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Good News from Old Friends by Nina Hershberger

by | In the Magazine, Nina Hershberger

Do you find your marketing plan to be, at best, morbidly reassuring?

In other words, are you settling for paint-by-numbers advertising (whether direct mail, newsletters, broadcast, newspaper, internet, or signage) that presents little more than the subtle message “Hey, at least we haven’t gone belly up yet”?

True, you might be able to coast on your past glories for a long time, but, eventually, businesses that are seen as staid, sterile, and boring will gradually decline into irrelevance.

Yes, customers (and potential customers) appreciate tenacity, familiarity, and reliability, but, in this era of shortened attention spans, they are tempted to take their dollars elsewhere when those virtues devolve into stagnation.

Think about your personal life.

You hate to hurt a longtime acquaintance’s feelings. Still, it drives you crazy when, for the hundredth time, your attempts at generating lively conversation meet with nothing more than laconic responses of “Nothing much. How about you?”

As long as the acquaintances don’t go overboard with details, you want to hear some news (preferably good news), about their medical treatments, grandchild milestones, dream vacations, new hobbies, fresh gossip, the latest jokes, and all the other things that give us a reprieve from the monotony of our daily lives.

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Similarly, while you should never be ashamed of prominently displaying your business hours, specialty, and business philosophy, customers want to hear more than the same humdrum selling points you’ve used since Day One. Lots of distractions are vying for their attention. If they perceive that your latest advertising is essentially the same pitch that they’ve thrown in the garbage can or turned the volume down on before, they assuredly will not be giving you rapt attention.

Customer loyalty

Customer loyalty is a powerful force, but you take it for granted at your own peril. If there’s money to be made in your field, there will always be a bright, shiny competitor. If customers are going to regard you as a progressive, distinctive business with a bright future (rather than as a quaint dinosaur), they need to be tantalized with some tidbits of news.

Whether it’s new products and services, a celebration of accreditations, site renovations, big accounts courted and won, employee promotions, or some other noteworthy accomplishments, they crave messages that are designed to pique their interest rather than just rehashing the same old, same old.

Don’t stress out over whether this month’s announcement is of the same magnitude as last month’s. It’s a fact of life that not all news items are created equal. Winning an “honorable mention” trophy at a trade show is not the same sort of blockbuster as making an investment in doubling your floor space, but both announcements can keep you in the public consciousness and burnish your image.

Customer Updated

When you make a regular practice of keeping your customers and potential customers updated, it shows that you’re not stuck in a rut, that you’re proud of your business, and that you really care about the public’s wants and needs.

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Of course, on the other hand, a shrewd business person knows that the news needs to be rationed.

As with the mesmerizing power of a whisper, a slow, steady stream of news can be more effective than a flood of information.

If you announce too many retirements, new hires, and lateral moves at once, people may infer that you have a toxic environment and that employees are jumping like rats from a sinking ship.

Granted, most of us like hearing that an earnest college graduate has landed a job in a profession he is passionate about. We like seeing fresh blood brought to a time-tested enterprise. But if you’re basically satisfied with business and just want to see some judicious tweaking, the announcement of half a dozen newcomers all at once can shake your confidence that the business culture you’ve grown accustomed to will survive.

The old saying “dance with the one that brung you” is good advice for multiple situations. Show respect for your core constituency. But, continuing the dance metaphor, it’s okay if you gradually learn a few new dance steps and “up your game” on casual conversation.

Similarly, if you announce too many technological changes (think self-checkout scanners) and policy shifts all at once, it looks as though you’re desperately throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. And if you suddenly start offering the consumer too many choices, he may be overwhelmed and drift toward a competitor who offers just a handful of satisfactory options.

Whether it’s show business or more traditional businesses, “Always leave them wanting more” is a good philosophy. Making customers moan, “Stop the world, I want to get off” is not.

Start spreading the news – but strive for the sweet spot that avoids “too much of a good thing.”

Your next news item might be record-breaking sales.

 About Nina Hershberger

Nina is a marketing fanatic who loves helping local businesses not only survive, but thrive. She was recognized as one of the top 6 marketers worldwide in 2009 and is the author of “30 Minute Marketing – 101 Ways to wow your customers, clients, and patients”. She hosts a national marketing mastermind group where business owners from varied niches gather to plan, strategize and share marketing ideas.

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