Current Issue
Published on November 8, 1999


The seller of products and/or services who answers this question for the customer is the one who'll make the sale. Traditional feature-benefit selling no longer works unless customers see what's in it for them. And since today's busy customers aren't willing to figure this out for themselves, you always need to tell them. As a seller, you must be 100-percent customer-centered. When you are, everything you and your employees do is focused on the customer—not you.

For example, most answering machines have a message like this: ``I'm on the phone or away from my desk. Please leave a message and I'll return your call.'' That message is about John Doe—not the customer or caller.

A more customer-centered message includes:

A nice greeting;

The company's name;

Your name as the person receiving the call;

A customer-centered reason why you, the recipient, cannot take the call; and similarly,

A customer-centered message telling callers what's in it for them if they leave their name, telephone number and a message.

Example: ``Good morning, Marketing Consulting Inc., this is Bob Janet. I'm sorry I can't answer your call as I'm helping a client gain and retain their most profitable customers. This is the same great help I'll give you if you will leave your name, phone number and a message. I'll return your call within the next half hour.''

A good rule of thumb for determining if what you say or do is customer-centered is whether the customer logically can ask, ``So what?'' or ``What's in it for me?'' If so, your statement or actions are not 100-percent customer-centered.

For example, if a garage door repair service tells the customer, ``We've been in business 30 years,'' the customer can respond by asking: ``So what?'' That statement is not customer-centered.

Let's change the above statement to: ``We can service your 20-year-old garage door better than anyone else because we've been in business 30 years and have the knowledge and experience to handle your problem.'' Now it answers the customer's ``What's in it for me?'' question.

If your direct mail marketing efforts are not producing the results you'd like, chances are you can improve customer response by crafting a stronger, more compelling offer.

Customer response to one business-to-business mailing I produced recently increased sixfold after I changed an offer of a free ``White Paper '' report to ``One free hour of marketing consultation.''

Not every business can offer something free. But most companies can come up with a more compelling offer that will increase their responses.

To craft an effective offer, first consider the economics of your business. What's the best offer you can afford to make in order to land a new customer?

Your offer must concern the prospect. Make it important to them by offering something of value. The offer also must spotlight the products and services you provide—and in a way that shows how you can solve a problem for the prospect.

Craft the offer so you can expand it—either with another related free offering later, or by increasing the number of items or services you can offer.

Before making the offer, make sure it's:

The best you can make economically;

Aimed at solving prospects' problems;

Compelling enough for more than a one-time encounter; and

Compelling enough that it would attract you.

Mr. Janet is president of Marketing Consulting & Retail Advising in Matthews, N.C.


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