I recently was asked by a colleague to write a piece about ‘Slow Selling’ for Digital Agencies. It took some time, I was fairly pleased with what I wrote … and, as this week we’ve been very busy with a new rescue puppy, I thought it’d add value to copy it here so you can read it as well. So here it is.
As business owners, surely we all want to sell as much as we can as fast as we can?
And surely that’s never been more important than today – with intense worldwide competition, transparent customer feedback and customers able to shop around the world at the touch of a button? And let’s not mention the mother of all recessions which is surely on its way …
Taking the case of Digital Agencies: all businesses want digital support, and few of them are capable of keeping up to date with changes and needs on their own: so this is good news: Digital Agencies have a massive potential market of ready and eager customers all the time!
But, of course, the bad news is that there’s also a huge army of agencies, ready and willing to promise the earth and quote ever lower prices to take your customers from you.
So, in order to attract customers, the temptation can be to engage in more and more exciting offers and more and more tempting promises…
Could there perhaps be another way? One that doesn’t engage in the race for the bottom? One that’s truly innovative? One that slows down to take the time to add REAL value at every step, and, by doing this, to earn a customer’s lifetime loyalty … not to mention a steady stream of referrals?
In this short article, I aim to focus on Digital Agencies and what you can do to realistically grow sales and profits, whilst also reducing marketing costs … especially in tough times like these.
Of course there’s not enough room here to explain every step, but I’ll just give you 3 small tips that could make a HUGE impact if done well … and, if you’d like to know more, our contact details are at the bottom.
OK; so where were we?
Big market … big competition … race to the bottom … all profits disappearing into the hungry mouths of the Silicon Valley monopolies … not great!
I’m writing this as a long-term customer of Digital Agencies, who is continually bombarded by them with exciting new ways to spend my money on marketing, and, here’s the key point:
- Everyone’s telling me what they can do for me … but no one’s asking me what I REALLY want to achieve
So: if everyone can offer to do more or less the same thing (which is what it often looks like as a customer), then my best bet is to shop around on price.
And the blind race to the bottom continues!
It’s easy to get customers by promising the world for a rock bottom price: my background is in the leisure Industry and a phrase we always used to use was:
- It’s easy to fill your pub if you have Status Quo playing live and you sell beer at £1/pint, but you’re not going to make much money!
So you wouldn’t do something like that, would you?
And it seems to me that businesses are also getting understandably cautious about all the ‘standard’ marketing tools like PPC and SEO.
PPC involves an auction that delivers the lion’s share of the profit to the online platform, and SEO is fine, but clicks don’t pay the bills, customers actually buying is what counts … and that’s very often something completely different.
There’s no point in being top of the list if you’re not the most suitable solution for the person searching … and one of the worst crimes in this age of transparent customer feedback is overpromising in order to get noticed (which seems to have been the business strategy of choice for years before the advent of the empowered customer .. and, amazingly, often still is!).
In this frantic, confused and crowded market, isn’t it perhaps time to slow down and consider an alternative approach?
How about an approach that places you as the informed expert who’s prepared to go out of their way to genuinely help their customers increase sales and profits (never mind hits and clicks … ), in the sure belief, that, if you really do this well, then the customer will want to stay with you, buy all they can from you, and actively recommend you to their friends?
Maybe an approach that slows down to ask deep open questions about the customer’s business strategy and process, and helps map the behaviour of their customers … with the promise that you won’t take any action until you’ve both thought it though deeply, identified what actions it’s designed to encourage in your customer’s customer and worked slowly with them, step by step, to make sure this happens?
And what about continual built-in measures and proactive suggestions of step by step improvement based on what you see?
Or perhaps even really working as a trusted partner by basing your payment on the results your support generates for your customer?
So your customer doesn’t get just another ‘Digital Agency’ working for them, but instead gets a ‘Caring expert partner’ who delivers peace of mind, confidence, easier life, attention, trust and, above all, a continual stream of great results for both of you.
And, if you could do this, would you perhaps expect your customers to be fiercely loyal, and actively recommending their friends to seek you out?
(Rather than having to continually market yourselves and make offers to find and engage new customers?)
And would you be measuring your success not in ‘sales this week’, but perhaps instead: ‘referrals received this week’ and ‘sales produced for our customers this week’?
Of course, all of this is common sense: I can’t imagine anyone reading this and disagreeing … but how often do you see this happening in practice?
It’s easy to understand that this makes sense, but it’s easier still to say: ‘That wouldn’t work in our market’ or ‘We can’t do that because …’.
Instead, the normal course of events for most businesses trying to attract customers and make profits is continual ‘quick fix offers’, ‘introductory deals’ and ‘price matching’. Common sense is rarely common practice …
So, like every good plan, its MUCH easier to say and understand than it is to do, and to do effectively. That’s why we started up the ‘Slow Selling’ movement: to help you actually put these ideas into practice, step by step, every day.
And, as promised, here are 3 small steps to get you started:
- Examine your beliefs … genuinely and deeply. You need to change your ‘business purpose’: you are NOT here to make money … you are here to do something so well that people want to buy your services. You may want to start talking about your ‘purpose’ or ‘mission’ to be something like: ‘Our role is to genuinely help our customers increase THEIR sales and profits, not anything else … so that, if we do this well, then, and only then will they be loyal to us, buy more from us and want to recommend us to their friends.’ If you do this well, this will guide all your actions and make customers want to hire you to work with them.
- Set up a simple questioning and work planning system for customers, to help and guide them into making great decisions on what they want to do, with your expert guidance. NEVER agree to deliver anything for them until you’ve both worked out how it will influence their customer behaviour … and your customer’s sales and profits. The more diligent you are with this, the more the customer will trust you and want to work more and more with you.
- Introduce measures of customer success and customer opinion as YOUR key measures of success. Eg: measure the success of a project on the results for the customer (not yours), and the success of your business on the level of trust in your relationships, how long your customer stays and how many referrals you get. If you get these measures right, then the other measures (of turnover and profits) will follow!
In a nutshell: we suggest you need to slow down in order to sell more: no one likes to be ‘sold’ to, but everyone likes to buy from people who genuinely want what’s best for them, have great systems to make sure they consistently behave in accordance with this belief, and who judge their success by how well they achieve this.
To listen to the Podcast on this subject, please click below:
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Slow Selling is a UK based not for profit organisation for leaders and mangers in independent businesses.
Our systems deliver peace of mind and confidence to caring leaders and managers who have limited time and resources, want to do the right thing and grow their business … all without sacrificing principles or profits. To find out more, please click here