“Hire the right attitude and train the skill. Not the other way around.”

Your business is like an hourglass.

Your advertising fills the top bulb with potential customers.

Next, these potential customers with money in hand flow through the narrow neck. This is where they meet your Gatekeepers.

The Gatekeepers in a service business are the people who,

  • answer the phone,
  • greet customers, and
  • do the quote.

If the wrong person wears the Gatekeeper hat, you’ll have a conversion problem. However, “My advertising isn’t working,” is usually the assumption of the business owner.

Here’s a real-life example.

She was bright and bubbly.

She appeared in my lounge room for over 15 years.

She explained how my life would be better with a patio.

We had no need for a patio, but she seemed nice, and the ads were engaging, so I listened.

But then one day… we did need a patio.

And who do you think popped into my mind?

My shopping list of potential patio suppliers consisted of

  1. the woman who had talked to me for over 15 years and
  2. a business on a landmark corner location.

The Princess had only one on her list. This business advertised on the station of her choice. A rock station. Yes, Princesses listen to rock.

Advertising helped narrow our shopping list down to three options. To protect the guilty, I will rename all three.

(1) Bright & Bubbly

First, I called the business that had bonded with me for over 15 years. In my mind, that’s where we were getting our patio. They had our money. All they had to do was smile and take it.

So I called. The girl on the phone seemed uninterested and made me feel like I was intruding on her day. It was a total disconnect from the bright and bubbly I was expecting. We agreed on a date to have someone come out and quote. In two weeks! I hung up disappointed.

(2) Red Crocs

Next, I called the Princess’s choice. Welcoming, enthusiastic and interested was the voice at the other end of the phone. The owner of the business came out on a Saturday morning. He wore red Crocs, but we didn’t hold that against him. He sat at our kitchen table and listened to what we wanted. He showed us things we hadn’t thought of. He gave us a quote then and there. He followed up on the quote 2 days later asking if we had any questions.

(3) Pleasant but… Forgettable.

Number three on our list was a normal conversation. I don’t remember being enthusiastic or disappointed by the end. The girl who came out to quote was pleasant. When I asked about a specific type of insulated patio panel, she said they didn’t stock that type. She offered no alternative. We got a quote 5 days later for a product we didn’t want. We never heard from them again.

All three businesses had invested money in advertising.

All three had our interest and made it to our shortlist.

We were now looking for the last piece of the buying selection process. That last 10%. The final Transfer of Confidence. But only Red Crocs gave us the confidence to say, “Yes.”

I called Bright & Bubbly and cancelled the appointment for a quote. The voice was still disinterested. 15 years of advertising dollars circled the bowl and then all at once vanished from sight. A sure sale. Lost.

Note. Bright and Bubbly is still in business. They are still advertising. They are most likely the number one patio builder in the market. I may have spoken with a person having a bad day, or they were only new, or they were overwhelmed. Unfortunately, buyers don’t care about any of those things. They take their money elsewhere. 

Lessons Learned & Actions to Take

  • Relational advertising takes lots of weekly repetition. Year after year. Because most people are not yet in the market for what you sell. But they will be… one day. So you need patience.
  • Relational advertising can get you on the buyer’s shortlist. But advertising cannot make the sale.
  • Your customer experience personality and selling personality must match your advertising personality.
  • Advertising can run 90% of the race for you, but you and your staff must take the batten and run the last 10% to the finish line. You must make the sale.
  • It costs you to run in the race, drop the batten, and you waste your advertising investment. Which means lower conversion rates and higher customer acquisition costs.
  • Be on time, enthusiastic and listen with intent. Buyers will overlook the fact you wear Red Crocs.
  • Price did not come into the selection process.
  • Patio suppliers not on our initial list never knew we were ready to buy.
  • The decision-maker is not necessarily the person who picks up the phone and calls you. If Red Crocs had asked me the question, “So, where did you hear about us?” I would have made something up. I’m not going to admit the Princess made me call.
  • Do quotes on the spot or as fast as possible. Appeal to the buyers need for Instant Gratification. 
  • Follow up your quotes within one to two days. Most businesses don’t do this!
  • Every time the phone rings or someone walks into your shop, you need to be wearing your ‘Happy to Serve’ hat.
  • Even good businesses have bad days. Things go wrong. The solution is to always be optimizing, so these days become rare.
  • Don’t block the money flow with uninterested, untrained Gatekeepers.
  • Sometimes you don’t need to spend more on advertising.
  • Instead, invest in Gatekeepers who bring sunshine and warmth to work.
  • Hire the right attitude and train the skill. Not the other way around.
  • Four things will soar:
    • Your conversion rates.
    • Your profits.
    • Positive word-of-mouth.
    • Repeat customers.
  • Oh, and sometimes, the Princess makes better choices than me.

Most business owners pour money into SEO, Social Media & Digital media in the hope of growth. At Wizard of Ads, we look at improving conversion rates BEFORE we start driving more customers.

So, if you want to sell more, look first to the narrow neck in your marketing process.

The Gatekeepers.

Until next time,

Work hard and have fun.