DON’T JUST SAY IT. PROVE IT.
by Erik Doescher
Why should potential customers choose to buy from you?
It’s a simple question. And most of us typically have quick answers:
“Because we’re local.”
“Because we have the fastest Internet in the area.”
“Because we give back to our local community.”
“Because we know our customers, and we’re their friends and neighbors.”
“Because [insert your best reason here.]”
Then we write copy for our ads, those items become our major selling points, and we wonder why we’re not having a greater impact. We wonder how customers could possibly choose to go elsewhere, when everything awesome is clearly right here.
We want to shout “HELLO! DIDN’T YOU READ THAT WE’RE LOCAL AND HAVE THE FASTEST INTERNET AND WE GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY AND, BY THE WAY, WE’RE YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS? YOU’D HAVE TO BE AN IDIOT TO CHOOSE ANYONE ELSE!”
But they still do. They still go with the competition. They still choose the “large, impersonal, out-of-state” national companies. And we shake our heads and chalk it up to the other companies’ name recognition, or the prices they offer, or perceived quality, or something else.
And while those can sometimes be valid reasons, I believe there’s a bigger reason customers aren’t choosing us. I believe we’re often failing to PROVE IT.
Talk is cheap. What are we doing to prove that we have the fastest Internet, or to prove that we really know our customers? We can say it, but is it something our customers can feel when they do business with us? Or has it become just a line we use that we hope will convince potential customers to leave their current providers and switch to us?
Let’s take an example from outside telecommunications for a moment. Let’s say you’re sitting on the couch watching TV one evening, and a commercial for laundry detergent starts playing. And although you’ve been using the same laundry detergent for most of your adult life, this laundry detergent claims to smell and clean better than what you’ve been using. What will you do?
Well, five nines of us (99.999%) will reliably ignore this commercial. We’ve heard it all before. They all say that.
But this is essentially the same method we’ve been relying on to sell our services. Just like they say their laundry detergent smells better, we say our Internet is faster. Just like they say they’ve got the stuff that cleans better, we say we’re solid community members that know everyone personally.
Why should potential customers listen to that? They’ve heard it all before.
So the question is…what can we do to prove it?
Take “local company” as an example. How can we prove that we’re local? Just saying “we’re local” in an ad isn’t going to do it. Having a building in town with our name on it likely isn’t going to do it either.
In the book Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath, the Heath brothers talk about a small newspaper that has a subscription rate higher than 100%. Pretty remarkable, particularly in this age of declining newspaper readership. How they do it? With a simple philosophy. As the editor says, they want to feature “names, names, names.” They want as many names and pictures of people in their community as they can possibly get. If the choice is between covering a major world event or their local city council meeting, they’re covering the local city council meeting…every time. Why? Because that’s where they’re getting names, names and more names of local people to put in their newspaper.
They’re proving they’re local, because at one point or another, every person in town is featured in the newspaper. And it works, because they’re selling tons of newspapers, newspapers, newspapers.
So how can telcos prove they’re local? One way might be to take a page out of the newspaper’s playbook and feature names, names, names. What can we do to show as many of our customers, or places in town as we can in our ads? Could we make the telco feel like the most popular club in town, giving non-customers FOMO (fear of missing out) if they’re not part of it? If potential customers begin to see people they know, or recognizable members of the community, in every ad, will they start to think they are missing something? A secret everyone else knows about? Will they begin to think again about doing business with your company?
What about proving faster Internet? Since everyone says their service is faster, could we somehow prove it? Could we turn them up full blast and blow their socks off? How can we make it so they can experience our awesomeness for themselves rather than having to take our word for it?
From this point on, let’s not just think about what we can say…let’s think about how we can put our proverbial money where our mouths are.
And when you do, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you’re doing to “prove it” in your area.