There's a principle that con artists use that can apply well to small business marketing. No, I am not suggesting that you fool or rip-off your customers. The most skillful con artists use manipulation to make you think that you came up with the idea to hand them your money.
I personally had the displeasure once of speaking with someone who I consider one of the most successful con artists in the world. This guy has made countless millions and only gone to jail once for bank and wire fraud.
His biggest skill is making you feel comfortable while he lies to you. If you are comfortable with someone you will assume you can trust them. His modus operandi is also to play on basic human emotions like pride, greed, or the need for security. When he spoke to me, he used information he had gathered to make it seem like he was someone else. While my red-flag detectors went off the second I started speaking with the guy, and undoubtedly many people will detect his BS, tens of thousands of people have fallen for his schemes.
Here's the applicable Marketing Comet Principle: You may not believe what I say, but you will always believe what you assume to be true.
I can tell you that I am the greatest marketer in the world, that every client I touch multiplies their profits at least 10 times. I can also tell you that I can do the same thing for you. You may or may not believe me depending on what you already know about me, the context, and the proof I offer up. but it may be an uphill battle to convince you that what I am saying is true.
If you don't know me, it's going to take time for me to build the kind of perception in you that would convince you to hire me as your marketing coach. Here's a secret: that's part of the reason I write this blog. This blog is an amazing tool to let you know who I am, and hopefully impress you with nuggets of marketing wisdom. If you read this regularly I hope that you assume that I know some great ways to market your business that can kick your profits into overdrive.
Branding is all about building assumptions. It's no accident that Starbucks uses the colors of decor, the music, the logos, the Italian sizes of coffee. It's no accident that they call the coffee guy a barrista. In order to command the premium prices they ask for coffee they have to create a set of assumptions so that we think the coffee is worth it.
People make buying decisions based on emotions. Arguably, there is no stronger human emotional tie than our connection to our own beliefs. Our entire model of the universe, who we are as people, and our identity comes from what we hold to be true. Challenges to our beliefs are perceived as threats. Every war in human history has the component of a conflict in belief systems as a root cause.
Psychology has identified a phenomenon known as "confirmation bias". This bias means that we humans place greater weight on evidence that confirms what we already believe, and that we tend to discount evidence that conflicts what we already believe. If Starbucks has done its branding job correctly, and somebody tells me that their coffee is too expensive, I may actually argue with them.
One of the main jobs of your branding is to build the right assumptions with your clients. Literally everything you do that touches the customer plays into this. The old aphorism "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" really rings true. Fair or not, people make snap judgments about your business based on first impressions.
Here are a few things you can do to set up good assumptions about your business:
- Train whoever answers your phone to be extremely professional.
- Get a well designed and well thought-out business identity, and replicate it across your web site, business cards, letterhead, and signage
- Pay special attention to your web site. This may be the first or only contact people have with your business.
- Have a clean, well-lit, attractive storefront, office, or waiting area. Your facade must also reflect the impression you want to build.
- Spell-check your email.
- Work on your elevator pitch.
I highly suggest you regularly take a look at everything you do that contacts the public. Always be honest.
Remember that assumptions work both ways, and getting a customer back that you've lost is usually going to be harder than getting them in the first place.
J D Moore - Marketing Comet