Are You Asking The Right Question?

This is a short tale of two focus groups. My goal is to show you how changing one word when asking a question can get you exactly what you’re looking for.

ABC Corporation sells laundry detergent. Sales were flat so they wanted to find out what was going on with their customers. Specifically, how could ABC improve their laundry detergent? So, they conducted a focus group with customers who used their product. The focus group moderator was selected from the company’s marketing department. This person had never conducted a focus group before.

This moderator asked the twelve people sitting around the conference table, 
“What do you need in terms of laundry detergent?” Blank stares filled
 the room. The participants were speechless. One participant asked, “I don’t know what I need”. Another said, “I need my clothes to be clean”. After going in circles, the group was unable to articulate any concrete need. The leader got frustrated and terminated the group after thirty minutes, without any suggestions. What a bust.

Another company, XYZ Corporation also sold laundry detergent and conducted a focus group with customers to find out how the corporation could improve its product. Same goal as ABC Corporation. This time the corporation hired a trained and experienced focus group facilitator. This facilitator asked the right question to group members.

“What problems are you having with your current laundry detergent?”

The answers came rolling off everyone’s tongues.

  • “I hate it when the liquid drips down the side of the bottle.”
  • “I can’t seem to figure out how to use the scoop.”
  • 
“The directions are written too small”. 

  • “The bottle is too heavy.”
  • “The handle is too small.”
  • “I don’t know if I’m getting my money’s worth.”


The marketing department was impressed with the useful information provided by just twelve people. The facilitator presented her report to XYZ’s Product Development team. They conducted more groups and got more useful information about customer problems.

People can easily articulate their problem but struggle to express their needs. The more you know about your customers’ problems, the more successful you’ll be.

Taken from Critical Connections – The Step-By-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

Learn Something New Every Day

You’ll be interested in four practical courses I created to help you advance your career. These are short lessons that arrive in your email.  They are published on the Daily Bits Of website.

Here’s what the folks at Daily Bits of have to say:

“Daily Bits Of is a service for people who love learning. People whose curiosity never ends, who see gaining knowledge as an ongoing process and who believe they can acquire any skill they might need to handle work and life’s challenges.

We know that finding time for learning can be difficult. We buy books that pile up, save articles that remain unread and rarely have time for that online course we’ve been longing to take. This is why we created Daily Bits Of as a tool to help people create a daily habit of learning something new.”

Taking the Fear Out of Public Speaking

The Art of Listening

Preventing Marketing Paralysis

 

I hope you enjoy these courses.

Source material has been taken from my book Critical Connections – The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

Where Did Your Customers Go?

Marketing researchers have obsessed over customer loyalty for ages. Large corporations have devised elaborate customer loyalty programs. But things are changing, quickly. Nowadays, customer loyalty is slipping through the fingers of corporations. I sifted through several market research studies on loyalty and brand loyalty. I concluded that when it comes to keeping customers loyal, there is no one magic bullet or best practice.

Here’s an example of a customer (me) going from loyal to disloyal. I used to be a loyal customer of United Airlines. I attained the status of Premier Executive, got all the perks, and enjoyed life in business class. Then Southwest entered my local market. Cheap fares, no frills, easy to book. I had reservations (is there a pun somewhere here?) about the cattle-car feeling at Southwest and its policy of using a first-come, first-served seat selection process. Before I switched, I considered what it meant to me to give up my status on United and hop on an all-steerage airline.

When I started writing this piece, I realized I was Mr. New Consumer. I wanted more for less. Maybe Southwest would give me more for less. Let’s see, there were more Southwest flights available at all three of my local airports. Not only were there more flights, but Southwest also flew to more places than United.

Fares were considerably cheaper. To make matters worse with United, I became skeptical when United started limiting perks for frequent flyers. And, I was more doubtful about the future of this airline when United merged with Continental Airlines. I started to see tangible value by flying Southwest. I decided to switch from United to Southwest. I thought I made a good decision.

To complicate matters about customer loyalty, I know that by using one of my credit cards, I could use points accrued from making purchases on my credit card to pay for airfares, hotels, gas, or airline baggage fees. For example, there are credit cards that earn about 2 percent rewards per $1 spent when you redeem for travel. Credit card customers acquire 40,000 (or some other amount) bonus miles when they charge $3,000 worth of purchases within a given time period. This translates into about $400 in travel statement credit. The beauty of using this type of credit card is you are not limited to using any one airline.

 

What did I do? I closed out my old credit card, signed up for this new one, and started accruing points. So much for being a loyal credit card customer. Now I could pay for my Southwest trips using points from my credit card, and get great fares, too.

 

A Bit of Recent History

The story doesn’t stop here. In 2008, Airbnb bursts on the scene. You all know Airbnb. According to its website:

“Airbnb is a community marketplace where guests can book spaces from hosts, connecting people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay.”

Through their experiences on Airbnb, guests and hosts build real connections with real people from all over the globe.

Airbnb has taken the idea of renting rooms to a whole new level. Prior to booking your room, you can read customer reviews as well as read what the property owners say about past renters.

The arrival of Airbnb type services brought up a key fact about loyalty. Customers now rely more on information about hotels from other customers rather than from the hotel’s advertising.

There goes loyalty down the drain

According to a recent study, there has been a drop in customer’s loyalty to hotel brands. Only 8 percent of those polled who stay in hotels said they always book

at the same hotel chain. Two reasons for this mass defection might be consumers can quickly find cheaper hotel prices and customer reviews on websites such as Trip Advisor, Kayak, and Trivago. Who wouldn’t want to pay less for the same or better quality hotel room? Remember today’s customer demands high quality at reasonable prices.

 

Customers are on high-alert, searching for the best value for their money. Kiss loyalty goodbye.

 

Now back to the beleaguered airlines. The market research firm Colloquy found “54 percent of U.S. airline loyalty-program members
are ‘unhappy’ with their reward options”. And, 48 percent say they’ve been “frustrated” by the reward redemption process.

 

Let’s look at the chronology of this story.

  • First, I defected from United to Southwest
  • After that, I used up all of my hotel points
  • Then, I applied my credit card points to pay for hotels or airfares
  • Finally, I switched to using Airbnb properties and paying for it with points from my credit card.

When I seriously began to rely on other people’s reviews, I became more and more aware of the impact other customers had on my purchasing decisions. The customer’s needs were no longer driven by loyalty, but by quality and value.

Is Your Web Content Compelling?

Feature-Oriented Content

Way back in the early days, advertisers would go to great lengths to tout the features of their product or service. Their goal was to convince you that the quality of their product or service was superior. Think of how excited you got when you read the product’s promotional literature. It probably sounded like a technical owner’s manual. An owner’s manual tells you about the details of a product.

Feature-oriented language reminds me of the old television show, Dragnet, where the police would say, “All we want are the facts, ma’am”. Features = facts. Feature-oriented content is telling someone about something. Not very convincing, in fact, it’s downright boring. Feature-oriented content is what’s known as ‘tell’ content. “Let me tell you about X, Y and X features of my product of my service. Where’s the compelling sales message?

Benefit-Oriented Content

Towards the end of the early years, some creative advertising writer thought that advertising messages should focus, not only on the features of a product, but, also on the benefits of the product they are selling. And so, benefit-oriented content came flying in to the mainstream. Benefit-oriented content answers the question, “What’s in it for me, the customer?” Benefit-oriented content sells, not tells. This type of content convinces customers that your product or service will help them. Customers want to know what your product or service can do for them.

Use benefit-oriented content on your website, brochure, or any other printed material. Start with a short headline. Try to use less than seven words in the headline. Next, write a few sentences of introductory content followed by a bulleted list of benefits. Use as few bullets as possible in order to keep your message clear and concise. Always put a call-for-action on the bottom such as Call Me, Email Me, Go To My Website, etc. Don’t use gratuitous graphics or stale free clip art.

Here’s an example of how features can be turned into benefits. This example is taken from Varidesk’s (the manufacturer of stand-up work desks) promotional content I found on their website.

Example of Promotional Content Used by Manufacturer of Stand-Up Desks

FeatureBenefit to Customer
Patented two-handle design coupled with a spring-assisted boost-enabled lifting mechanismMakes moving from sitting to standing quick and easy
Desk works either standing or sittingPerfect way to increase energy, your health, and productivity
No hardware needed to secure desk to workstationEasy to install

The Benefits column definitely answers the question, “What’s in it for me”.

Now it’s your turn. Think about your business. In the left column, list three features of your product or service. On the corresponding right column, turn each feature into a benefit.

What Product or Service Do I Sell?

Feature                                                                              Benefit to Customer
1.1.
2.2.
3.3.

 Now that you’re comfortable features into benefits, get to work on re-writing all your promotional content.

Snakes, Spiders and Public Speaking

Are you afraid of spiders? Snakes? Heights? How about fear of speaking in public? Fear of public speaking, better known as ‘stage fright ’is one of the most common fears people experience.

At some time in your life, you’ll probably be asked to speak in public. Are you getting anxious just thinking about it?

Whether you’re giving a toast at a wedding, conducting a business meeting or speaking to a large audience at a social event, you’ll want to be prepared to do your best.

Let’s start with the worse possible thing you can do to overcome your fear of public speaking. It’s diving head first into the situation without preparation. This way of dealing with your fear is guaranteed not to work. However, for some people, it works, but for most of us, it doesn’t. Prepare, prepare, prepare.

There are better ways to overcome your fear of public speaking.

As soon as you are asked to give a speech, you should determine if the topic you are asked to speak about would take the form of a motivational or educational speech. A motivational speech inspires the audience to make some kind of change in their life. An educational speech could be on a wide range of topics from politics to baseball.

After you determine what type of speech you’ll be giving, start planning the details.

Key Point: Your audience wants one thing and one thing only. They want to know ‘what’s in it for me?” If your speech does not meet your audience’s needs, your time will be wasted.

Before you start writing your speech, use a planning checklist and ask yourself the following:

  1. Is my speech motivational or educational or a combination of both?
  2. What’s the goal of my speech?
  3. Is the title of my speech compelling and address the needs of my audience?
  4. What is one action item I want my audience to take away

Answer these questions and you’re on your way to reducing or eliminating your fear of public speaking.

Click HERE  to learn more about over coming fears that prevent you from transforming your business.

What’s The Difference Between an Elevator Speech and a Power Message?

 

In this post, I’m going to talk alot about power messages and little about elevator speeches. The topic of topic of elevator speeches is covered in my post called Does Your Elevator Speech Stop at the Right Floor?

If you’re self-employed and your business mostly relies on referrals from colleagues or others, you’ll want to have an elevator speech and power message. Your elevator speech is aimed at those people in a position to refer business your way. Your power message is what you say to potential customers or clients. Your power message generally takes place on the phone.

Why do you need both an elevator speech and a power message? You  might ask, “Why can’t I say the same thing to both referrers and prospective clients?” Use your power message when a potential client wants to know what you do and how you can help them. Focus on what you do within the context of what is in it for the potential client or customer. Your power message is less scripted than your elevator speech.

What do you say if a prospect initially asks you how much you charge? I call this type of prospect a ‘shopper’. First, do not answer the question. Second, do not launch into your power message. Ask a few benign questions such as, “What are you looking for? Have you talked to others in the same business?” If you are unable to redirect the conversation back to the other person, then quickly land the plane by simply stating your fee (or a range of fees). Try once more to turn the conversation back to the customer. Shoppers shop for bargains. You are not a bargain-basement store.

Is it okay to use jargon in your power message? It depends on who the customer is and how much knowledge he or she has about your business. It may be fine to use some jargon with a customer who knows your business. If you have a customer unfamiliar with your business, the moment you start to use jargon, you will lose the customer’s attention. The conversation automatically shifts back to you instead of focusing on the prospect’s needs. See my post Here Comes the Jargon Police.

Now it’s time to write your power message. Aim your message at the person most likely to purchase your product or service.

Here’s an example of a power message used on the phone.

I worked with a fitness studio to create a new marketing program. One objective of the marketing plan was to get prospective clients to call the studio for a complimentary training session. The owner was targeting men over age 50 who had metabolic syndromes (Metabolic syndromes are clusters of conditions – increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels – that occur together, increasing risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. (www.mayoclinic.org).

“My name is Meg B. and I’m the manager at Fitness Strength & Training in Any City, USA. I have been a personal trainer for the past 11 years and have a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State in Kinesiology. I’ve worked with people who are diabetic, elite athletes, and many weight-loss clients. Fitness Strength & Training is a unique fitness studio because you receive a personalized exercise experience, nutrition coaching, and most importantly, accountability. All of our training sessions are conducted one-on-one in semi-private rooms to eliminate dis- traction. We help people realize their true potential as we coach them towards a healthier lifestyle. “I’d be happy to offer you one complimentary training session. Also, I’d like your contact information so I can send you our newsletter.”

Notice this power message contained the three parts:

  1. Information about the trainer
  2. Information geared to helping the client
  3. A strong landing or closing

This power message is only 126 words. She said what was needed and stopped.

A power message is not as structured as an elevator speech. Meg clearly articulated the goal of training: a healthier lifestyle. It’s the “What’s in it for me (the client)” part of the message and she smoothly, in a self-assured way, landed the plane.

Here are some do’s and don’ts concerning your power message.

  • Don’t tell the caller what you don’t do
  • Frame all conversations in a positive way
  • Your power message should be modified to fit your website, online business presence, other online professional listings, or additional promotional information.
  • Practice your message. Write it down and say it out loud.
  • Have someone listen to your power message. Ask him or her to give you feedback. Ask for one thing he or she liked about your message and one technical suggestion he or she might have for you.

Having a strong power message will make you a more powerful businessperson.

For more tips on elevator speeches and power messages go to http://www.criticalconnectionsbook.com

 

 

Big Numbers – Little Impact

Let’s say you’re asked to write a public service announcement promoting diabetes education. You might start out by writing something like, “Do you know that more than 29 million people in the United States suffer from diabetes?”

However, after reading this, your reader might ask, “what does this have to do with me? I can’t relate to 29 million of anything”

What is it about these large numbers? I believe that using large numbers to make a point can easily overwhelm people’s senses. Here’s an example of how large numbers can be overwhelming.

The Pew Internet Research Project (www.pewinternet.org) collected data about social networking and online usage. They found that 71 percent of online adults use Facebook, 17 percent use Instagram, 21 percent use Pinterest, and 22 percent use LinkedIn. Facebook alone has about 191 million users in the United States.

Don’t get carried away by using big numbers.  Applying large numbers (demographic or economic) to help you understand your local market might not portray an accurate picture. For example, do 71 percent of adults in your geographic area use Facebook? Probably not.

Back to the public service announcement. How would you relate to the question,

“Do you have a friend or family member who has diabetes?” Most likely, you’d say “yes, I can relate to that”. This is an effective way to connect with your audience.

What can you do to avoid using large numbers when creating content (online or print) to promote your business? Here two of the most important things to keep in mind:

  • Think small – If you are starting a business that serves local or regional customers, get data from local business organizations (Chambers of Commerce, economic development associations, etc.). Use the data to get an understanding of the unique demographic characteristics of your market.
  • Make it personal by telling a story – talk directly to your audience using common words and phrases to draw them in. Most people can relate to a short story. The diabetes example above can be expanded into a story about how someone prevented himself or herself from becoming diabetic.

Beware of getting lured into the world of big numbers.

10 Expert Views on Print vs. Digital Marketing

 

The kind folks at MetroVista interviewed me and nine other marketing experts to get our take on print vs. digital marketing. Here’s one part of the introduction to the article.

  • Print marketing offers its audience a sense of creditability; it takes time to write, edit, publish, and distribute. The web can be full of, well, “fake news”.
  • Print marketing might actually have a higher visibility rate because it cannot be as easily disposed of by a click of a finger. Your consumer will at some point hold your information in their hands, not just on their phone.
  • Print marketing targets those who are not always logged in online (cough Baby Boomers). Do you know how long it took my dad to stop printing our driving directions and just use his phone?

You can find the entire article HERE

 

 

Do You Suffer From Brochure Inertia?

You probably know a small business owner who has stacks of  brochures lying around his or her office. If you asked why the brochures are here, that business owner might say:

  • I printed too many.” or
  • “The content is out-of-date.” or
  • “Now that I’ve had them for a while, I don’t like the color.” or
  • “I found a typographical error after the brochures were printed.”

Each of these excuses are symptoms of Brochure Inertia. Brochure Inertia can be prevented if you carefully consider the following:

  1. Narrow your list, so your mailing tasks will be manageable.
  2. Where will you get the proper mailing list? How much will the mailing list cost?
  3. How many brochures and cover letters should you print? Always mail a brochure along with a cover letter unless you are printing a self-mailer.
  4. Who will write, design and print the brochure?
  5. How much will it cost for design, printing, and postage?

 If you need help with writing and design, go online and search for ‘direct marketing’. You will find tips on how to write brochures. You will get a feeling of the range of fees and costs involved in printing and mailing a brochure.

My favorite adaptation of the brochure is what I call a capabilities sheet (some refer to it as a pitch sheet). These are printed on one side of a piece of paper only – I print mine on my color laser printer. I like them because I can change the copy to fit the specific needs of a client or referrer.

For example, I met with a lawyer in a mid-sized law firm to discuss conducting a client retention program. I had previously written a one-page capability sheet for another type of client. This particular client owned a company that provided continuing education programs for healthcare professionals. I wrote a capabilities sheet for this company to deliver a customer service training program for his twelve employees. It was easy for me to modify the existing capabilities sheet for the lawyers.

Three tips to think about when you sit down to write a capabilities sheet:

  • Use bullets in the middle of the sheet.
  • Don’t squeeze your phone number, email address, and website on the 
very bottom of the sheet.
  • Next time you check your snail mail, see if there are any postcard styles that would work for your customers or referrers.

I once heard a marketing professional say the purpose of a brochure was to be put in a filing cabinet or desk drawer.

This pessimistic statement does have some merit. But let’s face it, you have to have something tangible to mail and give customers.

What Do You Need?

XZY Corporation wanted to find out how they could improve their laundry detergent. So, they conducted a focus group with customers who used their product. The focus group moderator was selected from the company’s marketing department. This person had never conducted a focus group before. This 
facilitator asked each of the twelve people sitting around the conference table,
“What do you need in terms of laundry detergent?” Blank stares filled
 the room. The participants were speechless. One participant asked, “I don’t know what I need”. Another said, “I need my clothes to be clean”. After going in circles, the group was unable to articulate any concrete need. The leader got frustrated and terminated the group after twenty minutes, without any suggestions.

Another company, XYZ Corporation also sold laundry detergent and conducted a focus group with customers to find out how the corporation could improve its product. Same goal as ABC. This time the focus group facilitator asked the right question to group members.

“What problems are you having with your current laundry detergent?”

The answers came rolling off everyone’s tongues.

“I hate it when the liquid drips down the side of the bottle.”

“I can’t seem to figure out how to use the scoop.”


“The directions are written too small”. 


“The bottle is too heavy.”

“The handle is too small.”

“I don’t know if I’m getting my money’s worth.”


The facilitator presented her report to XYZ’s Product Development team. The team was quite impressed with the useful information provided by just twelve people.

The more you know about your customers’ problems (needs!), the more effective, and successful your marketing strategies will be.

 

Learn more about how to identify customer needs at www.criticalconnectionsbook.com