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Using Your Customer’s Language – Real Tales of Caution

October 27, 2013

In the last few weeks we've had two clients we work with discover that the language they use to describe their customers is the not the language the customers use to describe themselves.

This misalignment is so critical that it can be fatal to your business development efforts. Obviously, it's something that must be avoided.

Here’s what was happening:

In the first case, our client was looking to sell and implement ERP and operational software to a group of businesses that served a particular industry. For example’s sake, let's say they wanted to sell to companies that service the utility industry (but not as part suppliers).

monkey_copy.pngFor over a year they marketed their services as solving the problems for the utility support industry.  They were targeting the businesses that provided waste management, janitorial, catering, etc. type services to this industry (all the stuff that big businesses need to support their overall operations).  Problem was, none of the companies they were targeting thought of themselves as being in the utility support industry. They thought of themselves as being in the waste management industry, or the catering business, or the janitorial services business. So the messaging was completely wrong.

How did we figure this out? We talked to a customer of theirs and during the course of our 20-minute interview, it became completely clear to us that these businesses recognized the utility companies as their major customers, but they still thought of themselves as being in what ever business there were in.  The year our client wasted marketing with the wrong messaging likely cost them over $20,000 plus missed opportunities. (most of this was before they started working with us.

The second example is from a relatively new client, and the situation was somewhat similar. The difference was that they agreed to have us complete a messaging validation exercise with customers and prospects before we started creating new web content and offers.

In this case, our client was referring to their prospects and customers in a general class of businesses – for example, as energy companies. But upon talking with the customers, we found that these prospects and customers really thought of themselves by their specialty: oil companies, solar, natural gas, etc.

So as we go forward with offers, email headlines, website copy, etc., it will all be focused at the vertical level at which the customers speak about themselves.

It doesn't matter how you talk about your customer’s business. It doesn't matter how you describe their issues, their hopes, their goals.  It matters how they talk about these things. If you are struggling to get traction in a new market or with a new product; if you know you can solve your customer’s problems, if only they would talk with you; then we should talk to each other.

The team at Leading Results is very, very good at getting to the heart of a communication misalignment.

Dan Kraus
Written by Dan Kraus

With more than two decades of experience in sales, marketing, and go-to-market strategies, Dan Kraus has developed a deep portfolio of experiences that he now uses to help small businesses profitably grow their businesses. As an entrepreneur, Dan understands the challenges of growing a business with limited capital and human resources. As a line of business manager in larger companies such as SAP America and Great Plains Software (now part of Microsoft), his experience launching new business ventures inside reputable organizations established his reputation as a creative and effective executive that could both plan and execute within corporate confines.

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