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Let’s Dance

New client meeting tonight in Bear, and it is a dance of peacocks, preening, spitting and strutting their accomplishments. Each person trying to one-up the other and demonstrate their knowledge of the best way to promote the business in question.

Enter the owner, who has spent months or years in the trenches.

Enter the marketer, who knows that the only reason that he’s there is because the owner is desperate and out of ideas.

I usually let them talk themselves out and only occasionally poke holes in their logic. Then I go into my schpiel. I talk about their current situation and what I see that can be changed. I talk to them about what other companies are doing. I talk about other projects that have worked. And then I sit back, watch and listen.

As a marketer, one becomes a priest or therapist of sorts for the small business owner. I found myself as much a student of human behavior and body language as I am a marketing guru. Listening and responding appropriately got him to trust me and really let his frustrations out. If you listen closely, you can get a lot of information from the potential client that will be helpful when you are preparing your proposal.

The client was more than an hour late to the meeting. That told me that he is harried and needs something taken off his plate. I offered to be a solution to his time problem. I offered that we divide the labor: He defines and defends his brand, I become person who makes the world see him as he wants to be seen. BTW, no one ever went broke cutting a business owner a little slack.

The client didn’t face me for most of the meeting. Maybe his back was bothering him? More likely, he is uncomfortable that his marketing efforts to this point have failed and my presence represented that reality. I don’t know any entrepreneur that is comfortable with the concept of failure, especially after he has built so much. I didn’t take it personally. My response was to remind him that he has the right goals, but hasn’t found the right path to them. When you absolve them of that responsibility, they open up, as he did.

The client was angry that customers/the target market/prospective clients didn’t behave the way that he believed that they should have. That’s a tough one. Again, I reminded him that I was there because those people let him down with their “I’ll call you tomorrow” lies. We’ve all done it. Some people really believe us! I encouraged him to manage his expectations and that a deal is only a deal when the check clears. I have learned that the hard way. I comforted him with the prospect of a multi-channel campaign that didn’t put all of his eggs in one basket.

The client wanted to make me a “partner”. This tells me that he is averse to risk or he is broke. And as we all know, marketing involves some form of risk and there are no guarantees for results and broke clients are bad clients. As the head of a service provider, I can make those calls that save the contract and delay gratification. If you are a small firm like M19 MEDIA, then work with them. I told my prospective client that we would charge outright for the website redesign, but that we would work on a percentage basis on the social medial channel. He felt better, and we get the bulk of the project paid for in cash.

He thought that a 1.3% conversion rate from an email blast was bad. What?!? He sent out an email to 900 people and 12 walked in the door. That is awesome for a brick and mortar business. Many small business owners don’t realize that their target market isn’t sitting at their desks waiting to pounce on their next awesome offer. Chances are, they are getting 20 of those awesome offers per day. The fact that 1.3% of those recipients opened, read, and acted on his email is pretty damned good. I educated him of that fact.
He felt better.

As a small business that works with other small businesses, remember why who you got into your vertical in the first place. It’s because you love what you do! Well, your clients and prospective clients do too. You have to acknowledge that their business is the culmination of a dream and a LOT of hard work.

Don’t go in overly critical. Mention lost opportunities, not screw-ups. Talk about possibilities instead of tasks. Romanticize the project. Make it the part of their dream that they left out. Under no circumstances use your knowledge as a weapon or tell them that their site is crap because chances are that they had a heavy hand in its construction. When you get technical, remember to circle back to what it will do for their bottom line. Mention how closely their brand is tied to them as individuals. They’ll get that since they have truly poured their heart and soul into their business.

NO small business owner ever changes their website as much as they say that they will. Consider that before your blow their budget with an expensive CMS.

M19 MEDIA may not get this contract, but the client certainly knew that I got what he was saying and empathized with his frustration. Perhaps that is what will get him to sign on the dotted line…he felt understood for once. He’ll remember that when I am telling him that his assumptions are wrong…it’ll come from love and understanding.

Do-si-do your partner….and Promenade.