It sounds so simple, yet even the biggest companies and most experienced marketing professionals can overlook this basic point and get things terribly wrong.
A case in point is Australia Post. This week the company sent out a swathe of press kits, including to My Business and a number of its sister publications, announcing the results of a survey it carried out on the sources Aussie consumers use to formulate their purchasing decisions.
The aim was to promote multi-channel marketing campaigns – including its own catalogue and flyer distribution service – as the best approach to attracting customers.
However, its delivery gave a very different message to the journalists it targeted. The parcel contained a USB in the form of cassette tape, with the slogan “what was old is new again”, and the printed copy of the press release was dated four days earlier.
Both the use of an outdated form of technology and the late delivery of its parcels only reinforced the perceptions many SMEs and consumers have of the national postal carrier – that it is outdated, slow and inefficient compared with emerging methods of mail delivery.
This isn’t the first time I have singled out Australia Post for a perceived inability to adapt to changing technologies and consumer demands. Yet rather than a personal vendetta against a particular organisation, my point in highlighting the approaches taken by such a high-profile company is that SMEs must be alert to how their customers and prospects perceive their business and its service offering.
The fact is that in modern Australia, nine out of 10 consumers will avoid a business after a bad experience, and customer experience is increasingly important for the duration of the purchase journey, from initial product research through to delivery and post-sale care.
Messaging plays a huge role in that customer experience. Get it right and it can mean sales gold. Muffle your messaging and you’ll likely continue to plod along, steady as she goes. But get it wrong and you can spell disaster for your business – either in the short term, or through a steady downward decline.
And by messaging, I am referring to every means of communication you can have with existing and prospective customers, including:
• Your advertising and marketing
• The imagery you use
• Phone and email communications
• Social media interactions
• Your physical appearance, and that of your premises (if relevant)
• Your website
I encourage everyone in business to think about the messaging you are sending out, not from your point of view as a business owner, but from that of the customers you are trying to engage with.
Ask yourself if you would honestly do business with your company if you had no connection to it. Seek out the responses of people who aren’t your family or friends. Examine the messaging of your competitors – what works and what doesn’t?
It’s all too easy when you are heavily invested in something to overlook how it could be perceived externally. And while you may think your messaging is clear, concise and logical, the only perception that matters in business is that of the prospective customers you are reaching out to.
So always put your customers first and think about how you want them to perceive you, not about how you perceive yourself. My Business has a wealth of information on how to achieve this, so grab a cuppa and take a browse through the site to see what else you can learn about how – and how not – to reach your next customer!