Are your blind spots driving customers away faster than your advertising brings them in?

Effective advertising is a double-edged sword.

Delight people and you will inspire a legion of repeat and referral business that will grow sales long into the future. Disappoint them, or worse, piss them off, and they will spread their piss to everyone they know, corroding your reputation and profitability. The side of the delight/disappointment line your business lands will determine whether advertising grows your revenue or craters it.

Friction points undermine delight. They are small annoyances, inconsistencies, poor communications, unmet expectations, and aggressive closing tactics, which signal to customers that the business isn’t well suited to serve their needs, or that the business can’t be trusted.

Friction causes buyer reluctance and kills long-term profitability.

The dirty details

The marketing campaign for the car dealer was in its second year. Floor traffic, inquiries, and sales were all up and climbing nicely. Way up. The owner was ecstatic! But the service department wasn’t seeing the same lift. In fact, their numbers were trending down. The owner asked for the same kind of advertising “magic” to bring the back of the house in step with the front.

Advertising can’t fix operational issues.

The rising tide caused by powerful marketing should lift all facets of the brand. When a specific department doesn’t experience the same growth, it’s a dashboard warning that something is wrong.

Looking over service records showed that less than 24% of the customers had been in more than once in the past two years. This meant more than 3/4ths of their customers were not satisfied enough to come back! Driving away 3 out of 4 customers makes it hard to grow a business.

You can’t out-advertise a bad reputation.

The lack of repeat customers is common with highly transactional businesses and those that disappoint or regularly abuse customers. We knew our client ran a reputable business. We wouldn’t have been working with them otherwise. So the friction had to be something under the radar. Email surveys never revealed what was driving customers away.

Armed with a stack of recent repair orders, we called customers to hear about their visit. We told them we were with an outside marketing company and their answers would be confidential. Two issues came up repeatedly that were aggravating enough to keep customers from returning: grimy steering wheels and having to wait too long to pay for their service and leave.

Once the service department addressed these friction points, revenues started to climb — and without any additional advertising dollars spent!

Don’t excuse or dismiss.

We often use Secret Shoppers to gain insight into the operations of our clients. One of our clients had a crotchety receptionist who was not demonstrating the same warmth and care portrayed in our ads. The client dismissed the need to replace her, saying it wasn’t that important. We made a montage of several calls to companies with receptionists that did a particularly good job of making callers feel appreciated. A recording of the client’s receptionist was at the end. The contrast was stark, and the receptionist was replaced within a week.

Seeing through the eyes of the customer

A manufacturer of products used in agriculture had been selling $2.5 million a year through distributors with no direct contact with their customers. Sales had plateaued, so they came to us looking for new marketing ideas. To better understand the market, product usage, and pain points, we attended trade shows and talked with customers. Two-thirds of those we spoke with felt the product was a sham and that they had been cheated. The brand was damaged because the usage protocols were poorly developed, and the instructions were vague. Before starting any new marketing campaigns, we told them they needed to improve their instructions and ensure every customer got praise-worthy results. We also suggested they bypass distribution and sell directly to customers. Once the issues were corrected and the marketing program implemented, sales grew 40%, and net profits went up 130%!

We used a variety of tools to ferret out friction points:

  • Phone Surveys – most effective when you can take the time to get the recipient to relax and open up.
  • Email Surveys – helpful, but comments tend to be superficial.
  • Secret Shoppers – online, over the phone, and in-person, provide a customer’s view of the business.
  • Trade Shows – provide opportunities to talk to former and potential customers, and get insights into the competition.
  • Online Reviews – rank from worst to best, looking for patterns of dissatisfaction.
  • Social Media – comments can provide raw insights into what customers are really feeling.
  • Google Alerts – for clients, companies, and their competitors provide real-time updates.
  • Website Analytics – not as useful as they once were due to recent privacy changes. To get the best insights into website traffic, flow, and conversion issues, it is necessary to engage with a trusted website expert.

Any legitimate negative comments should be responded to by someone in authority, and every effort should be made to make the customer happy. If they are ignored, they can write the company off as uncaring and cause long-term reputation damage. But when they know their concerns have been heard, and when they’ve been shown proper respect, they can become great cheerleaders for the brand.

Our clients who strive to ensure that every person they engage with becomes a raving fan, whether they buy from them or not, see their sales go up 2x, 5x, even 100x.

Most businesses are blind to friction points that may be holding their sales back; if they knew where they were falling short, they’d have fixed it long ago.

If you think your company could benefit from an objective look under the hood, let me know.