Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
Why customers don’t trust your new business
One of the burdens of business is overcoming the lifelong legacy of lies, from others who got to your customer before you.
You are a decent person and your product is good, but customers don’t trust you. Because all their life, marketing and sales scumbags have been telling them their crap products are actually great.
A classic of the genre landed in my feed as a sponsored post this morning. An ad for retailer Sans Drinks spruiking a non-alcoholic red “that tastes like Penfolds 389”.
“This is the famous non-alcoholic Next Destination Barossa Valley Shiraz holding it’s own against the best Shiraz* in the country. Yes, it really is that good it has totally re-set the bar when it comes to non-alc reds.”
Then a link to a truly dire article in news.com.au’s Body and Soul, from a lifestyle journo who nicked a 389 from “my dad’s extensive wine collection” as a comparison. That fact alone tells a story**.
“I felt it did have qualities that really resembled the Bin 389.”
Hard to argue, in that both are reddish-coloured liquids. In the same way that the Great Wall Haval has many qualities that resemble a Ferrari. Same number of wheels, control via a steering wheel, accelerator and brakes, pretty much the same experience.
Pro tip: high-end wines like 389 taste nicer in what connoisseurs call a “wine” glass, rather than the Duralex latte version.
I think the move toward quality no-alcohol drinks is a worthy one. The beer companies have improved their zero alcohol gear a lot in recent years. Winemakers … have a way to go.
And they don’t help their cause with childish lies like this. Read the comments on the story. It’s brutal, “straight down the sink with this lolly-water” reviews all the way down.
Sans Drinks are working straight from the 1850s snake-oil sales playbook, when you could roll your wagon to the next town before people had time to test your product.
Do they not realise online reviews exist? And if it is a better zero percent wine than others, that’s great. Market it that way. Not by pretending it’s something it will never be.
More great business liars
Business has such a rich heritage of being lying fucks.
Remember that time Facebook inflated its video view numbers by up to 900%? So media companies pivoted their whole model to this viewer gold mine. Where they got negligible traffic. And lots of those businesses had to fire all their staff and close down.
Or the recent antics of crypto lender Celsius, which siphoned $12 billion from investors: “single moms, pilots, cleaners, small business owners, students, veterans and so many in between”. Offering too-good-to-be-true returns for their dreams of a comfortable life.
Celsius was contemptuous of all other financial institutions like banks, brokers, investment funds and so on. They even had a derisory nickname for them: TradFi, from traditional finance. They said a few weeks ago:
“Celsius was not founded to make small improvements to TradFi. From day one, we sought to radically disrupt a broken system.”
And sure, “TradFi” organisations have plenty wrong with them. But they do provide a certain daily convenience and lifelong money reliability for us trad-life peasants.
Under siege in June, Celsius put out this swaggering manifesto of lies: Damn The Torpedoes, Full Steam Ahead. Move along, doubters, nothing to see here.
A month later they were bankrupt, leaving only a trail of heartbreaking letters to the judge in the Celsius case. A litany of crushed dreams and broken families, courtesy of a product none of them should have bought.
Primal customer fear
Any financial planner will tell you: if returns seem too good to be true … they are not true, and you should run away.
So your new business or product has to overcome this primal customer fear that you are no better than Sans Drinks, Facebook or Celsius.
Which brings me to my friend’s new-ish software product. He works in an industry where large projects on intense deadlines are managed on Excel. That spreadsheet lives on one person’s computer, and updates go out via email, so nobody is quite clear if they’re working on the current version. Senior execs spend hours each day copying and pasting information.
It’s the Jurassic Park of project management, perfectly-preserved 1994 techniques walking the earth to this very day. And nipping users on the arse.
My friend developed a platform that runs on the cloud and on all devices, so everyone has current information and there is no cutting and pasting. Anyone under 30 who uses it says: thank God someone has developed some normal software for this.
It’s not a bit better than the existing options. It’s about 500% better than anything else around. And it’s heaps cheaper. It should take that industry by storm.
Instead, customer take-up has been a relentless grind, and much slower than he expected.
He’s discovered that it does so much more than their current systems that it freaks them out, and they stick with the spreadsheets “for now”.
My theory is that potential customers are thinking: what’s the catch? There must be something wrong with it. There is no catch, but instinct is hard to overcome.
How do you overcome lies?
So how do you, a non-liar, overcome this resistance?
Long-term, the best option is to work on building a brand, not just create the white noise of promo hustle. The whole point of a brand is reassurance, a safe purchase to ease the hard-wired fears in their reptilian brains.
Short-term, for my friend’s software, and most new products, I think the best option is to pick its single best advantage. Not what you or your friends reckon, but by talking to customers. As wide a range of them as you can.
Work out how to express that in three or four words, without using the word “solutions”. Then focus hard on that. Marketing takes relentless repetition of a single point. Well past the point that you, the brand owner, are totally sick of it.
If your message is: it does this! And this! And that! Plus tons more! It’s too much for people to deal with. There’s an old marketing analogy about throwing people half a dozen tennis balls at once.
Avoid superlatives. Best. Ultimate. Finest. This oily self-praise is the language of the marketing bullshit artist. For customers, it’s a red flag that the product isn’t any of those things.
Trust is hard to earn, and saying words like “trust me” have the opposite effect. It’s a slow process. Pestering people via auto-email for an online review five minutes after they use you once will annoy them.
For most businesses, you’re better off waiting until they’ve bought from you a few times, then ask them personally. It can still be via email, just something that came from a human. The reviews you get will be more compelling because they know more about you. They’re much more likely to write something that will resonate with future customers.
It all takes time. Do you want your brand to be like a person you meet once, and they tell you that you’re their new best friend? Don’t be weird and needy. Treat that first sale as an audition for the next, and trust will happen.
* Yes 389 is a cab shiraz blend, yet there are so many bigger errors in the story that one is barely a blip on the radar.
** I’m not saying it’s the case here, but there’s a wider issue with journalism skewing toward the voices of the privileged. Because the rise of unpaid internships means only rich kids can afford to do it.
Got some thoughts?
Been lied to by other businesses? Got some thoughts on non-alcoholic beverages? Want to defend crypto? I’d love to hear what’s on your mind, why not drop a comment over on LinkedIn? Cheers.
Why not buy this nice book?
You want facts not marketing lies?
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