What your customers don’t care about

After six months of tireless effort, your company’s new website has been launched, and you’re ready to announce it to the world. That’s probably a waste of your time.

Hey, I get it. Everyone’s worked hard, and you’ve invested a small fortune into the process. Your new site is quite impressive, and you’re deservedly proud. But why should anyone outside your organization care?

A local company in an industry we could politely describe as staid flooded its social media feeds for weeks with announcements about their exciting new website. The company doesn’t really do business online, so the website’s role is to reinforce the company’s legitimacy among potential customers.

If I stopped one of their customers on the street and asked, “Did you know they have a new website?”, I’d wager the normal answer would be “Gee, that’s nice.” They wouldn’t respond by running back to the office to bring the new site up on their computer. Would you?

I’m not picking on the company, which I hold in the highest regard. But their leadership is doing what so many companies do — taking something that’s of importance internally and assuming the outside world is every bit as interested. Put another way, what’s a big deal to you probably isn’t all that exciting to your customers.

Another example? I’ve spent much of my career helping banks compete, and it’s amazing how many bankers believe the secret to compelling advertising involves showing photos of their buildings. (Funeral homes do the same, for some reason.) We all have relationships with financial institutions. Did you choose yours because of the way the branch looks? “I’ve been with First Community Savings for 20 years, but golly, Second Amalgamated Bank has a pretty branch. I’d better transfer all my money right away.”

These are two of the most common ways companies make a big marketing mistake. They promote things that may be important to the companies, but are meaningless to their customers. Nobody’s trying to ignore what matters to the customer. The companies making the mistake are proud and want everyone to know it.

Most of the time, it comes down to ego. But customers aren’t interested in your ego. They want to know what you’re going to do for them and why you’ll do it better than anyone else. You have a limited number of opportunities and even less time to connect with them, so don’t waste it with stuff they find meaningless.

I’m a salesman’s kid, and Dad worked straight commission throughout his career. Had he walked into his customers’ offices and started telling them about the shiny new Buick he drove to the call, or showed them photos of his secretary’s typewriter, our family would have gone hungry. He didn’t get paid unless he made a sale, so he talked to them about their needs and how he could solve their problems. That got their attention and their orders.

Dad knew the key to his success was focusing on what the customer wanted to know, not on whatever his employer might be proud of. Did he engage in small talk? Absolutely, but his small talk was about the customers, not about himself. So people listened when he spoke and took his recommendations seriously. When something went wrong on their production line and they needed help, they called him instead of one of his many competitors.

By all means, take pride in your accomplishments. Celebrate that new website with your team. But before you choose to center your external messaging on those internal triumphs, take an honest look in the mirror and ask if that’s what really matters to your customers. If the roles were reversed and the company promoting their new website was your vendor, would you really care?