Use Customers' Words to
by Marcia Yudkin
Marketing succeeds almost
effortlessly when you use the words, categories
and reasoning instinctively used by your most
Career counselor Joan Cousins
of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, didn't leave this
to chance. For two years, she kept track of the
terminology employed by those who hired her
services. When they called, they did not say,
"I need career counseling." Instead,
eighty to ninety percent used one of two other
very specific phrases.
Cousins then composed an ad
highlighting one of those key phrases.
"That ad brings me an average of one very
serious inquiry a week, which about eighty
percent of the time turns into a multi-session
client," she says.
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Bob Baker of St. Louis,
Missouri, who helps independent bands and record
labels with their marketing, says artful
listening taught him a similar lesson. For a
decade he published something called
"Spotlight," on the local music scene.
"Since it wasn't printed on slick paper,
and it was tabloid sized, I called it a
newspaper rather than a magazine. But readers
kept calling it 'Spotlight Magazine.' Eventually
I gave in and gave it the title people
In addition, Baker originally
envisioned that the publication would appeal to
a triad of readers: musicians, industry people
and consumers or fans. He became frustrated to
continually hear, "Spotlight? Oh, the
musicians' magazine, right?" Finally he
realized that his market was sending him a loud
and important message. "Once I started
using 'the musicians' magazine' as a selling
point, I landed just about every music store and
recording studio in town as advertisers,"
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Baker's experiences show that
you need to not only listen to the words used by
your customers, but also be receptive to what
you hear. Sometimes you may wonder if the way
customers actually worded their praise would
have a positive spin for others.
When a group of women who'd
heard me speak and invited me to speak to their
organization distributed their flyer about my
appearance, I was startled to see them describe
me as "a soft-spoken marketing dynamo who
is long on practical marketing solutions."
Did "soft-spoken" dampen the other
positives there? Other businesswomen reassured
me that overall, the description was laudatory.
Besides, I remembered, they'd written this
intending to persuade their members to attend
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Interested in tapping into the
wisdom of the marketplace? Besides simply
listening with an open mind, try these actions:
- Ask new clients or customers what prompted
them to take action to buy when they did.
- When you meet people who patronize a
competitor, ask them what need prompted them
to hire them.
- If you have a new-client questionnaire,
ask people what they're hoping to get from
your business relationship.
- Ask those who do business with you to
describe you in five words or less.
"Listen to your
fans," says Bob Baker. Even if you're not
in the music business, your repeat customers are
your best fans. Take advantage of their
Copyright 2000 Marcia Yudkin. All rights reserved.
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