Friday, January 5, 2018

A Curmudgeonly Consumer Confesses: 25 Ways Marketers Can Improve How They Serve People Like Me

The holidays are over. The new year has begun. Many of us are sharing our resolutions for the coming year. I’ve been doing that with considerable enthusiasm—but that’s a separate story.

First, I need to get some things off my chest. They concern sales and marketing practices.

You see, I’ve long considered myself a curmudgeonly consumer. Finally, with the publication of this piece, I am admitting it publicly. Here’s why.

I don’t like to shop. The holiday season reinforces that aversion. I detest many aspects of the marketing and sales processes that play such an integral role in our lives. When I know what I want and need, I aim to secure with minimal fuss. I don’t think I’m alone in this regard. In fact, I think many would admit to membership in this same club.

Let me elaborate even further. To this end, I offer 25 confessions. These reflect my feelings about marketing and sales practices I have encountered over my lifetime. Some reflect opinions expressed elsewhere by others; others perhaps not as much so. Regardless, I share them here partially to vent. Yet I also hope they will inspire you to retool your offerings to address the needs of persnickety individuals like me.

  1. Allow me to receive your product before asking me to buy more of it or recommend it to others. Providing me a coupon or other impetus to buy more right away is worthless. I often don’t know what I’m getting until I actually hold it in my hands.
  2. Better still, let me experience using your product or service as soon as possible. That is, don’t ask me for referrals immediately after closing the sale. I take my testimonials seriously. I think carefully about whether or not I will recommend you. When I do it’s wholehearted and enthusiastic. I cannot and will not recommend you without having used your product or service over a period of time. Please respect my process.
  3. If I ask you not to upsell me, honor my request. No means no. Trust that I’m aware of your diverse offerings and will reach out on my own if and when it’s appropriate.
  4. Communicate with me strategically during the ordering process. Online, that means let when I place the order and when it will be shipped. If shipping is delayed, let me know. That’s it. I don’t need to know about each phase of fulfilling my order. I don’t need to know the name of the individual who packed the box with my order, for example.
  5. I will visit your website to learn more. I promise. Please give me time to explore what’s there to assess its value and relevance to my needs. If I encounter a pop-up window inviting me to sign up for your mailing list within the first minute, I’m gone. For good.
  6. Please don’t require me to sign up for an account with you to buy. I have far too many of them. I consider myself very organized, but I can barely manage them all. If you insist, I’m gone. For good.
  7. Allow me to choose whether or not I want to receive information from you in the future. Please do not add me to your mailing list. Seek my permission.
  8. Yet I know you will add me to your mailing list, regardless of my preference. Please remove me from it promptly when I ask you to do so.
  9. If I ask to be removed from your mailing list, that’s a permanent request. Forever. Until the end of time.
  10. If I choose to remain on your mailing list, enable me to determine the types of information I will receive.
  11. Make it easy for me to delete my account. Provide instructions on how to do so that are clear and easy to find on your website.
  12. I will reach out to you online to learn more about your product or service. Please note that I’m doing so because I’m not interested in making small talk. Remember, I’m a curmudgeon😠. Please answer my questions succinctly and promptly.
  13. Make it easy for me to connect with a real person if I need to do so while calling you or visiting you online. If you don’t, I’m gone. For good.
  14. Recognize that sales and marketing personnel are the initial face of your company. Train them on your product and how to engage potentially cranky customers like me. If I’m greeted by someone who lacks knowledge, is rude, or both, I’m gone. For good.
  15. Ensure your materials communicate consistently. That’s in terms of price, availability, product specifications, and other details. In other words, make sure the information shared with me by phone is the same as what I will view on your website. If it’s not, I will be confused, frustrated, less likely to buy, and unlikely to recommend others buy from you.
  16. I may reach out to you after my purchase if I need additional service, repairs, and/or have questions. I realize you’re not making any money during these interactions per se. That said, I expect you to respond promptly and courteously. If you don’t, I cannot recommend that others buy from you. That is, how you engage me after the sale is as important as how you engaged me while trying to make the sale.
  17. If you’re a service provider, I know you have multiple clients and ongoing projects. I know you’re constantly marketing and scrambling to earn your next dollar. But I don’t care about work for your other clients unless it’s in some way related to mine. I don’t want to hear the details of your schedule. I don’t care about your other commitments. I don’t care why you cannot meet with me during one of the times I propose. I care solely about your work on my project. That’s it. Finish my project with all the attention and care you’ve put into your work starting at the very beginning. Rushing off to the next project while leaving details on mine unresolved means I won’t refer you to others. In short, beginnings and endings are equally important. I expect to be as delighted with the final product as I was when I originally hired you.
  18. Specify what’s covered (and not covered) in any contracts for extended warrantees. Provide supporting documentation. I need to know what I should expect from the service provider when I have a problem.
  19. If you sell me an extended warrantee, include contact information for the organization providing the service.  I must know whom to contact (and how to reach them) when I have a problem.
  20. Provide me a hard copy manual for your product or, at least, a link to where I can find it online. Yes, I know we live in a digital era and it saves you money when you put materials online. But more often than not the people I hire to service your product ask to look at the manual. A paper one. They don’t want to scroll through a PDF document on an ipad to find specific information.
  21. If I show up on your doorstep, assume I’m more often than not ready to buy. I may not spend a lot of money but I’m present and engaged. Don’t forsake me for the possibility of future business that might be greater. If you do, I’m gone and never will return.  For example, If I request a specific table at your restaurant don’t tell me you’re holding it in reserve for another group that may or may not come by after me.
  22. I don’t complete customer satisfaction surveys. Please don’t send them to me.
  23. I know it’s tough to succeed in business. I know credit card fees are taking a big bite out of your bottom line. I know local government imposes onerous burdens. They negatively impact enterprises like yours. I don’t care. I don’t want to hear about your problems. I’ve reached out to you because I want you to help me solve my problem. The success of your business is your responsibility, not mine.
  24. I don’t care about your brand or story. Please relegate your marketing messages to the back burner. Provide me the information I’m seeking. In other words, I just want what I want when I want it.
  25. I am the prospective customer. See things from my point of view. Do right by me. I’ll do right by you. We’ll both win.

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