Interviews

Beware of the bored customer: You don’t want to sound the same as rivals

6 min read

13 April 2017

It’s one of the great business truisms that although we all want to buy things, we don’t necessarily want to be sold to. We want choice, clear information about those choices, and then we want to make our own decisions.

But I’m in business to sell things. And as I say to my employees regularly, whatever department you’re in, you’re either sales, or sales support. That’s the bottom line. And a bored customer is something that we can’t afford.

As a result, the need to sell can spill into everything we send to customers, and before you know it, you sound like every other business: “Here’s our latest deal, click here to find out more.” It’s boring – and there’s nothing worse than creating a bored customer.

So recently, I’ve been working closely with my marketing team to ensure they’re injecting plenty of life and imagination into our output. 

We owe BT an apology

Good ideas normally arrive unexpectedly. In fact, blocking out time in your diary to “brainstorm” is often the least effective way of being creative. Our brains don’t work like that – they aren’t machines you can just switch off and on.

Take, for example, the fact that many people believe they’re most creative at the end of the day when they’re tired.

Scientists actually support this theory, suggesting that when we’re exhausted, the part of our brain associated with inhibition – the blocking or filtering of non-essential information from our consciousness – is less effective.

This gives more power to non-essential ideas, lateral thinking and our subconscious. 

The point is, creativity doesn’t happen by willing it to. Sometimes, ideas just sneak out. Or, as was the case with a recent email campaign we’ve been running, they land on your desk.

The trigger was a letter of complaint from our principle rival, BT. They’d seen some claims on our website that we were 44 per cent cheaper on fibre broadband, when we were in fact only 37 per cent cheaper. They politely but sternly requested that we change our website to reflect this.

At first we all laughed, and were quite happy to change the claim. But in laughing at the letter, an idea was born: why not turn this into a tongue-in-cheek campaign against our old adversary?

They’ve been trying to hold us and other competition back for 15 years, but we’re not going away.

The result was an email campaign that’s really resonated with potential customers, won an award, and gathered a fair bit of positive PR – avoiding the bored customer dilemma.

In marketing, selling is the albatross around your neck

Marketers have a responsibility like every other department in a business to deliver results. But a focus on sales can quickly become the proverbial albatross around your neck.

You carry the need to sell around with you, and it becomes a burden in your output. You see this in the emails and articles we all receive every day. Content that’s often interesting, useful or enjoyable to read is suddenly corrupted by a violent “buy now” or “call today to get this deal” – hello bored customer.

Worse still, those cumbersome CTAs are in the headers and subject lines, making sure you never read another word. The relationship between you and that business is effectively over. 

Meanwhile, conventional wisdom still suggests that six or seven vague brand impressions will ensure a potential customer remembers you. The same school of thought thinks that a low unsubscribe rate means you’re doing okay.

I think both views are wrong. You need dozens of impressions to cut through the noise, and unsubscribe rates don’t reflect the huge number of people – the bored customer brigade – that simply delete your email without opening it.

In some ways, that’s even worse than unsubscribing – at least in unsubscribing someone has actually engaged with you!

You just have to trust the power of creating good and compelling content. If a customer likes what they see, they’ll find you, and they’ll remember you. Or, at the very least, you have to make the way you sell relevant – something that fits the tone and style of the rest of your content.

Get rid of that albatross. It isn’t easy, and we’re only just beginning to get rid of it ourselves.

But you just have to keep reminding yourself that customers are no different to you – they aren’t robots, and they don’t want to be sold to.

They want to make their own decisions, so beware of the bored customer.

Image: Shutterstock

This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.