It only took the pandemic a couple of weeks to turn it all upside down — including marketing and sales. And along with it has come an endless tsunami of email messages flooding consumer email mailboxes. It was war with 50% to 80% off sales, “Lowest prices ever,” “Free shipping–Free returns,” “Final Markdown,” “Sale ends in 4 hours and 17 minutes,” and BOGO offers.
Emails to customers from well-meaning businesses streaming to smartphones and computer desktops. It seems like a domino effect. One company starts it, and everyone else follows — with their version of the same message. Most open with a comment on the COVID-19 scourge and then quickly offer assurance that “We are here for you.” Words that companies would like to think customers want to hear.
Then, in a nanosecond, attitudes changed. Customers rejected the century-long proposition that the near-sacred role of marketing and sales was getting customers to buy more stuff and doing anything and everything to get the job done. And driving it all was the arrogant (and mistaken) belief that, no matter how you dress it up, customers exist for only one reason: what they can do for us. And it worked — then it didn’t.
(Related: 5 Self-Deceptions That Hold Us Back)
How has the marketing and sales world changed? Some companies are listening. They get it: It’s no longer about what customers can do for us by buying our stuff. Now, it’s all about what we can do for them.
Arrogance is out; candor is in. Opinion is out; facts matter. Lying is out; empathy is in. Telling customers what they want to hear so they will take the bait is out; understanding and transparency are in. Being conned and ignored are out, truth matters and play it straight are in.
Sending customers BS-filled messages isn’t just unacceptable and stupid, it’s far more than that — it’s a missed opportunity. As demanding as it is to craft meaningful messages in troubling times, customers respond to those that make a difference in their lives.
What customers want to hear
What customers are looking for is understanding and help. Not the run around, not endless delays, not a pat on the head, calling another number, not incomplete information, not being dropped like a hot potato the moment the order is placed.
Isolated, alone, stressed, and frightened by an unseen enemy, they look for those who are prepared to come to their aid, who are on their side. It’s also a message that better be clear, compelling, and positive, if we want their attention and their business.
The good news is that the growing cadre of companies that get it is growing. But it may take sales reports dripping with gloom to spur the creative juices flowing in many more businesses.