Marketing and the ‘Rule of Three’

 

I have long argued that, in our increasingly complex world, selling is inappropriate. This means our marketing becomes ever more important. We must be able to communicate well in all our marketing, so I thought I would share some pointers.

Storytelling-techniques-quote-seth godin

There is a general rule in speaking, in writing and in music that concepts, arguments and ideas presented in threes are inherently more interesting, more enjoyable and more memorable. This ‘Rule of Three’ provides an elegant communication framework.

So what is the Rule of Three? What are some examples of the Rule of Three? How can you use the Rule of Three to be more effective? Before I explain, did you spot the Rule of Three in operation in the opening to this paragraph? The Rule of Three is simple, it is powerful and it works. People can understand your messages more easily, become more engaged with your business, and remember more of what you communicate when you use the Rule of Three.

It’s no accident that the number three is commonly used in well-known stories. The Three Little Pigs, The Three Musketeers and The Three Wise Men – to name a few. It’s no accident that commonly known phrases often come as three-part quotes such as ‘Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’, ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’, and ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’. It’s no accident that the best magic tricks are organised into three phases – ‘the Pledge’, ‘the Turn’ and ‘the Return’. This paragraph illustrates another aspect of the Rule of Three. The first time you say or write something, it’s an accident. The second time, it’s a coincidence. However, the third time you say something it becomes a pattern. Three is the smallest number of elements you can use to create (or break) a pattern.

liberte-egalite-fraternite

Here are three quick tips to help you use the Rule of Three. (Did you really expect any other number?)

Tip 1: Arrange any talk, presentation or speech into groups of three.

Maybe you are familiar with the old advice about structuring a speech. I believe it was Dale Carnegie who said ‘Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you just told them’. To people who are new to public speaking this advice is particularly useful because it addresses the common mistakes that new presenters often make. It reminds the beginner that they need to preview and summarise, and not just start and end in the middle.

If you have more than three ideas you want to present, then you should group your ideas into three bigger categories. Each of the three bigger categories should then also be organised appropriately in groups of three.

Tip 2: Use a three-part organisation structure.

A good analogy here is dividing a pie, cake or pizza. The pizza can be divided into equal thirds representing the beginning, the middle and the end of your presentation. However it may be that the middle itself has three parts. Now you have three parts in the middle and one part each for the beginning and the ending – so you want to divide the cake into five slices. If you have a lot of content to present, it may be that the three parts in the middle each need to be divided into three to accommodate all your material. The pie now needs to be divided differently into 11 portions – one each for the beginning and the ending, and nine for the main content. I hope you are beginning to appreciate how this works.

In the body of each of the slices of your content, you should arrange the material to support your argument, your proposition or your explanation using the Rule of Three. You can use stories, examples or statistics. Analogies, comparisons and quotations may be effective in helping to get your messages across. Within each slice, the hardest part is choosing which three (and only three) points will make the biggest impact, and then choosing the best supporting mix of evidence.

Tip 3: Use the Rule of Three for phrases, sentences and words.

It’s useful to think about applying the Rule of Three to specific phrases, sentences and words. Look back to the third paragraph of this article material. Did you notice that I repeated the phrase ‘It’s no accident’ three times? Why did I do that? Well, it was no accident. The repetition helped to emphasise the point I was making – that purposely presenting ideas in threes helps make them more memorable.

no accident

It also serves the purpose of breaking up a larger list of examples. I thought it was important to provide more than just three examples of the Rule of Three, so I decided to give you three groups of three. When choosing the specific words that form your grouping of three, it’s important to select words that are parallel in structure – that is, they work well in combination. For example, ‘Today, I will buy a hat, scarf and coat’. Each of the items works with the verb. As opposed to ‘Today, I will buy a hat, scarf and wallpaper the dining room’. It’s also helpful if the words you choose follow a similar cadence, but that is not an absolute requirement.

 

A final point about the Rule of Three.

You don’t always have to follow the Rule of Three. Like all other rules it’s meant to be broken from time to time. However, before you break the Rule of Three, it’s a good idea to understand it better. Think about a recent presentation you gave, and imagine giving it again. How could you use the Rule of Three to make that presentation more powerful? What organising structures might be more effective? What word choices would be better? That’s it. No more questions. Three is enough.

 

The new ABC of Sales

einstein-always-be-closing

In my corporate career I had around 15 years in which I carried a personal sales target, one which substantially impacted my remuneration. As a small business owner, I am back to carrying a sales target that not only affects my remuneration but also affects the viability of my business. I recall all the sales training, tools and techniques and annual (or even sometimes quarterly) sales conferences designed to motivate, inspire and occasionally educate me and my peers. I remember the mantra of the sales organisation where I first carried quota – ABC!

Always Be Closing! Every working minute of every working day, and in emails outside of those times, I was encouraged to make the pitch and close the deal. Our Sales Director once told us ‘every day, you have 86,400 opportunities to close – don’t miss any of them!’ (I had to ask, and was told that’s how many seconds there are in a day, and it only takes a second to close a deal.)

Don' sell 2Previous blog posts have taken readers through the logic of needing a new paradigm to enable us to allow customers and prospective customers to say ‘Yes!’ eagerly, joyfully and enthusiastically to doing business with us. If ‘Always Be Closing’ is an out-of-date mantra, what is the new ABC that I refer to? Here it is – Always Be Congruent! Nowadays there are three congruencies required

  • congruence with you as a person,
  • congruence with your client(s) and prospective client(s),
  • congruence with your delivery organisation and capability.

Let’s start with you, because if you don’t get you right the next two congruencies will always seem false to others.

To be successful growing your business you must, as outlined in the book ‘Dance with the Elephants’ www.dancewiththeelephants.com Dance your own Dance. Don’t Dance the Dance of your competition, or some other Dance you think will allow you to flourish but does not truly represent who you are and what you stand for. If you are to compete with and win against your competitors, then your customers, prospective clients and all your stakeholders must experience the true essence of you and your company in all their dealings with you. That essence starts not with what you do, but why you do it.

authentic selfOne of the bonus materials that accompany ‘Dance with the Elephants’ is A Model for Alignment and it is available from the official website of the book http://bit.ly/1yx25aq The model illustrates what is necessary for you to achieve personal congruence. The Model for Alignment recognises that we interact with our world at different logical levels, ranging from environmental factors, through our behaviours, our capabilities and skills, our beliefs and values and, by way of our very identity, into our overall sense of purpose. The model acknowledges the different natures of these interactions. Your target is to have all logical levels aligned with your Big Dream (which is everything you want in life, crafted in such a way that it truly engages you and engages all the stakeholders that can help you achieve it), your Well-Formed Outcome (your nirvana, the equivalent of the nirvana you are helping clients to achieve through the use of the ALIGNED framework http://wp.me/P3sGMs-6r), your overriding sense of purpose – each of which should be perfectly congruent with each other in order for you to be successful in growing your business.

When you are aligned at all logical levels, people will be certain about you. Some people will decide not to align with you. This is good because it is a genuine choice based on understanding and incompatibility. You don’t want to waste your energies trying to align with these people. Those who really get you will choose to align with you, will choose to do business with you, and will choose to become ardent supporters and promoters of you and your business. There is much more guidance about achieving personal alignment in the book http://www.dancewiththeelephants.com

The second congruency needed to be successful in growing your business is congruency with clients and prospective clients. It seems so obvious that, given ‘people buy from people’, there should be a strong bond between the seller and the buyer, or prospective buyer. Yet so often the seller does not take the time to truly align with the potential customer, instead trying to get a ‘best fit’ between what they have and what the customer might possibly want, taking scant, if any, time to understand the needs and desires of the customer. Perhaps worse there is an expectation, a presumption, that the customer or prospective customer actually knows what they want.

So often, it is only by spending time together exploring what would be the ideal solution for both parties that true understanding emerges. The understanding that evolves is not only what is sought, but also why it is wanted, and what the associated benefits are for both parties – creating a far richer and more meaningful link between the parties and the solution; a solution that both parties have a greater interest in and commitment to because they have been part of the nascent solution.

Can I_questionThe ALIGNED framework, concentrating so much as it does on understanding the situation of the prospective buyer, constantly asking the question ‘can I find the perfect solution?’, and avoiding premature searches for possible solutions, greatly improves the alignment between seller and prospective buyer. By staying as long as possible in the question, using interrogative self-talk instead of assertive, the potential seller creates the opportunity to identify the resources needed to provide the perfect solution and crafts internal, intrinsic motivations over externally referenced drivers. Keeping alive the possibility that the answer that may emerge could be ‘No, I cannot provide the perfect solution’ multiplies the effect of the interrogative approach.

The final factor required to deliver success is your alignment with your delivery capability. I will be returning to this topic in future newsletters and blog posts on the subject of ‘aligned customer experience’ so will not write exhaustively on the topic at this time. It is without doubt a big topic; in essence success comes from those delivering your ideal solution being totally aligned with the values inherent in your brand. A brand is a promise kept, and the successful delivery of that promise, that which will enable your client to be truly delighted instead of merely satisfied, is a crucial element in building alignment between you and your customers. Everything in the delivery must be smooth, comfortable and natural for those delivering, particularly where the service is bespoke to the customer and delivered person-to-person.

For instance, in a care setting where highly personalised services are being delivered to individuals, those delivering must be totally aligned to the ethos of caring, not just changing bandages, washing or cleaning for their clients. The service delivery must be aligned with the values underpinning your brand, your promise to deliver the perfect solution. The environment has to be appropriate; as do the behaviours of the service deliverers, who need to have and demonstrate the right skills and capabilities. In delivering the promise, those delivering must be clear that doing so is entirely consistent with their beliefs and values, enabling them to really identify with their role, and enabling them to connect with their overall sense of purpose, their calling, their raison d’être.

Nowadays it is no longer ‘Always Be Closing’; instead it is about ‘Always Be Congruent’. The latter is more comfortable, allows us to be more fulfilled and enables us to connect with our overriding sense of purpose. It is also more effective (50% more effective) that the old sales methods, techniques and motivational tricks of yesteryear.

be congruent_gandhiIf you are not a natural sales person, feel discomfort when assuming the sales role and would like to remain true to who you really are as a professional trying to grow their business, I commend my alternative to you. The ALIGNED framework and the Cialdini materials are now available as the Congruent Business Development System™ and the Congruent Client Attraction System™ respectively. These can be delivered into your business through a variety of mechanisms – let’s discuss what would be the ideal solution for your business – contact me here piw@wttresults.co.uk

Phil Walker

WTT Results Ltd

07764 658071

What’s more effective than selling?

Always sellingSales process

 

 

 

 

 

In the final post of this series of three I want to unveil the little-known research that shows selling as we traditionally have known it is inappropriate because it generates half the success of an alternative approach that very few people are aware of and even less people are using. Would you like to be twice as effective at enabling clients and prospective clients to say ‘Yes!’ enthusiastically to you? What would be the effect on your business if you could achieve that? If you had that effect on your business, how would your life be?

ideal lifeSo what is the third reason why selling is inappropriate? It is surprising and I am grateful to Daniel Pink for giving me access to studies I was previously unaware of that helped me to understand precisely why the ALIGNED framework that I use and teach is so effective. http://wp.me/P3sGMs-6r In essence the framework is successful because it is based on a premise that I don’t know whether or not I have the best solution for the client until stage 6 of 7. Step one is about setting up the rest of the process that I and the client will go though. Crucially steps 2, 3, 4, and 5 are all about questioning and gaining understanding. Through each of these four steps of the framework the question is ‘can I provide the best solution?’

So why is this so important?  Why is a questioning approach so effective? Why is the inherent doubt about whether or not I have the right solution so powerful? Surely self-doubt is limiting; that is certainly what the motivational gurus will tell us, the likes of Robbins and McKenna. Surely it is more effective to have our self-talk tell us ‘Yes, we can!’ This is the basis of a lot of sales training – developing the winning mind-set, banishing doubt, and having a positive mental attitude (I can hear the whooping of the sales force right now).

Yes you can toddlerThe studies do indeed show that having a positive, assertive, affirmative approach is better than having a negative attitude and approach. Positive self-talk is generally better than negative self-talk. Researchers concluded that the most effective self-talk does not just shift emotions; the most effective self-talk actually changes linguistic categories. This self-talk moves the subject from making statements to asking questions.

In 2010, three researchers from two universities in the United States published the results of a series of experiments that confirmed the effectiveness of ‘interrogative self-talk’. Participants were split into two groups and given the same task to perform. The only difference between the two groups was that one group was instructed by the researchers to ask themselves if they could complete the task, whilst the second group were told to tell themselves that they could complete the task. On average the self-questioning group were 50% more effective than the self-affirming group at completing the task.

Pink kindly explains why the ‘interrogative self-talk’ is more effective, giving two reasons. Firstly, by its very nature, the interrogative approach elicits answers, within which lie strategies for actually carrying out the task. The affirmative approach may go something like ‘I have a sales pitch to make. I’m the best. This will be easy. The sale is mine!’ This approach may well provide a short-term emotional boost. However, if your approach is ‘Can I make a great sales pitch?’ the research shows that you provide yourself with something that reaches deeper and has a longer-lasting impact. You may answer the question with ‘Yes, I have made great pitches on 6 occasions in the last month.’ Or ‘Of course I can, I have prepared meticulously and I know the material inside out.’ And you might also elicit the response ‘Last time I rushed the beginning a little, so I want to start off slower this time.’ Affirmation is good, but the interrogative enables you to identify and obtain the resources you actually need to complete the task.

Researchers found the second reason to be that interrogative self-talk ‘may inspire thoughts about autonomous or intrinsically motivated reasons to pursue a goal’. People are more likely to act, and to perform well, when motivations derive from intrinsic choices rather than from extrinsic pressures.

Positive Mental Attitude is important and is more efficacious than negativity, but it really only gets you halfway there!

belief is half-wayIf you are not a natural sales person, feel discomfort when assuming the sales role and would like to remain true to who you really are as a professional trying to grow their business, I commend my alternative to you. The ALIGNED framework and the Cialdini materials are now available as the Congruent Business Development System™ and the Congruent Client Attraction System™ respectively. These can be delivered into your business through a variety of mechanisms – let’s discuss what would be the ideal solution for your business – contact me here piw@wttresults.co.uk

Best wishes,

Phil Walker
WTT Results Ltd
www.wttresults.co.uk

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Death of the sales force!

In loving memoryIn the second of this series of three blog posts I want to review how changes in our world have led to the inevitable demise of the sales force focused on delivering those artful, imaginative and skilful sales pitches. This is the second reason why selling nowadays is inappropriate, is ineffective and is inefficient – our world has changed and this demands changes in our behaviours.

No pitchThe second reason stems from the nature of the roles people play in the modern world of work. Previously, sales people sold and those not in sales roles didn’t. That was the conventional wisdom that led to companies investing large amounts of their resources in developing professional sales forces trained in all sorts of different sales methodologies, techniques and motivational mechanisms. A huge proportion of corporate training spend went on sales training. Graduates and those at the very top of the tree also enjoyed focus on them and were allocated precious funds. That was pretty much it – sales, senior management and graduates were developed through training; the rest got very meagre pickings.

Daniel H. Pink, in his excellent book ‘To sell is human – the surprising truth about persuading, convincing, and influencing others’, points out that one out of every nine workers in the USA works in sales (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). In the EU, approximately 13% of the workforce is in sales, according to Eurostat. In Japan, the number is 1 in 8. In these large and developed economies, around 1 in 8 people are in sales. Pink develops his argument thus; his point is that the other 7 out of 8 are engaged in ‘non-sales selling’. This is the art of moving opinions, advancing arguments and persuading others to your point of view.

The conventional view of economic activity is that the two most important activities are producing and consuming. Pink argues that nowadays we spend very large amounts of resource on a third economic activity – moving. That is we spend a huge amount of our time moving people in order that they part with resources (tangible assets such as money, and intangible assets such as time and attention) so that both parties get what they want. This activity isn’t easily classified and quantified. People do have titles such as ‘Sales Manager’ which the statisticians can capture; we don’t have ‘Moving Managers’.

Pink commissioned a survey of over 9,000 respondents titled ‘what do you do at work?’ Two major findings emerged:-

  • People now spend about 40% of the time at work in non-sales selling – persuading, influencing and convincing people in ways that don’t involve anybody making a purchase.
  • People consider this aspect of their work crucial to their professional success – even in excess of the considerable amount of time they spend doing it.

The skills needed for moving, Pink argues, are not those traditionally associated with sales. The traditional view is that successful sales people are generally extroverts and that introverted people are less likely to be successful in sales. Pink argues that the movers today need to be ambiverts. He references research showing, on a 1-7 scale of introvert to extrovert (when 1 is very introverted and 7 is very extroverted), the highest performing sales people actually score 4 – right at the mid-point and the place where ambiverts are found. Peak revenue per head occurred in those scoring between 4.0 and 4.5, and tailed off over 4.5.These most successful sales people were neither highly extroverted nor very introverted.
extrovert_ambivert_introvertOur contemporary world requires us to have different skills that enable us to be effective at moving people rather than selling to them. Teaching the sales force various techniques and processes and trying to improve their performance through motivation, inspiration and positive mental attitudes is no longer a sound investment. Different soft skills, such as understanding and improving emotional intelligence, are what is required and this soft-skills focus is the way to go both now and in the future.

If you are not a natural sales person, feel discomfort when assuming the sales role and would like to remain true to who you really are as a professional trying to grow their business, I commend my alternative to you. The ALIGNED framework and the Cialdini materials are now available as the Congruent Business Development System™ and the Congruent Client Attraction System™ respectively. These can be delivered into your business through a variety of mechanisms – let’s discuss what would be the ideal solution for your business – contact me here piw@wttresults.co.uk

Don't sell

Why is selling inappropriate?

No pitch

 

This is the first of three blog posts which will explain why the sales pitch has been banished to Room 101, is a thing of the past, and is no longer the way to grow your business. There will be three posts because there are three reasons why the ‘sell something’ approach is now inappropriate.

Don' sell 2

Let’s start in this post with the world as we buyers experience it today, compared with the world of yesteryear. I want to explain why the old adage ‘caveat emptor’ has been supplemented by the new adage ‘caveat venditor’. Why nowadays ‘seller beware’ is just as appropriate as ‘buyer beware’.

In previous times the balance of power between buyer and seller favoured the seller. Sellers knew the features and benefits of their products and services. They also knew their shortcomings and limitations. They had a good understanding of the salient characteristics of the products and services available from their competitors. Buyers on the other hand were relatively powerless as the information they wanted in order to make their decision about what to buy (and how much to pay) could only be obtained from the sellers.

In the corporate world this meant buyers would invite in a number of sellers of the things they were interested in purchasing. I remember well the various ‘dog and pony’ shows I attended as the various vendors came to my office to present their wares. It was like pulling teeth to get the information I needed; and when I eventually dragged as much as possible out of each of them, I was left with the task (and commercial risk) of trying to make sense of all the data which was almost certainly in different formats. It really was like comparing apples with pears; ‘buyer beware’ indeed!

Just think how different my procurement life would have been if I had the access to information that we all have nowadays. In the world today information is far more freely available. Indeed, we have the potential of the opposite problem – too much information.

Later in my career I actually became the seller rather than the buyer. Sales training was intense and regular and we were taught how to sell snow to the Eskimos. My world was ABC – Always Be Closing! If my product or service only delivered 80% of the solution desired by the buyer, that was fine because 80% is better than nothing, is better than what the buyer was current receiving, is better for me because my remuneration was based on the sale, not on the customer satisfaction, which was the responsibility of Operations.

einstein-always-be-closingThe availability of information has fundamentally changed the balance of power between buyer and seller. Buyers use their search engines to get internet access to all the information about the product or service they are considering. A lot of this information is provided by the suppliers of the products or services, so they retain some power in the sense they control what is presented and how it is presented. However, they have almost no control over the myriad of web pages providing information about their products or services that are published by independent reviewers that buyers can easily access. Even worse for sellers, user reviews are also widely available as sources of information for buyers giving sometimes brutally frank feedback (when did you last book a hotel room without checking out the feedback given by previous visitors?)

In days long gone there was information asymmetry, an imbalance of information between sellers and buyers. Nowadays, there is information parity – meaning ‘caveat emptor’ and ‘caveat venditor’ both apply. This is the first reason why the sales pitch is now inappropriate.

With information parity comes a need for each party to develop a deep understanding of the other party, to respect the information each party has, and to focus on finding the right questions to ask.

Right questions_DemingIf you are not a natural sales person, feel discomfort when assuming the sales role and would like to remain true to who you really are as a professional trying to grow their business, I commend my alternative to you. The ALIGNED framework and the Cialdini materials are now available as the Congruent Business Development System™ and the Congruent Client Attraction System™ respectively. These can be delivered into your business through a variety of mechanisms – let’s discuss what would be the ideal solution for your business – contact me here piw@wttresults.co.uk

Don't sell

Ethical marketing – increasingly vital in business

Ethical marketing“Ethical marketing – isn’t that an oxymoron?” I hear you ask. I think it need not be. Marketing should be true to the brand and, for me, a brand is a promise kept. Brand is vital for small businesses. So often, the business owner is the brand. We may have some brand extensions such as our qualifications or accreditations, but the core of the brand is us individually. Our brand is what we do, who we are; it is our values and beliefs and our overriding sense of purpose. We know the risks to our brand of not being ethical in all ways at all times.

As our lives become increasingly fast-paced and ever-more complex the opportunity for marketing to trick us increases exponentially and this is why I think ethical marketing is increasingly important. Let me develop the logic, the emotion and the response.

Technology develops faster than we do as a species. We know that often our modern day actions and reactions are little different from those of our cave-dwelling ancestors. We all recognise the “fight/flight” reactions that certain situations automatically produce within us. How often do we see groups of people all doing the same things and looking very similar – the “pack instinct” in us? As technology develops ever-faster, our natural capacity to process more and more information is increasingly likely to be insufficient to manage the excess of choice, change, stimulation and challenge presented to us by our increasingly complex world. I recently read a report identifying that the amount of data in the world is now doubling every two- to two and a half-years. This baffling complexity makes our brains hurt because the brain is unable to process the bewildering array of messages, possibilities, implications and interpretations presented to us. We need a mechanism to enable us to cope.

Fortunately, we have such a mechanism that we use without cognitive recognition. In many ways, the use of this mechanism is similar to other species who cannot cope with complexity. If we look in the animal kingdom, where there is less brain power available to the species, we see how they cope. Their intelligence is often insufficient to process all the information available to them, so they don’t. Instead they rely on single pieces of information.

An experiment by the animal behaviourist M.W. Fox, undertaken in the 1970’s, illustrates my point. The study involved turkeys, specifically mother turkeys. These creatures spent (and still do spend) great effort looking after their chicks; warming, cleaning, tending and generally looking after them and huddling the chicks underneath them. Fox identified that the turkeys doled out their tender loving care based on one single piece of information. Available to the turkeys was a range of information to enable them to identify their chicks – their smell, their feel, their appearance and so on. However, Fox concluded that the turkeys relied solely on one piece of information, the “cheep, cheep” sound of young turkey chicks.

Unconvinced? Fox’s experiment introduced individual mother turkeys to a stuffed polecat (it was an experiment conducted in America) – the natural enemy of the turkeys. Unsurprisingly, the introduction of the stuffed polecat invoked a response from the turkeys of squawking, clawing, pecking rage. However, if the stuffed polecat had within it a small recorder that played a recording of young turkey chicks making “cheep, cheep” sounds when the stuffed polecat was introduced, a very different response was invoked. The mother turkey not only accepted the stuffed polecat, but drew it underneath her. Switching off the recorder led to the vicious attacks seen without the identifying noise. This behaviour is known as fixed-action patterns. Similar experiments have been reproduced in other species, for example substituting the red feathers of a stuffed robin with blue feathers produced different behaviour.

Surprisingly, we see humans frequently also rely on single pieces of information. To take one example, how often do we look to see what other people are doing in a situation where we are uncertain, and then mimic their actions? If everybody else is acting the same way, that must be the right thing to do – right? Often we don’t bother to process all the information available to us, we just rely on one piece – in this case what everybody else appears to be doing. Just because everybody else is doing X doesn’t make it right. Everybody else is walking past the man collapsed on the street, so we do the same – ignoring his moans and clear distress. Maybe everyone else knows he is drunk and it is his own fault. Why bother to process any more information than the single piece of what others are doing?

Narita

It works in reverse (what people are not doing) too. When I lived in Japan, I had a visa that permitted me to enter the country through the passport queue used by Japanese nationals. Narita Airport queues were often long, and frequently there was great disparity in the size of queues at the respective passport checks for nationals and for foreigners. After a long flight, and before a long train journey from Narita to my home in Tokyo, the last thing I needed was a long queue. Accordingly, I went to whichever queue was shorter. If that was the queue for foreigners, I passed through without incident. Almost without fail, when I went through the queue for nationals there was pandemonium and great unease and muttered conversations around me, and several people would earnestly explain to me in halting English that I was in the wrong queue. My explanation in Japanese that I was permitted to use the queue for nationals led to even more earnest urgings to use the other queue. One piece of information, my looks, was all those around me (apart from the passport inspectors) needed to govern their behaviour.

So as the world becomes ever more complex, our brains come to rely more frequently on fixed-action patterns and single pieces of information. This makes us vulnerable to unscrupulous marketers who bombard us with erroneous information, as we exhibit more of a tendency not to process all that is available.

I want to be very clear that I recognise the benefits of fixed-action patterns and using single pieces of information. Their use can make our lives easier; I am not an advocate of the brain ache caused by considering every single piece of information all the time. When making decisions, we will less frequently enjoy the sumptuousness of a fully considered analysis of all the information. Instead we will rely increasingly on a focus on one single, usually reliable feature. Where those single features are truly reliable, there is nothing inherently wrong with our shortcut approach of picking a single factor and using fixed-action patterns to arrive at an automatic response. The problem arises where something causes the normally trustworthy to lead us to errant actions and wrong-headed decisions.

The “something” in the previous sentence is often the result of unethical marketing, aimed specifically at tricking us into the rather mindless and mechanical nature of our shortcut approach. This can be as crass as marketers adding canned laughter to a TV programme (everybody laughed, so we laugh too) or making up statistics to try to convince us that their products are the “fastest selling” products (Where? For how long? At a fraction of the price you are now offering it to me?) This is why I think ethical marketing is so important, and will become ever more important as our world becomes increasing complex. Marketers can help us to cope with complexity by giving us information that is genuine and does not pervert and distort. The treachery is when the profit motive tempts them to make their profits in a way that threatens the reliability of our shortcuts. To avoid brain-ache we have to have reliable shortcuts, faithful rules of thumb that we can depend on. These are no longer luxuries for us; instead they are increasingly becoming vital cornerstones that allow us to cope with modern life. Where we see unethical marketing we should shout about it from the rooftops and shame those who use it.

Better still, we should boycott the product or service being unethically marketed, and let the marketer know why we are so doing. Maybe I am being too cynical, but when I see a retailer, who has a price-match promise, increase the price of an item by 40% I begin to think. They get 40% more at the till, and give you a coupon so you get the money back when you next shop there. “No harm, no foul”? I think not! This is unethical marketing. You may get your money back off your next shop, but they get the cash flow and the return visit. The hyper-cynic in me is just waiting for the future promotion that proclaims “Great Price Reduction, Previously Priced 40% Higher!!!” Leave the item where it is and tell the store manager why! Better still, don’t use the retailer at all and tell them why.

It’s time to fight back against unethical marketing. Ensuring we market our businesses ethically is no longer enough, because unethical marketing is compromising the vital cornerstones and faithful rules of thumb that we need to thrive in our increasingly complex world.

Improving the customer/client experience

This blog is one of a series looking at how you can drive significant improvements in your organisation at very little cost. Improving Employee Engagement has been shown to lead to step-change improvements in all of the following areas:-

  1. Income growth
  2. Productivity and performance
  3. Customer/client satisfaction
  4. Innovation
  5. Absence and well-being
  6. Staff retention
  7. Health and safety

This post will focus on what is happening in the real world in the area of Customer/client satisfaction.

happy-customers-image

  • Serco uses the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to measure customer loyalty; customers are asked to assess the likelihood that they would recommend the company to others. Those who score the question highly are classed as ‘promoters’, those who score the question poorly are classed as ‘detractors’, and those in between classed as ‘passives’. Serco worked with Aon Hewitt to look at 274 Serco client contracts and found correlation between Employee Engagement and the NPS. Those contracts serviced by employees whose engagement had improved over the year had NPS scores 24% higher than those employees whose engagement had declined.
  • AON also found in a wider study companies classified as being in a “high performance zone for engagement” had a 37% Net Promoter Score (NPS) compared to only a 10% NPS for those outside of the “high performance zone for engagement.”
  • 70% of the more engaged have a good understanding of customer needs against only 17% of the disengaged (PWC). Similarly, 67% of engaged employees were happy to advocate their organisations compared to only 3% of the disengaged.
  • 78% of the more engaged employees in the public sector felt they could impact public service delivery positively; only 29% of the disengaged felt the same way (Towers Watson 2007).
  • A CBI-AXA report from 2007 found that 70% of engaged employees indicated a good understanding of how to meet customer needs; while only 17% of non-engaged employees said the same. Another study found 85% of engaged employees reporting that they can positively affect customer service. This falls to 42% (half) amongst those who are not engaged.
  • An hotel chain study found that a 10% increase in “the extent to which employees try to satisfy customers” resulted in a 22% increase in customer spending per hotel visit.

Studies have found that companies with high employee engagement scores had twice the customer loyalty (repeat purchases, recommendations to friends) than companies with average employee engagement levels. (Are They Really ‘On the Job’?, Pont 2004) The impact that engaged employees have on customer loyalty has a multiplier effect as dissatisfied customers have a tendency to broadcast their dissatisfaction to many of their contacts whilst satisfied customers tend to tell fewer people that they are happy. The Technical Assistance Research Program (TARP) found that customers who complain to an organisation, and have their complaints satisfactorily resolved, tell an average of 5 people about their good treatment. If they receive poor treatment, they tell an average of 20 people about their poor experience.

Customer referncing

  • We know that satisfied customers buy more from us. Both Sainsburys and Dorothy Perkins found that stores with higher levels of employee engagement captured mores sales growth from more satisfied customers.
  • One way to really improve the impact that Engaged Employees can have on customer/client satisfaction (once you have got them engaged) is to improve their communications skills by investing a little in training them to be more aware of how we communicate with each other. This is particularly effective for customer-facing staff, helping them to understand how customers are communicating with them. Training enables them not only to understand this, but also enables them to also respond appropriately. This increases their customer connectedness, leading to improved customer engagement. More engaged customers buy more.

It is clear that levels of Employee Engagement can substantially increase customer/client satisfaction. Satisfied customers are more loyal and spend more. Many organisations are looking at how to reap these benefits as a way of responding to the current economic climate. Organisations can put in place sensible programmes to improve Employee Engagement that do not cost a great deal and deliver great bottom line results. Organisations win when they thoughtfully and consistently implement well-designed programmes to increase Employee Engagement.