Let's say you had a third party interview your spouse, asking one question: What do you love about him/her?
I guarantee you would be surprised at the answers they gave. Sure, there would be some things that made you smile and say, "Yes, I work hard at that. I'm glad he appreciates it."
But there would be other things that surprised you. Things that you never thought she noticed or thought much about; things you didn't even think much about yourself, because it comes naturally to you; things that you didn't realize were that important to her. You'd think, "Wow - good thing I do that. I had no idea it meant so much to her."
Given this new information, you'd see you and your spouse - and your relationship - in a new light. There would be new energy, new purpose, new direction. You would know what made your spouse happy, and you would endeavor to do more of that.
It's just like that with your customers. We think we know them, and we think we know what is important to them.
I recently hired a trusted interviewer whom I had also trained, to interview my own clients. After going through the transcriptions of the conversations, I had several epiphanies. I understood why my clients come to me, and what they get out of our relationship. But more than ever, I understood who they were, as a group - what they had in common. And it made me better aware why they appreciate what I do. It gave me a whole new perspective, even though I work so closely with them and have such a strong relationship with them.
If you haven't had a skillful interviewer find out what your customers love about you, you are saying the wrong things when you are talking to prospective customers about what you think they will love about you. You are failing to connect because you believe the wrong things.
What you are saying won't resonate. When it doesn't resonate, they won't trust you. If they don't trust you, they won't buy from you.
Have someone you trust interview your customers, as I teach here. What happens after that will change everything for you, in a good way. Even I found that out recently, and I'm glad I did it.
I am looking for a product or service like the one you sell. I have talked to a couple of my LinkedIn buddies, and I have a short list.
You're on it.
I come to your website. I already know pretty much what you sell, and I know what my buddies think of you.
Before I dig deeper, I want to know who you are.
What do you care about? Why did you start your company? What are your dreams? What is the problem you're determined to solve? Is it the same problem I'm trying to solve? Do you think of this problem the way I think of this problem? How successful have you been solving this problem?
The first thing I see on your home page is a big, rotating billboard with Stock Photo People. My instantaneous, knee-jerk reflex is to look elsewhere on the screen for something that might answer one of my questions.
I click on About. I scroll. No pictures of who's running the show. &*^%. This is going to make it more difficult.
I quickly scan what you say in the About section. &*^% again. It's the same generic boilerplate Mission Statement that companies put up just because they have to have one. No answers there.
I've been on your site more than a minute now and I still don't have a single question answered.
Just because my buddy said you were good, I spend a little time on your product page, and I may even bookmark your site. But my mind has already moved on. You haven't told me, much less sold me, on who you are.
What do I want?
What would answer my questions about who you are - and what you can do for me? Something very personal and very specific.
I want a home page that relates to ME. I don't want to see stock photos. I'd much rather see photos of real people, your employees and/or your customers. Better yet, your real employees with real customers. And detailed pictures of your products.
I want you to talk about the problems you're solving for people like me, preferably categorized by industry, type of application, or my job function. I want to be able to read very short case study-ettes, that I can drill down on, if I am interested in a particular one.
I want to see YOU on the About page. I want to see the top execs at your company, with a short bio, and maybe even a group shot of the whole team. Knowing who you are, and what you've done previously, will help me decide if you have can help me solve my problem. Looking at the people will tell me what kind of team you've built. Are they professional? Confident? Happy?
I want to see some videos, not only of you talking, but of some of your employees talking.
Please, talk to me directly. Don't talk to some persona you made up in your head. I'm a real person, looking to buy from someone who can provide what I need. Show me how you're going to do that. Show me who you are, what you care about, and how you're going to help me.
Customers Aren't Spoiled Brats. They Just Want What They Always Did - And Now They Can Tell the World
There's a lot of talk going around marketing circles lately, positing that today's customers have become spoiled brats, expecting everything "now," and throwing a major, public tantrum when they don't get what they want.
I think this is completely false, and just another example of marketing and management hubris. In fact, one could say that managers and marketers are behaving more like spoiled brats than their customers are.
Actually, customers are expecting what they have always expected - they expect companies to keep the promises they make in their marketing content. When those promises are broken, customers have always expressed their frustrations to those within earshot. But now they can do so in public - where even head-in-the-sand managers can see what's happening.
Now, the person checking into a hotel in Las Vegas (which I did myself recently, there on business), doesn't have to suffer in silence while waiting a HALF HOUR to check in. They can whip our their smartphone and tweet about it to thousands of other people.
That person is not an unreasonable spoiled brat. That person has every right to be irritated. They've just spent hours traveling, stuck in a flying sardine can, lacking sleep and inner peace. They are tired and hungry. They are dying to get into the room to decompress, to eat, to call home, and to get some overdue work done. This is their last public moment in that day of their journey, one that should happen in a minute or two. A transaction that could and should be as easy as checking into a flight using a kiosk.
Why don't they have the key cards programmed ahead of time? Why do they have to have you sign something, when you could have done that online when registering? Why can't they have a kiosk that reads your ID? There are so many ways that hotels could do a better job of checking people in, and yet, here you are, WAITING.
In my interviews of thousands of customers, I have found that customers are NOT unreasonable about their expectations. They are more than willing to cut the company a bit of slack, to wait patiently when appropriate. To understand, for example, that of course it takes 15 minutes to cook a pizza. But it should NOT take 15 minutes to order one.
Now that we have social media, companies are being held to the promises they're making. The all-too-common practice of making promises that cannot be kept, even by the most motivated employees, are being revealed for what they are: Management Lies.
Managers think they know what is important to their customers. They make promises in their messages about those things. But they are usually wrong about what is important. Worse, they often fail to structure their businesses so they can keep the promises they make. They promise that people won't have all those terrible problems with them, but in actual practice, they do. The company's managers have not done what is necessary to eliminate the problems.
Back in the day of the Mad Men, companies could make incredible promises and break them, without fear of being exposed publicly. Now they have nowhere to hide, and it makes them angry. They are the ones throwing the tantrum, putting their hands over their ears and saying, "La-la-la, I can't hear you!" Or laying down on the rug of the conference room and saying, "I don't want to hear what customers think! They're so unfair! I work so hard! Who do they think they are, anyway?"
They are your revenue. Your future. Your success. That's all.
Customers are human beings with reasonable needs, people who expect other people to keep their promises. That's not too much to ask.
As you read this, you are seven conversations away from higher revenue - and making The Shift to customer-centricity. Take it from someone who has "been there, done that" - Dan Fylstra, CEO of Frontline Systems, who writes:
"What's it like to have Kristin Zhivago as a revenue coach? I think our return in incremental revenue from implementing the changes resulting from her work was probably 50x -100x her consulting fees, and would have been more if we had acted on them sooner. But even more valuable was the change of thinking that working with Kristin induced in me and my key people. It was a shift from a customer-centric view in theory to a much more reality-based, customer-centric approach in practice. Like the credit card commercials, that part has been 'priceless.'" - Daniel Fylstra, CEO of Frontline Systems
I'm putting this admittedly horn-tooting quote in the Revenue Journal for one reason: to help you realize that you are seven conversations away from making The Shift from a "customer-centric view in theory" to a "much more reality-based, customer-centric approach in practice." Which, as Dan says, is "priceless." (By the way, Dan is defined in the Wikipedia as "a pioneer of the software products industry...founding associate of Byte magazine...co-founder of Personal Software...which became the distributor of VisiCalc, the first widely used spreadsheet." I have a lot of respect for Dan and all he's done.)
Everything you need to accomplish this "priceless" state, yourself, is available to you, right now.
Living in the customer's world
It has become common wisdom among company leaders now that they must be living in their customer's reality instead of their own - that customers are in control of the buying process, and they have countless choices. If you're not making it easy for them to choose you, they're gone - forever.
So the real problem is, how do you get everyone in your company to start living in your customer's reality? The answer is thoroughly described in my book: You interview, by phone, at least seven customers who have already bought from you. Then you ACT on what they tell you.
Doing so ensures that you are there for your future customers, at every single step of their buying process, with every single thing they need, so they are most likely to buy from you. You make sure that your products, processes, people, policies, and services are designed and implemented in a way that meets customers where they are. As Zack Heller says in a recent review of the book:
Lead the way and adopt your business to the way the world is heading, and you'll find consumers waiting there for you. Roadmap to Revenue will give you the inspiration you need to start that journey.
It seems deceptively simple. But it does require humility, courage, and the ability to act on what you learn. As Dan also wrote, in his review of Roadmap to Revenue:
Of course this is not a magic elixir -- the hard part is figuring out exactly how you are going to address the weak points in your product/service and processes that customers have told you about in the interviews, and then actually implement the changes you need to make. While, if you make what she calls "The Shift," you probably will see a significant increase in revenue, this is not a one-time event but an ongoing process.
But this is the real deal, applicable to just about any business with customers -- it is definitely NOT "yet another marketing strategy book" to read and then place on the bookshelf, or at the back of the e-reader. If, like me, you're running a business and you have so much to do that you must ruthlessly prioritize your time and attention, you would do well to force this book to the top of your list, read it of course, but then ACT on it.
You can't afford not to do this. Not now. As Steve O'Keefe said in the article he wrote about the method:
You can't reason through this yourself - bright as you are, with all your experience running your own company for many years. The only one who knows what it's like to be a customer of yours is a customer.
Obviously, a key role I play as a revenue coach is to help companies "address the weak points in your product/service and processes," but I also tell you how to do that, working with your team, in the book.
If you're a marketer, you will not BELIEVE what happens to your career after you make those seven magic phone calls, and you start leading your company in a new, customer-pleasing direction. You will gain a level of confidence and certitude that you never experienced before. People in your company will respect you more than you never thought possible. I've helped thousands of marketers discover this for themselves.
As a CEO, entrepreneur, or marketer, you are literally 7 conversations away from a new, customer-centric working life - and sure-fire ways to bring more revenue into your company.
Ran across three great articles recently; each one hits the nail squarely on the head:
Steve Cody, writing in Inc., asks, "Have you ever walked in your customer's shoes?" We all need to do this now - more importantly, we need to do something about what we discover. Fortunately there's an easy way to get into the heads of customers, in addition to the advice given in the article: Interview the people who have already bought from you, as I recommend in my book.
I've been interviewing marketers myself this past year, having given a number of keynotes and webinars for MarketingSherpa and MarketingProfs. I always interview attendees prior to giving any kind of speech, and I think this article is right on when it says that 75% of the CMOs interviewed have never experienced their brand from the outside in. No wonder there is a terrible gap between what marketers are promising and the experiences that customers are having with their companies.
Another article, that just also happens to be in Inc., by Geoffrey James. I always enjoy Geoffrey's articles, although I have disagreed with some of his points in the past. However, lately he has been fantastically on-target. This article is a great example.
If you're selling a "heavy" or "intense" scrutiny B2B product or service, you owe it to yourself to read this article by Tony Zambito in the Social Customer. Tony describes perfectly what I have been hearing from B2B customers lately, as I've interviewed them for my clients. They are telling me that they do NOT go to Google at the beginning of their buying process; instead, they contact (by phone!) others in their industry in similar positions.
Finding such people is easy now - you just go to LinkedIn and do a little digging. These conversations with working peers give customers their short list, then they go to websites; those websites give them search terms that they then use in Google.
They say they are not going to Google first because it gives them too many false positives. It's impossible to tell if a product or service is good, or if a company truly takes care of its customers, based on what they see on the website. So they start with recommendations from people they trust, people who have experienced those companies.
What this means, of course, is now your marketing is all about what you DO, not what you SAY, which brings us back to the first article - marketers who don't interview customers personally are just throwing darts in the dark, on the company's nickel.