I receive Seth Godin’s daily blog post. To say “I receive” his posts doesn’t do them justice. They’re always the first or second email I read in the morning. This one was especially relevant.
Here’s a simple marketing strategy for a smaller company trying to compete in a big-company world:
- Choose your customers, trust them, treat them well.
- Say yes. Bend the rules. Show up on time. Keep your promises.
- Don’t exert power merely because you can.
- Be human, be kind, pay attention, smile.
Not everyone deserves this sort of treatment, not everyone will do their part to be the kind of customer you can delight and serve. But that’s okay, you don’t need everyone. — Seth Godin
Two weeks ago, I visited five Classic Exhibits Distributors on the East Coast. Good visits, all in all. But during the visits, I heard something I hadn’t heard before. Actually, that’s not true. I’m sure I’d “heard” it before, but this was the first time, it resonated with me. During our meetings, the word “trust” (or variations of trust) was used again and again.
- “I trust Bob to respond to my quotes usually within a day or two”
- “I can count on Katina whenever I have a challenging design request.”
- “I’m never concerned about the quality of the displays from Classic. It’s reassuring not to have to preview them at our facility every time.”
Now, to be fair, not every comment was glowing. There were concerns. Those were usually along the lines of “I almost always get an immediate response from XYZ, but about two months ago, it took several emails before I heard back. That made me nervous about working with XYZ, but I haven’t had any issues since then.”
Anyone who has visited us knows we are a process-driven company, which means there are clear expectations about how quickly we respond, what you should expect, and how the final product should arrive. We try hard not to let process to dictate our communication with you, but we live in a world of process wrapped in customer service and design. So, we focus on data, response times, delivery dates, etc. That’s what I’m trained to hear during distributor visits — not fuzzy concepts like “trust.’
Yet, trust is the bottom line. We all conduct transactions based solely on price, but our business transactions, those that allow our businesses to thrive, are about mutual trust and relationships. Can I trust you to do what you say, delivery it when you promise, and ensure it arrives as designed? It’s that simple. Consider the professional relationships in your life — your doctor, dentist, general contractor, even your barber or stylist. If you made a change, was it because of price or because you no longer trusted them?
Think about the history of our industry. We can all name at least six companies that lost the trust of distributors. In many cases, their products were good, even best in class for several, but that didn’t ensure they survived.
Let’s not kid ourselves. You know trust can strengthen or undermine a relationship. In fact, you bank on it. So what advice can I offer? Don’t assume others understand or share your commitment to building trusting relationships. What goes unsaid remains unsaid. You need to hear yourself say it. Others need to hear you say it too. Trust me on this.
Agree or disagree, please share your comments and experiences.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.