Why Customers Are Generalizing Your Business

January 30th, 2012 | Shakirah Dawud | 39 Comments

Cheddar Cheesy

It’s not a good idea to search for a doctor online.

I told my mother that when she asked me to. She agreed. And I began my search.

After three days, I handed over a grand total of two name-and-number pairs. “They had good ratings,” I said, somewhat helplessly. My mother nodded at the strange syllables and locations.

And she still hasn’t called them.

This is what is happening to most of your visitors, buth online and offline.

They discover your name, your shop, or your number somehow. They note your information. And they leave, never to return. Yes, even if you have “good ratings.”

You see, you have this vague idea that you want to be known as “fast,” “smart,” “caring,” or “cutting-edge.” I know because you put it on your business card. Plenty of your customers say you are, too.

But those are the same words my old hired pro – yeah, the one I just left in search of a new one – loved to decorate his brochures with. But guess what? I’m looking for something different.

I’m looking for the things customers say about you that they don’t say about anyone else.

I want to know there are free snacks in your waiting room.

I already know you could solve my problem for me, and solve it well. But as long as there’s the possibility that I’ll like having someone else solve it for me better, you’re second string.

Second string gets the “customer” face.

You know, that blank, “why don’t we keep this easier by not caring” face. The one that results in bland testimonials you have to ask for, neutral (if any) feedback, and the lack of compunction about suing you within an inch of your life.

Here’s the thing: my first encounter with you is generally going to be through two kinds of words: words you’ve written or approved, or the words someone else uses to describe you.

But the delightful specifics in your policies, office layout, personnel makeup, and location – not as they relate to you, but as they impact your customer’s life – will put you at a great advantage.

Which is more convenient? “We’re close to the Metro,” or “You can see our sign from the Metro station.”

Which is more reassurring? “Every member of our team is highly dedicated,” or “We work long hours so we can get it right the first time.”

Which is more homey? “Make yourself at home,” or “Pick a new release to watch while you wait.”

You don’t have to call yourself “Dr. Dolittle” or wear Willy Wonka’s purple coat.

But every customer has a preconceived notion of who you are, the quality of your service, and even your office color scheme. If you project nothing more than a reflection of those expectations – even the very highest – to your customer, THUNK!

You’ve got a lot of baggage to unpack before you can get down to business.

It’s in the lobby.

Photo credit: Jeffrey Baxter, courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.

Shakirah DawudShakirah Dawud is the writer and editor behind Deliberate Ink. Based in Maryland with roots in New York, she’s been crafting effective marketing copy as a writer and polishing many forms of prose as an editor since 2002. Clients in many fun sizes, industries, and locations reach her through the Web.

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Shakirah Dawud

Shakirah Dawud

Writer & Editor at Deliberate Ink
Shakirah Dawud is the writer and editor behind Deliberate Ink. Based in Maryland with roots in New York, she’s been crafting effective marketing copy as a writer and polishing many forms of prose as an editor since 2002. Clients in many fun sizes, industries, and locations reach her through the Web.
Shakirah Dawud
Shakirah Dawud
Shakirah Dawud

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"A Little Birdie Told Me" could fly into your inbox just once a month. It's Shonali-as-seen-nowhere-else. What're you waiting for?

38 comments
Shonali
Shonali moderator

"... my first encounter with you is generally going to be through two kinds of words: words you’ve written or approved, or the words someone else uses to describe you."

For me, if the words someone else uses to describe a business are great, they often overwrite the bland descriptors businesses use for and about themselves. But if they "get" it right from the start... that's magic!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

This is a great post @ShakirahDawud being in Advertising I often bash my industry for stealing clients money through misspending or bad creative etc. BUT there is the flip side. The best advertising in the world will only get someone to at the minimum know of your product, service, business. Possibly check it out. That is where you come in. It is all you after that. If presentation, content sucks good bye. If product/service sucks good bye.

bdorman264
bdorman264

I hear ya; I'm in commercial insurance and talk about preconceived notions..........we work very hard to not only rise above the 'vendor' perception but also create a 'wow' experience. When your customers are recommending you to their peers, you know you have done something right.

mdbarber
mdbarber

Interesting post that has me thinking about how the vendors I use (professionally and personally) could more effectively turn me into an evangelist for their business. That's where some of the recommendations come that are most valuable. So, why do I recommend vigorously or just luke-warm...it's usually a personal thing for me. The massage I get with my pedicure; the music choice at the dentist; the doctor who always remember little facts about my kids, etc. Those are the valuable recommendations. The other part is that it isn't forced in any of these relationships but is natural.

SocialMediaDDS
SocialMediaDDS

Hi Shonali,

This post is right up my professional alley. ;-) As a dentist, I have gone through a number changes in my marketing strategy for my practice. By monitoring analytics and asking patients, here's what I have found. Most patients come to my website either organically or by finding my practice name on their insurance website as a participating provider. When they reach my website, most patients report that it was my website that made them make their decision to choose me. In the medical/dental industry there is still a lot of stagnation out there. My Social Media DDS persona is trying to help dentists change that and see the possibilities of "improving their online appearance" but change is slow. Meanwhile, even if the medical/dental community just made their website fun and interactive...they don't even have to jump on board with FB, Twitter and Google+ to start with (although, you KNOW I do encourage that)...just make sure that their website speaks to it's visitors...and it's so easy to do. Throw on some videos, update your "articles" (blog) and connect....because, social media IS the new word of mouth...we rely on the recommendations of strangers now so as business owners (practice owners) we better keep our online home ship-shape.

BTW...it is SO funny that you mentioned snacks in the waiting room...I had just added that to my vision list for my soon to be open new office...I decided that I was going to make one day a week be chocolate week and feature chocolates from a local chocolate store down the street and one day a week will be pastry week and offer pastries from a local bakery. I love that you think that would be a good draw for making the office you go to different.

Great post Shonali...one that I can really relate to!

Claudia

mrdancohen
mrdancohen

@shonali It was such a good description I had to give it SOME kind of hat tip!

ShakirahDawud
ShakirahDawud

@bdorman264Some of you work hard at it, anyway, Bill. I think it's probably hard for some of the larger insurances to really make that connection--with so many employees, at least one of 'em is going to give us that "agent-speak" they think we need to hear. And I know when I speak with my health insurance agents most of the time it's not for a good reason, and both of us know it, so there's that awkwardness, unless they have some really good personal skills training.

SocialMediaDDS
SocialMediaDDS

I'm such a dork. I got so excited about this post that I didn't pay attention to who wrote this fabulous piece. I'm so sorry Shakirah for not acknowledging you. Your post was awesome!!
Claudia

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@ShakirahDawud@mdbarber "Where everybody knows your name..." that's what does it for me. Yesterday I had to go to the vet to pick up doggie meds. I always try to address the vet techs by name, since we've been going there for years now, and I can't tell you how nice it makes me feel when they don't say, "What was the last name again?" But Jason went straight in and got their charts... and then when Keith came out and saw me, he said, "Hey, Shonali."

THAT's what I'm talking about!

ShakirahDawud
ShakirahDawud

@SocialMediaDDS

No problem, Claudia--with such a thoughtful comment, I would have pretended to be Shonali for you anyway. It's interesting you're a dentist and you're thinking of offering snacks. I've been to a DDS who does offer snacks; they're not as thoughtful as your ideas, which support local businesses, but I can tell you they're appreciated!

And yes, I've noticed how the medical/dental community has been slow to take up social media, but as you say, they don't have to start tweeting and blogging to make a difference in the perception from customers.

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