I would imagine that when clients come to see me for a Get Brilliantly Clear Strategy Session, armed to the eyeballs with pressing marketing issues, they are surprised—and perhaps even momentarily frustrated?!—when I interrupt them to ask questions about their operational processes.
I might ask questions like:
Who answers your phones?
What would he or she likely do if a potential client called your office asking for ———-?
If you’re not in the office, is there anyone else who would know how to lead someone through the new client sign up steps or does he or she have to wait for you specifically to call back?
Or, perhaps we’re talking about an event you, my client, want to promote with an ad on Facebook. My team and I can bring our expertise to this project by helping you to choose the right graphics and messaging, as well as targeting your audience using Facebook demographics and deciding when and how long to run your ad, based on your budget. All of this, you might expect.
However, I would feel irresponsible as your marketing consultant if I didn’t also ask you to think about the operational side of promoting your event in this way. So, I will likely also ask questions like these:
Will the people who want to respond to your Facebook ad be sent to your website, to your Facebook page, asked to call your office, encouraged to send an email, or all of the above?
Will these people, regardless of how they choose to reach out, be rewarded with quick and easy ways to sign up for your event?
If they need more info before taking action, have you anticipated those details and ensured that it will be easy to get those questions answered?
How will you further communicate to them— through a personalized interaction with your business—that this event is a definite yes?
The truth is that how things actually work on the inside of your company (also known as “operational reality”) has a DIRECT impact on your client’s impression of you, no matter what your marketing touts about you. The most critical aspect of good marketing is the actual work that you do for clients and how you do it.
So I ask, “Does your operational reality match your marketing promise?”
As they say, you only get one shot at a first impression. The new client who reaches out to you is looking for a reason to work with you. He or she is hoping that what you have said about yourself, the way you do business, and the specific marketing promises you have made—perhaps for an introductory service or product no one else has or for a valuable educational event —are all true.
Believe me, you don’t want to break that trust by promising things that aren’t based on operational reality. No matter how much time and money you spend on your marketing, no matter how much you strategize the perfect way to communicate with your ideal audience, if what you say about yourself does not match what the client actually experiences—from his or her perspective, not yours, remember—you’ve begun your relationship with him or her by breaking a promise.
Even if you can convince him or her to give you another shot, you will then have a much bigger mountain to climb to get to the same amount of trust that was in place when he or she walked through the door for the first time.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
Let’s say that you’ve received an offer in the mail from a lawn care company offering 50% off of their services to new customers. You’ve really needed someone to help with your lawn, and since you’ve received this card at home, you figure this company must be especially familiar with your neighborhood. They say that they are known for making lawn service affordable and easy for their clients.
You think, “This could be the solution to my problem. Hopefully, this will go great and I won’t have to spend time this weekend hunting down potential lawn companies, comparing prices and calling around.”
So you excitedly call the company to find out more. You talk to a representative who is unfamiliar with the offer you are referencing and there’s no one even in the office that you can chat with about it. You actually can’t even verify that the offer exists or applies to your situation. You’re told to wait for a callback, which never comes. Not only are you back to square one with your lawn care problem, the only thing that has changed is that you now know one company you definitely don’t want to include on your call list. You’ve gained nothing but wasted time and disappointment. Certainly, you will never forget this company’s name, but for all the wrong reasons.
Not exactly what the lawn care company was hoping to achieve by spending $5,000 on a direct mail campaign, was it? They put all of their effort into making an attractive marketing promise, but invested nothing in ensuring that their operational reality would back up the promise. On the other hand, if this company had sent out this compelling campaign while also being prepared operationally to fulfill those promises made to the potential clients who were going to pick up the phone and call, just imagine how positive the results might have been, on both sides.
The bottom line is that you can allocate a big budget to marketing and spend every last dime, but if you’re making promises you can’t fulfill, you’ll lose the very customers you paid your hard earned money to get in the door.
He uses the example of Google. What exactly has Google promised you? You probably can’t say. But that doesn’t change the impression that Google makes on you. Google rarely (never?) disappoints. It’s in their delivery that you see their promise. The operational success of Google IS their promise to the consumer.
Coming up with big ideas to promote your business is not the most challenging aspect of marketing yourself. The hard part is ensuring that you are operationally ready to deliver on those promises. Or, even better, committing to making your operational delivery the promise. Good customer service, reliable products, clear communication, doing what you say you will do…these are the things that matter most to your clients.