Key RAS Triggers Drive Sales

Emotional RAS Triggers are Key to Sales
Key RAS Triggers Work to Make Sales

The RAS or reticular activating system in the brain alerts or arouses us. When selling something, tapping into and activating the RAS system is a key way to trigger sales.

Think back to your last car purchase…

I’ll not quickly forget mine. My 20-year-old car was starting to have reliability issues. While still okay as a backup, get-around-town vehicle, I was no longer feeling safe about road trips. 

I’d been pleased with all the years of reliable service, so decided to go for the same brand. It was safe, reliable, and made me feel good driving it. 

The salesman did all the right things.

He asked questions and listened.

“What are you looking for?”

“The same great reliability, but I’m thinking I might need something a dash bigger so it’s easier to get my Mom’s rolling walker in and out.”

“Okay, let’s start there.” He took me to the model that was the next size up.

I’m just under 5’2”. Short/petite…pick your choice. I slid behind the wheel. I felt like I was in an old sit-com I had seen on television. Carol Burnette dressed as a little girl, sitting in this monstrous chair. The car felt like it was ten feet wide and twenty feet long.

“It’s nice,” I murmured, but it’s so big.”

“All right, now let’s go see the C300.”

I remember the first adjectives that popped into my head were muscular and sexy. I’m a marketer…I know better…yet, that’s how the brain works.

I slid behind the wheel and it felt… “right.” 

The fact that it was the previous year model that had been purchased as a fleet car, but had only 34 miles on it didn’t hurt. It would be sold as a “certified used” vehicle. That meant a great warranty…just like a new car, with a lower price tag. 

Emotion first…appearance, touch, feel. Validation justified by value for investment.

Emotional triggers are tightly nested in the RAS. They serve to alert and protect us. Friend or foe. Threat or suitable mate. And they also trigger a buy response.

30 years of marketing…

Not just being a woman, but dominantly marketing to women for the past thirty years, I realized how effective RAS triggers could be.

Women expect to be treated with respect, we as marketers have to keep that first and foremost. 

Give us a great buying experience that caters to our emotional RAS triggers. Then help us validate it with the proof to back up the value.

Keep your customers Key RAS Triggers in mind

To effectively use RAS to trigger sales, you have to take into account who your customer is. Male, female, demographics, psychographics. We all have slightly different triggers. 

When selling B2C or D2C you are selling to the end-user. Their RAS triggers are different than if you were selling B2B – one business to another. 

Selling B2B you are selling to someone whose job is tied to their performance. Poor performance, making a bad choice, not only costs the business money, it could cost them their job. The sale process is uniquely different.

When dealing with the end-user, the more clearly you have her defined, the easier it will be to trigger a sale. 

Her? Yes. Studies have revealed that 85% of all consumer goods have a woman making the buy. When you consider her circle of influence, husband, kids, parents, friends and colleagues…she influences 95% of all sales.

3 Key RAS Triggers

There are numerous ways to approach the use of RAS in marketing. You can find techniques divided into eight or more categories. However, there is a fair amount of overlap. I group them into Urgency, Avarice, and Dopamine Rush.

Urgency

A sense of urgency triggers us to take action. It ties back to the fight or flight syndrome. If we see fire coming, we get out of harms’ way. If we’re in the grocery store and hear the intercom announce a five-minute sale or free-gift, we may head on over…now.

We don’t want to be left out. We don’t want to be excluded from an opportunity.

Holidays and events trigger a sense of urgency for desirable items. Christmas gifts, decorations, and food choices. Fourth of July grills, hotdogs, hamburgers and beer….and don’t forget the fireworks. Ski slopes opening. Camping season starting. Back to school deadlines.

For a product, we particularly like or want, and there are only three left…scarcity triggers our urgency button.

Urgency is often tied to time, a deadline, or physical limitation… like limited quantity. “While supplies last,” or “ends at 3 PM” both trigger a sense of urgency. 

You can also see the trigger of urgency in action on the television sales channels. The clock is ticking, the stock is limited and the phones are ringing.

Avarice

Some might call this greed, yet that is a word with a lot of negative connotations. Everyone likes to feel they got a good deal or good value for the money or time invested. That doesn’t make them greedy.

We like the feeling we get for our savings and value. Discounts, bonuses, free shipping, reward points. 

When we see holiday items on sale…that triggers two buttons both urgency and avarice. 

Keep in mind, it’s not always a discount sale. 

Rewards programs, a special gift with purchase, packaged vacation deals all offer enhanced value and trigger purchases.

Bonuses are a superpower that can dwarf discounts in sales analytics…ROI. 

A great example is those infomercials where the guy is selling a pack of knives. They focus on what the knife excels at. Only at the end to they start stacking on the bonuses. At this point the viewer can’t help themselves, they pick up the phone and call, or click the buy button.

The bonuses enhance the central product.

Bonuses make it work better, more efficiently, provide additional information and at FREE, they enhance value. The bonuses are typically a limited time offer, so we add scarcity and urgency to the mix.

Dopamine Rush

Dopamine is the “feel-good” hormone. It is released when we experience pleasure. Having sex and eating chocolate are both tied to a dopamine rush.

A sense of belonging is important to both men and women. Fitness centers, elite clubs or groups use this. So do Harley Davidson, Husqvarna, MAC and IT Cosmetics, and numerous soft-drink and beer manufacturers. Brand advocates.

The higher your ranking with an airline…the earlier you get on and off the airplane.

For men, the triggers also tie into sexual prowess, self-esteem, and manliness.

Women have the equivalent of the masculine triggers. As caregivers, they add a broader range.

Among the female triggers are benevolence, social value, empathy, and personal gratification.

Charities frequently play to remorse and benevolence to get people to chip in and help out. The viewer/reader is better off and needs to lend a hand, donate.

When your social values align with a company, you are more apt to spend with them. “Family-oriented,” “your trusted source,” both promote social similarities. Helping humanity can do the same.

When we give a gift and the recipient enthusiastically loves it, we get an emotional empathy response…we get to share their joy. So purchases that create joy give women a dopamine empathy response. They feel good and are likely to repeat the pattern. Find that perfect item and buy it quickly.

Studies have shown women get a dopamine rush every time they have a positive buying experience. It’s similar to the rush men get from an exciting sports event. 

Marketers behind the modern department store capitalized on the dopamine rush. 

They invited women to come in, not occasionally, but frequently. Decades before they could vote, women could grab their purses, visit, connect, and shop. And shop they did. It triggered a social change. They had found a place they could act independently. No one monitored their every movement.

Shopping empowered women. When you combine that with the quest for a perfect gift to trigger an empathy response, you have potent buying urges.

Key RAS triggers are powerful

When you create a buying experience that combines these three triggers the power explodes into sales. Urgency or scarcity, getting a great deal or bonus, and a positive user-focused buying experience is a great formula for successful sales. 

This is equally true in person, or online. It’s something I keep at the forefront when I work with clients.

  • In-depth knowledge of the customer.
  • A clear understanding of the product being offered.
  • Then tie it into a fabulous experience complete with urgency, and a great value

Are Sales Training Your Customers?

Have you noticed that everything is on sale right now?  Businesses are trying to recover from lost revenues. So many are focusing on slashing prices and having sales. It’s a bonus for everyone right now, but are sales training your customers?

I don’t know about you, I’ve lost count how many sales emails I get daily. 

I had a friend, let’s call her Kathy, who had a beauty salon. When things got slow, Kathy had a special.  Discounted services. I remember a conversation we had…

Sales train customers to wait for them.
Sales Training Customers Photo by Justin Lim Unsplash

The high price of sales

“I’m so excited, things are picking up, Judi. Putting that special on Facebook really worked.”

“I’m delighted for you,” I responded but something I’d heard once kept niggling at the back of my brain. I didn’t say anything as I certainly didn’t want to be a downer.

Two days later I got a call,” We’re booked a month out!  Clients are coming out of the woodwork for our specials.”

So several months later when things slowed down again, Kathy ran more specials. The books again filled and Kathy was all smiles.

I didn’t see Kathy for a while, then dropped in to visit with her at her salon. 

The phone rang and she raised a finger to pause our conversation and reached to answer it. “Hi, this is Kathy, how can I help you.?”

I leaned against the counter waiting for her to finish.  

“Specials? I’m sorry, you missed our offer last month.”

From where I was standing, I couldn’t miss the caller’s response. “Oh well.  Could you let me know when you’re having your next special?  I’ll just wait.”

My gaze flicked to Kathy’s face…it was crestfallen.  She had trained her clients to wait for sales.

I’ve seen this scenario repeated over and over by diverse businesses over the years.  

Many department stores actually initially price goods above the MSRP knowing they will have to mark them down. They skim the cream with the first sales.  Then in 5-6 weeks maximum, they start dropping the price….and it never goes back to normal.  They have to move it out before the next batch comes in.

I used to love shopping with my girlfriend at Nordstroms in San Francisco.  Our mission…to see what great new stuff had reached the markdown stage.

Think of your local furniture or mattress store… they are ALWAYS having some sort of sale.  Instead of adding value or creating a desire another way, they focus on discounting products. Sure, we know they mark them up then mark them down, but they’ve trained customers to watch for the word sale.

Are sales training your customers?

It’s important to keep in mind, our marketing techniques teach our customers what to expect from us. If we’re always having sales, they lump us in with budget discounters.  

It’s the halo effect or guilt by association. 

While it might be a win for businesses and consumers in a pandemic when most people’s funds are crunched, this can become a fixed mindset or cycle. 

Sales will become more and more dependent on the discounts you offer. They will become commonplace and expected.

With lower profits, it gets progressively harder for a business to stay viable. What you need…alternatives.

At the same time, your brand’s value is dropping in the eyes of the consumer because of the constantly discounted prices.

3 Alternative Techniques

There are actually lots more than just three techniques, but these are particularly suited to those with an online presence be it products or services.

As an alternative to a discount, they tend to lean on scarcity and urgency as motivators.

Transparent Pricing alternatives

Transparent pricing is about showing “how” you control costs so you can offer a product at significantly lower than a competitor.  You feature both the quality of your product, and the steps you take to control costs.  

For example, Everlane is an online eCommerce operation.  They have few brick and mortar stores, no traditional advertising, and offer no discounts. 

This snippet from a Google ad explains their concept well:

Timeless Pieces Made with High-Quality Materials Designed to Last for Years. Shop Modern Luxury Basics. Ethically Sourced, Radically Priced. Ethically Made. Radical Transparency. Modern Basics. Types: A-Grade Cashmere, Luxe Alpaca, Soft Cotton, Italian Merino.

A look at their website confirms they have high-end goods and very few items on sale. I would assume those that are…weren’t good sellers. 

They also incorporate a social responsibility aspect with their 100% Human line. A portion of all sales benefits the ACLU human rights efforts. 

Subscription alternatives

Dollar Shave Club is one of the best known of this type of marketing. By cutting out the middlemen, they went direct to consumer, D2C. They went with a simple basic product…a razor.  Their target market 20-30 year-olds who wanted a razor without the frills.

For their subscription, they no longer have to remember to buy razors. The products are auto-shipped on a monthly basis.

This model used in the alternative health industry extensively.  The challenge for the consumer is keeping up with their product usage so that they don’t end up with a backlog. 

It’s a fact, some people use more than others.  Options on the delivery schedule might resolve this issue and increase the customer lifetime value.

A variation on this theme are Membership programs.  Commonly, there is an annual or monthly fee automatically charged. The member then either gets automatic gift packs or can use their “credit” to select items they’d like to purchase.  Wineries and wine clubs often use this style.

Freebies and Extras

The products are sold at full price. For each purchase level, which varies from company to company, you get bonus gifts. 

I’ve seen this used with cosmetic lines like MAC and IT. Cosmetics have a broader markup, especially D2C. The company can expose buyers to products they either love or haven’t tried.

The perfume industry also uses this format to give extras with good cause.  Why?

Studies by psychologists revealed the people would rather have a 2-for-1 than getting something at 50% value.  They transfer the value of the priced item to the gift item…regardless of its true value.

A clothing company for surfers called Surfstitch also uses this model. They offer free gifts at the $100 and $200 mark.

The type of program you might want to incorporate could be one of the above or other alternatives.  All rely on value, convenience, scarcity, and or urgency instead of giant markdowns.

When I work with clients, I want to understand their goals and ideal customer. Then I can recommend one of the various strategies to build brand value and loyalty without constant sales.

Power of Questions is Often Overlooked

Questions photo by Emily Morter, Unsplash

Business problem solving depends on the power of questions. When you’re trying to develop a new product, improve your customer service, or increase sales, the questions you ask are critical.

Journalists, doctors, and investigators are trained on how to ask questions as an essential skillset. 

Others from executives down don’t think about questions as a skill they should hone. In fact, most of us either don’t ask enough questions or don’t phrase them to get optimal answers.

Without questions, we don’t offer the answers our customer is looking for.  It’s not about us…it’s about what they need.

What studies showed about the power of questions

A group from Harvard studied thousands of conversations between two people getting to know each other.  They did it for face-to-face and also via online chats.   

Some people were coached to ask at least nine questions in 15 minutes. Others were requested to ask no more than four in the same time frame.

After the online conversations, participants were queried about the interaction. Those who asked more questions were consistently better liked. Those who asked the questions scored much higher when answering questions about their partner.

In a live speed-dating scenario, people were more willing to go on a second date with a partner who asked more questions.  Even one more question raised their willingness to have a second date.  

If participants are too busy self-promoting, as can happen during an interview process, they miss the opportunity to learn about the company and the position. 

Power of questions is critical for your business

A service provider for over 25 years, the power of questions is critical to my success.  I’ve coached many clients and students on interviewing skills and nailing down the job.  

For wellness service clients, questions were an integral part of the screening process to make sure the service was correct for them.  I needed to make sure we were on the same page, and I’d be able to make them happy.

The information I needed to make decisions tied tightly to asking the right question, in the right format. 

One thing people often miss…

Just like dating, there is the best order for questions.  You don’t start with a proposal of marriage. 

Asking the right kind of questions signals your competence, builds rapport, and builds productivity in the relationship.

Four Techniques to take the lead in a question-asking dance

Like most women, I find dancing with a partner who doesn’t know the dance…or how to lead is uncomfortable, to say the least.    

To be a good dance leader try these techniques to foster trust, respect, and sharing.

You may start with an introductory question like, “how are you.”  This is generally followed by a mirror question. “I’m fine. How are you?”   

Full-switch questions change the topic. “What does customer service see as the top three client concerns?”

Keep questions open-ended

Whenever possible phrase questions so you get the information…not a yes/no answer.  Yes/no answers tend to halt the conversation.  You’re inviting a response and engaging them in the conversation.

In studies done at Harvard, too few questions left participants feeling like there was never a productive dialogue. Interaction lacked. It didn’t feel pleasant.

Too many questions created a stilted environment.  No one wants to feel interrogated.

Focus on follow-up style

I have a close colleague who when a client tells him, “I need your help with a problem.”  He always responds with a variation on these questions

  • What do you want?
  • What will having that do for you?
  • How will you know when you have it?  
  • What’s the perfect outcome?

Questions like these open doors and allow you to really gain insights into the best ways to achieve your own goals.  At the same time, the person being asked these questions tends to feel respected and heard.

Follow-up questions have the special power of soliciting additional information at the same time they build a bond

This type of question often reveals unexpected answers that can trigger innovation. It’s also the easiest and most natural type of question to ask.

Strike a balance

Keep the conversation as casual as possible. A formal tone tends to intimidate answers and you’ll get less information. 

Whether it is a phone call or a staff meeting the group dynamics will have an impact. People who close-off and don’t participate inhibit others. The opposite is also true.  When one person starts to share, the rest tend to follow suit.

Work to increase questions and decrease statements to get more information and answers.

Give people an escape hatch.  If you make it clear, “we’re brainstorming here, there are no bad answers.” People will feel freer to speak.  

Make use of a whiteboard for notes.  The beauty is how easily notes can be erased and changed. This enhances interchange, creativity, and innovation.

It’s interesting to note that in a conversation, the participants tend to like the person asking questions.  Third-party observers in the same conversation, tend to like the person who opens up and answers the questions. They view the answering person as more engaged, present, and memorable.

Get the sequence in the right order.

I’ve read some mixed answers to this one. Sometimes asking a tougher question, or more personal question can help people open up.  

The Harvard group discovered that when a more intrusive question was asked and the following questions were less intrusive, people were more willing to share.

That said…think of the first date.  There are some things that could have your date slapping your cheek or stalking away.

To relationship build, start with less sensitive questions and slowly and casually escalate. 

Avoid peppering your partner with questions.  Use the scattering technique to weave questions into a casual conversation that feels more comfortable.

Customer Need Drives Your Business

Your customer needs are the driving force behind your business and sales.  Did you know that 42% of all startups die because they work on products without a market need?  A whopping 72% of all new products don’t meet their sales targets.

Ahh, you say. I’m in CBD or supplements.  There’s a big need for my products and ideas. You’re right. However, you and I can’t make that decision for the customer.  Instead, we need to put them in the center of the discussion table and build the product to meet their needs.

You need to know your customer needs…

I just read a quick snippet by the Head of Merchandising for a Global Lifestyle brand. It was about how they plan their product and their pricing. It’s very customer-centered.

We are designing clothing for the woman who carries a Chanel bag.”

That one sentence says so much. They have honed in on a very specific client. They know exactly who this customer is, what she expects to pay for specific items, and what she is looking for. Quality and details like fabric are very important to their client.  So they focus on these. Customer needs drive sales.

It’s not just luxury brands.  It’s also fast foods. 

Think McDonalds’…the happy place. Kids are happy and have fun. Parents get a break and know the kids will eat. McDonald’s entire setup is focused customer needs. Play area, kids meals, relaxed easy atmosphere, budget pricing.

Do you know your customer that well?  Most businesses don’t.

For well over 30 years, I’ve been around a lot of skincare and cosmetic formulators. I’ve seen the good, not so good, and the “blah” in the middle.

They might springboard off something currently popular.

Most products come from an idea. There are a lot of these in the CBD, supplement, and beauty sectors.   When done this way, it’s easy to miss the mark.  It isn’t customer-focused.

You need to start with the customer’s needs.  That merchandiser gets this.

Something to keep in mind

One mistake I have seen repeated repeatedly…one size/product for all.  One size never fits anyone well.  If you try to make your product so generic it works for “everyone,” it plants a little seed of doubt. It never works equally well for different customer needs.

Quick example: a wonder product that works to take years off your face in only weeks and it will clear your young adult acne too.  If it feels great on dry mature skin, it’s going to feel too oily on young problem-prone skin. If it works great on oily skin, it will feel like a mask on dry skin.

You build a product based on skin type, oil levels, risk factors, and skin needs. Acne skins need to be water-based and require non-comedogenic ingredients to do its job.

However, if you have a maturing skin showing signs of aging, 85-90% are going to need some oils to repair the skin barrier if you hope to have any look/feel of improvement.  You need different formulas for optimum results.

A product designed to work for everyone…is probably little.

3 Techniques to Improve your Product/Customer Connection

Maybe you don’t have the luxury at this point to design a product focused on a specific customer need. I get that. You already have your products brought to the market. So start with where you are.

First, consider your product…

To give your product the best chance for success, pause a moment, and recall what triggered its creation?  How did that influence its ingredient choices? What are its specific attributes and benefits?

Don’t think features.  A feature is what something “is.”  Focus on benefits. Consumers want to know what it will do for them or how it will improve their life.

If you’ve had the product on the market a while, do a market analysis. How well do your buyers match with the group who is going to see the most benefits with the product?

What do their reviews say?  Returns?  Unsubscribes?

Once you can gather this data, analyze it. Look for ways to tweak your marketing and content.  Let your best prospect know you have their best solution.

What if you find a disconnect?

Once in a while, even an experienced company that thinks they know their customer well can have an challenge.  Last year a firm that I’ve worked with for 25 years came out with a new product.  They are a global leader in hair removal wax products with literally dozens of choices.

They came out with a lovely product designed to focus on a new marketing niche…those people getting tattoos.  When a tattoo is to be applied, all the hair in the area is removed before work is started.

When they brought it out, I wondered how well a light powdery scented pink wax was going to go over. Women might like it, but pink could be a hard sell in a tattoo environment.

In less than a year, I learned that product had been rebranded and they were coming out with a new pre-tattoo wax product. When I saw the new packaging…complete with a skull and roses…with a dark charcoal bead, I had to smile.  It looked more like wax for a tattoo.

The company responded quickly to the disconnect and repositioned both waxes to meet different specific needs. Both are popular with their target niche. The formulas? Very similar.

If you find a disconnect. Listen, learn, and respond/regroup as quickly as you can.

Include your target customer in the discussion

One of the best ways to prevent a product disconnect problem is to have a marketing team that includes a target customer.

A staff member might fit the target profile.  Or they may share the same problem. 

A marketing team having both men and women has also shown to get better outcomes.

An alternative option might be to solicit a superfan and interview them to gain ideas. Learn about them and you learn how to engage with more just like that person.

Build and share his/her success story. It’s one of the strongest ways to replicate your ideal customer.

When I work with clients

They may be focused on a marketing number. However, if we don’t make sure the right product is matched to the right client we won’t get the desired results.

“I just need to get this live,” may feel like what you need to do. I’ve found if you don’t get the right message to the right person, you may have a pretty web page that won’t accomplish much for you. We look at their goals and try to make both short and long term plans to help them achieve them…even if they have to do them in increments.

Marketing Team for Growing Your Business

Marketing + customer service are your secret weapon for growth
Marketing + Customer service + client input

You have a secret marketing team at your disposal to effectively grow your alternative health, wellness, or CBD business and it’s probably closer than you realize. It’s your customer support team and your customers themselves in addition to your marketing team. They need to be closely working with marketing.

A colleague and I were talking about this recently. He’s been a copywriter for over 15 years. One of his clients suddenly had a huge drop in his business. In less than six months their revenues had dropped over 40%. 

Desperate, he called my friend, Joshua, and asked him to come to help them sort it out and he would make the arrangements for Joshua’s travel.

Joshua flew to their headquarters for the staff meeting. He needed to talk to all the key people to see what had changed.

When he arrived to the meeting, the head of the marketing department wasn’t there. Joshua stopped and told them he couldn’t progress without everyone there. The owner made a call and an hour later the department head arrived.

Like I do, after listening carefully, Joshua started asking questions. He started digging. The products hadn’t changed. Pricing hadn’t changed appreciably. Orders, shipping, and delivery were all handled the same.

He asked to see the copy they had been sending out to customers over the past few months. 

The owner liked the new messages. He found it hard to believe that the changes they had made could cause such a dramatic change in sales. 

Could a marketing change really do that?

Instead of trying to convince him, Joshua asked who had written the copy. Turning to her, he said, “Please write the next piece that’s to go out. Do it just the way you have been…no changes. Okay?”

Slightly bewildered she agreed. Then he turned to the owner and said, “I’ll also write copy for the same content. I want you to A/B test them and we’ll see what your buyers say. Agreed?”

The owner agreed and they sent the test emails out.  The copy my friend wrote outperformed their staff writer’s copy 20:1.  Why?  He wrote directly to their target market and their mindset. He didn’t try to change them from who they were.

Management had lost connection with their buyer’s wants, needs, and mindset.

We can’t afford client marketing disconnects in the midst of this crisis.

Have you noticed it’s harder to get answers to questions right now?  I have. In my client work I’ve noticed they are slower to get back to me. 

Businesses that I deal with are slower to get back to me. Some are even completely ignoring their customer’s requests for support or have reasonable ways to be reached.  

It’s a recipe for decline, loss of sales, and a decrease in customer retention.

The answers are at your fingertips or the other end of your cell phone.  Your best secret weapon is your customer support staff and existing clients.  

Your customer support team is your “first-responders”.  Just like medics and firefighters, there are the first ones your customers interact with. They hear the stories. They know what’s working and where the problems are.

In my client work, I have found there is often a big disconnect between management and customer service. Management may assume they have it all delegated. 

Numerous studies and surveys verify this.  About 75% of management thinks they have great customer service.  Only about 25% of customers agree. 

Management may assume that they are on target. It’s easy to not accurately connect marketing strategies, investments, and focus with what the customer service team is experiencing.

Here are three techniques to lessen this disconnect and empower your business to move forward.

Talk to your real marketing team…

Have a conference with your customer service team with your marketing team listening in. Start by listening to what they are experiencing.  What’s going right? What are the concerns they hear the most often? Where, if any are the breakdowns?

Is there a product that has developed an issue? 

Is there a need that could be better met with a little tweaking?

What about a concern or information that if provided on the website could reduce interaction friction?  You want to minimize purchasing friction every step of the way. What would make the buying process easier?

Review how customer service interacts with clients or queries. 

Phone? Email? Chat? What is the typical response time?

What is the scope of your sales? Local, regional, national or beyond? 

What hours is customer support offered and are they reasonable for people beyond your time zone? 

If you’re an east coast firm doing business with not just continental USA, but also Alaska and Hawaii – you have a six-hour time difference to consider.  Even just in the continental US, it may be 5 PM  on the east coast…but it’s only 2 PM on the west coast.  This can cause a lot of customer service friction.  

Right now…and for the foreseeable future, consider shifting most, if not all customer service to remote work. If you don’t have it, consider how to create a way for that team to be able to offer support.

Also, is there a way you could have longer hours through a remote worker?  Either an opposite coast liaison or someone who would be willing to handle an early or late shift…depending on your location.

Create better customer relations by letting them know when they can expect to hear back from you.  Supply chain users are learning they have to be more flexible and things are taking longer. Retail consumers are less content to wait.

One of my clients is a distributor and while their sales have been suffering greatly, now they are getting lots of requests for “I need it right now.”  

Set expectations by having clear guidance on how you are working and fulfilling orders.

Even if you get it out the same day…we both know deliveries are not predictable. Not even express or other very expensive delivery services. 

What are your customers saying?

You might want to read some of the customer emails or chat threads to get a better sense of how your customer is feeling about your company and your product.

Visit your social media pages and check out the conversations there. Do you need to ramp up support there?

Are you getting reviews on your website or social media?  What do they say?  What can be done to improve them? 

Customer problems are opportunities for increasing sales…if you listen and act on them. 

With over 30 years in business, I know we can’t make every person happy. However, often, there is an easy fix. Product or product packaging tweaking. Digital content tweaking or additions. Better customer experience opportunities.

Get feedback and share it with customer service and marketing

If you don’t have an automatic feedback system following a sale, consider incorporating one. 

Every time I pick up groceries… I get a how did we do email.  Businesses that use square automatically followup with a little smiley face or frown option on my phone…again, feedback on how they did.

Customer surveys are a goldmine.  Offer a bonus for taking a few moments and giving you some feedback.  Keep it short and simple.  I hate my grocery store feedback because it asks way too much demographic information that is identical every time.  

Be respectful of their time.  Think of how You would feel being asked these questions.  

It’s better to have just a few quick questions and then a space for comments.  It empowers and respects them at the same time.

If you get a comment that brings an issue to your attention, have a script for staff to use as a response. Thank them and let them know this will be looked into.

When I work with clients, these are techniques I share. I recommend the findings and suggested modifications/changes be shared with all levels. Management needs the information, Customer Service wants the suggestions and Marketing needs to keep the customer in the loop of changing you are making.   

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Your Business Must Communicate Key Info

Communicate Safety photo by Walter Otto on Unsplash

What and how we communicate is key. Right now the number one thing your business needs to be sharing is how you are handling business in and around the coronavirus.  

Unfortunately, many businesses aren’t saying a word.

Covid-19 is the elephant in the room. It’s not something that can be ignored.

Not only do your customers want your product or service, but they also want to know how you are making sure it’s safe. They want to know how to reach you and what the availability is.

Whether you offer CBD products or offer services, your customers want to know that it’s safe to receive and use. Think of the news. Many food processing plants closed down due to employee Covid-19 infections.  

An immediate wave of questions went out following the announcements on the evening news.

People wanted to know whether the food from those plants is safe to consume.

The focus of news reports seemed to be more on employee health issues and the impact of the closure on food supply rather than product safety. I think the general answer was virus couldn’t withstand cooking temperatures. With proper food handling and handwashing, any microbes would be destroyed.

Yet, this brings up a valid point…

Communicate Safety

People are going to be much more germaphobic. It won’t go away anytime soon. Concerns for safety will affect many aspects of our society for not weeks or months, but years. Every business from manufacturing, to offices, to restaurants and hair salons, is having to make changes.

For businesses to survive and have continued success, sharing safety measures is crucial.

It is part of integrity, transparency, and most importantly, trust.

Keep in mind, if you ignore the coronavirus elephant, you invite it to step on you.

Many major retailers are completely sold out of all CBD products. Kroger has completely removed its displays. A disconnect is happening.

If you have products available, but the supply chain has collapsed, it may be time to take it to the consumer. 

3 strategies to communicate your business is safe.

First, create a list of all the ways you are making your business safe. 

Consider the manufacturing process. List measures taken for staff and product safety. Follow your product from sourcing to final packaging and storage. Then from storage to delivery. 

B2B pathways will be a little different than B2C or D2C. You lose control when delivering to the retailer or distributor.  However, you want to pass your safety information along to the person purchasing from you so they can provide assurance to the end-user.  

Many manufacturers aren’t doing this and it creates unease in the public arena. Especially when an outbreak in a manufacturing plant makes the six-o’clock news.

For businesses that sell to the end-user, consumers, follow the product through the shipping process.

Next, create your communications.

Communicate on your website

Create a blog or article about your process and all of the factors you employ to assure safety. Make it detailed enough to build trust.

If you have changes in business hours or response time to questions, include them. Have you had changes in order processing? What about handling times?  

Remind them that shipments are routinely taking longer. 

People are slowly becoming accustomed to not getting next day deliveries. Not even Amazon can assure that.

Has your state and or the federal government instituted new or additional guidelines that you must now follow? Let people know what they are and how you are following them.

People also like to know how you are protecting staff. They associate protected staff to protection for themselves.  

Include images that support and demonstrate safety features.

Once you have this component created, the next two strategies will be easy.

Share information via email message for your client list

Email is one of the best ways to stay engaged with clients. They want to hear more from you than that you’re having a sale. It’s your most reliable communication system. Especially right now when businesses have a lot of remote workers.

If they have to post questions on your website to get answers, you are probably leaving money on the table. If your guest leaves with their question unanswered, they may never see it.  I recently posted a question for a product I purchased, but they weren’t online. By the time I found the response, I had given up on the product. They lost repeat orders. 

Consider an automatic message on your chat. Suggest your email link for questions when chat is not available. Then they will get your answer to their inbox and you stay foremost in their mind.

Use content from your article to craft an email specifically to your client list(s). Let them know what you have set in place to assure the highest quality product and its safety.

Even though the information is on your website,  your client might not have visited since you posted it there. So you need to include most of the information from your article in the email. Build that trust! 

Consider perhaps previous clients haven’t been back to your website and seen business changes you have made.  Perhaps you are now offering more direct to consumer offers, like online shopping or product subscriptions so they never run out. 

With the supply chain issues, it’s a smart option.

Use short posts or memes on social media to communicate key messages

Take the article and from it extract the key takeaways you want people to remember. I can usually generate 5-8 easily. Convert each into a short post or meme. 

Short posts can contain links to product or landing pages. Be sure to include appropriate hashtags specific to the social media channel. 

Memes are even shorter. Think a phrase, idea, or something you’d quote. There are numerous software programs available to make the job easier. They should be eyecatching and memorable.

The tricky part of social media is delivering your post to your prospect. The challenge is the way the channels function. That’s why, for my clients, I like to set memes to repeat multiple times. The best time and day will depend on your business. 

To maximize your results check out industry stats for your niche.

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