If you’ve ever asked your child to “tidy your room, please” or, “go walk the dog, please”, you know only too well that it’s entirely possible, and even quite common, to speak clearly, politely and with intention and yet elicit ZERO response from your intended audience. 

Oh, the frustrations of talking to the proverbial wall! It’s enough to make even the most patient of people give up and shut up (and in extreme circumstances, just go take the dog for a walk yourself). But is that really the best solution when what you really want is to drive appropriate action from your audience?

In the realm of parenting, this much-lamented topic was the impetus for Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s parenting bible, that 1980’s classic “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.”  If you take the time to dip into this fount of parenting wisdom, you’ll find lots of tips on how to get those delightful darlings to listen to you.  Things like showing empathy, listening properly, offering praise and encouraging autonomy all come up. If parenting is your major preoccupation right now, stop reading this and go out and buy the book. You are excused…

For those still reading, I’m going to address an entirely different kind of “talking to the wall” – the kind that happens when you are trying to build an audience and drive leads and engagement for your business with little success. When you are talking to your ideal target audience until you are blue in the face and it seems as if no one is actually listening. Does this sound at all familiar? 

Your business is viable. It’s up and running and you are out there telling people about it: 

✔ Updating your blog at least once a week 

✔ Writing and publishing articles in relevant online publications 

✔ Posting on LinkedIn daily 

✔ Posting on Facebook several times a week   

✔ Engaging with prospects on all social media channels 

✔ Dabbling in FB advertising 

You’re talking and talking and all you hear back is .. crickets!  You feel as if you are doing everything you should be… yet, nothing (or close to nothing). It’s even worse than asking your teenager to take out the trash!

Where are all those followers? All that engagement? All those leads? What do you do when all your efforts fall on deaf ears?

The other day, I happened to pick up an old volume from my shelf (2012 old) it was Jay Baer’s “Youtility”. I was bowled over by his simple yet bold statement: 

“Sell more by selling less!”

The point Jay makes is that selling, selling and only selling is icky. People do NOT want to be sold to all day long. Or, as Kay puts it, “by bombarding people with unwanted messages, companies lose the trust that’s vital for building audiences.” Yes!! We all know how that feels. 

A while back, I was innocently googling some potential destinations for our summer vacation. Italy seemed like a likely candidate and I was doing some reading around.  Within minutes, my entire Facebook feed was filled with package deals to Italy and cut-price Roman hotels. Did I ask for this intrusion? Certainly not. Was it welcome? Not really. I was looking for information. I hadn’t yet decided where I wanted to go. I wasn’t ready to be sold to… YET … although I may have been further down the line… 

Consider this other scenario. I’m researching holidays, again. I happen upon Trip Advisor’s website. I read a lot of interesting content plus reviews from real people about different hotels and day trips. I start piecing together a potential itinerary in my mind. I’m excited. We are going to go to Italy this summer – woo hoo! Based on the information I’m reading, I definitely want to visit Florence. A certain hotel has got 5-star recommendations from more than 250 people. I click on the link. NOW I’m ready to buy!

Next time, I’m looking into my next holiday destination, I’ll go straight to Trip Advisor. I won’t even bother searching anywhere else. Why? Because Trip Advisor was the most helpful to me. They were useful. They provided tons of relevant data.  They answered all my questions. And when I was eventually ready to buy, I was able to do that through them too. Even if I don’t want to book anything next time and I’m only just browsing, I’ll still go to them simply because they left me with a lasting impression that they are useful without being in your face salesy.  That this is the place to visit for the kind of information I want. I don’t unsubscribe from their email list. I keep them in my social media feed. Big win for Trip Advisor because we all know that keeping the listening channel open makes it more likely that I will buy from them again at some point.

There are certain clothing stores I no longer visit because the minute I walk in the door the salesperson is ready to pounce, thrusting merchandise in my direction before even saying hello. I now frequent only those stores where the salespeople seem to me to be genuine and helpful. They ask me what I’m looking for and they try to help me find it. I get the feeling they care about me even more than they care about the sell (it doesn’t matter if this isn’t actually true because it’s the way they make me feel that determines whether I’ll come back again.) When I leave with nothing in my bag they are still friendly and polite. They wish me luck and hope to see me again. They understand that customer relationships are for the long haul, not for the thrill of the immediate sell.

If you want to talk and have your customers listen to you, that’s how you have to be too. That there is the big lesson. The best way to talk to your customers is by being helpful. People like helpful people!

In practice, this means thinking about what your customers might need and giving it to them in a useable format that actually helps them.

Let’s say you are a software developer with a project management solution for small businesses. This is how you could approach talking to your customers and potential customers: 

  • Give your audience useful tips on how to manage their time
  • Suggest websites and books they can go to to get more useful information 
  • Serve up the information you offer in bite-size, readily understandable chunks
  • Don’t bore your audience with too much industry jargon and overly complicated data 
  • Offer a simple Q and A on your website 
  • Hover on forums and engage with people like your customers to help you work out what problems they may have
  • Offer them information that addresses these problems

In short, offer your customers as much useful information as you possibly can.  On a golden platter. With ribbons on. I promise you’ll have far fewer problems getting people to listen to you then. Put more effort and energy into being helpful than you do into selling and see what magic starts to happen. 

Ok, so now you want to know how to do that?

Don’t worry, I’m going to tell you but you have to wait for my next article where I will teach you how to do value-added content marketing. It’s by far one of the most effective ways to make your customers feel as if you are putting them first and that you are actually helping them and not just helping yourself (which you will be!).

Part two, coming soon…..