By Ian Whitworth
Audio Version 5″30″
Biggie … Or Smalls?
Hello, marketers. What do your front-line people think about your brand?
Brands won’t work unless the whole business is on board. And the acid test is how your staff feel about saying your brand messages out loud.
I was reminded of this when I was sent this savage review of a “hip-hop” themed Poke restaurant (do not read if you’re troubled by industrial-strength swearing).
There are dishes named after Eminem, Jay-Z and Kendrick, or you can be your own “Mixmaster” by choosing different “flayvas”. Then comes the size. Do you want “Biggie” or “Smalls”?
Biggie or Smalls.
That is an actual question they make their staff ask customers.
No employee in a civilized society should be made to look customers in the eye and ask that. Particularly not someone on a junior restaurant pay grade.
In reality they don’t make eye contact. They look down in a embarrassed way, and mumble it out. The customer gets the clear message that Something Is Not Quite Right Here.
If marketing is just seen as a department in your business, you don’t have a brand. You only have a handful of your staff believing the thrilling brand vision: the people who wrote it. Everyone else is just “yeah whatever”.
Marketers’ Major Mistake
It’s partly because marketers tend to regard sales and frontline service people with mild contempt for their lack of a degree, their embroidered shirts and their vulgar urge to design their own email footers in Comic Sans.
Underestimating sales people is a major mistake. Because people who sell things all day soak up a lot of instinctive knowledge about people and what makes them buy. It goes way beyond the ‘Female 25-39 AB Family-Oriented Lifestyle Seeker’ stereotypes that infest office-bound thinking. Good sales people have near-psychic skills.
When I was writing ads, I liked to spent a lot of time lurking in stores with salespeople, watching them sell the product.
The experienced reps would watch and predict exactly what the customer would be looking for, what they would say, and whether they would buy or not.
All before the customer had said a single word. They were usually dead right. The experienced ones just read the non-verbal signals, tuned in by years of winning and losing sales.
Their Experience Beats Your Data
Sales people don’t need to do customer research surveys on your products, because irate customers have complained that information directly to their face.
Reps get to see products stress-tested in ways you can’t imagine, by the sort of customers who have trouble with shoelaces. And they keep smiling.
Good front-line people are the essence of all that’s positive about a brand. In most businesses, customers get more involved with your sales and service people than they do with any of your brand campaigns. And those sales and service people, on average, think the marketing people are out-of-touch showponies.
I’ve sat at the back of a lot of sales conferences watching the marketing department do their song and dance act while the sales people nodded off, waiting for the new products bit. The “key brand drivers” and “engaging content” were seen as empty blather that would change when the inevitable new marketing team arrived in a few months.
Sales people know about accountability. Marketing people can get away with projects that deliver a zero measurable return, because it created an intangible boost in “brand equity”. That may be true, and a legit step on the pathway to profits, but see how a rep would go justifying a month without sales as “building relationship equity”.
Getting everyone singing from the same page on your brand is a minor miracle. But it’s so worth doing. When I was developing brands we would spend half our time working with sales reps, techs, project managers and so forth, trying to find something they’d feel comfortable saying at work.
If it’s not comfortable, they won’t say it. Ever.
The Ultimate Test Of Words
Saying words aloud is a great test of whether they’re up to the job.
I write stuff that feels like solid gold genius at the time, then read it out the next day and wonder: did chimps break into my laptop and tap out this shameful drivel?
Brands that your whole staff don’t get behind are like fridge magnets, a thin layer of colour and cheap amusement that doesn’t change what’s beneath.
If your brand message rings true for the majority of your staff, chances are it will resonate with clients. It probably answers a genuine issue in people’s lives, rather than some theoretical need spawned in the PowerPoint swamp.
Of the factors that will bring you long-term profits, this one’s … a Biggie.
Sorry about that, it’s Fathers Day so I’m treating myself to a single indulgent dad joke. Carry on my friends.
Your Future Depends On This
I write a piece like this one every Tuesday.
You should subscribe, because I’ve tested everything I write about here on our own business, with our own money. We’ve never set up a hip-hop poke restaurant, but I’ve made mistakes that have cost me six-figure amounts. Luckily the non-mistakes have pulled in seven-figure amounts so it all balances out. Read this stuff once a week and it’ll save you at least one catastrophic mistake in the next year. Deal.
It’s only one email a week, that won’t kill you.
Also if you liked this you might enjoy 5 Reasons To Always Talk To Cab Drivers.