I was in a supermarket recently and my items came to £3.01 and the only cash I had on me was a £5.00 note. When I said to the person on the checkout sorry I don’t have the penny, immediately the lady in the queue behind me said; “I’ve got a penny” and delved into her purse and handed it to me without a second thought.

I thanked her kindly whilst thinking this act of impulsive generosity to a stranger was heart-warming.

This moment came to mind again when I received through the post, unsolicited mail from a well-known charity, containing a set of Christmas cards. With a message saying in essence, this is our gift to you. Seemingly it appeared that the charity was giving a complete stranger a kind gift. But no, the sentiment was not as such. Because what they were really saying is that can we please have a £5.00 donation in return – it’s meant to look like an act of goodwill but really they just wanted the money.

This is far from a kind gesture and is more of a bullying tactic, to play on our guilt and social and moral duty, because it’s a charity.

This is not positive marketing. This is not how to engage with potential customers. Has pressure replaced persuasion?

Gaining trust and winning confidence

In business we need to build relationships, and the best way to do this is by gaining trust and winning confidence in our products and services, our knowledge and expertise or just perhaps in our everyday thinking.

We need to look at the lady in the supermarket queue and give away a little of what we have for free without the greed and expectation of return. I’m not talking products or series necessarily, more our knowledge, experience and insight with no strings attached.

What can we share with our customers, prospects, audiences that they could value without feeling the pressure of owing us something in return.

This enables us to build relationships, generate trust and gain customer/client confidence in who we are as a business and what we stand for.

This type of relationship building leads to commercial success, not pressure.

Better customer engagement

Many people talk about content marketing and how this has enabled better customer engagement and part of it is true. So long as we remember how to connect with our audiences.

Repeatedly brands and organisations forget that their customers are humans and by injecting a little humanity into their own messaging creates authenticity. Giving your business a personality is essential, and learn how to share this effectively – when you make friends with someone new you don’t expect a return from them straight away, you barely know each other. It takes time before you can ask for their support, you need to get to know them and build mutual trust.

The same applies to new customers, you can’t approach someone new and expect instant gratification when you haven’t put in the ground work to establish yourself as a worthy supplier.

Avoid using communications messages that portray your products and services as reliable, functional and practical, this doesn’t create excitement but rather think in terms of what messaging you can share that evokes something meaningful, gratifying and reassuring. Engage on an emotional level and be more well-intentioned, give people something they can use to enhance their work-life.

Therefore, use social and digital platforms (free mediums) to give away your free information and start building relationships with potential new customers and learn about them, what they need and how you can give it to them.

Avoid assuming they want your free Christmas cards and are willing to give you £5.00 because they don’t realise you’re trying to manipulate them.

Write articles about you the benefits of your products and services, create and share videos on how to install or apply your products. Ask already loyal customers to share their experiences and why they chose you and keep on choosing you. It might sound simple, that’s because it is.

Sometimes we get caught up in the supposed need to create bold printed adverts and glossy product brochures, and forget we need to ask the questions what will benefit your customers more; learning about your business, why you do what you do and why you’re (hopefully) the best at it.

Information is free, or at least it can be, surely we can give away a few nuggets every now and again.

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