wants to be asked by his child’s preschool teacher if he’s “babysitting today?”
What voters like being told they’re racist, misogynistic, uneducated, deplorable, elitist, close-minded, dishonest, lazy, immoral, unengaged or crooked?
No, few consumers like to be told they’re stupid, over the hill, overweight, clueless, unwelcome, cheap, or uninformed, even if they are. Nobody likes being called an idiot. Instead people want to be treated with respect, compassion, interest, concern, politeness, and graciousness.
Yes, there are nightclubs that fill their tables by making people wait behind the velvet line hoping to get in. And yes, there are upscale boutiques that sell outrageous amounts of clothing at outrageous prices simply by looking down on their customers (Pretty Woman, anyone?) but the Internet is making that reality rarer and rarer. Because in a world where almost anything is instantly available and anyone can comment on anything anytime, consumers have more choices than ever.
And when they have all this choice, you can be sure they’re not going to frequent businesses that make them feel badly about being there. Or worse, make them feel badly about themselves. And you can be damn sure they’re not going to call the ad agency that suggests they’re idiots.
All About Them is not only the title of my new book, it’s also the three-word mantra that can transform your business in the new world we all find ourselves. By making sure that you’re always looking for ways to not talk about yourself and your company but to talk about how you make your consumers’ lives better, you can change the relationship you have with them. And that simple shift will generate increased inquiries, increased sales, and increased loyalty.