December 10, 2012

Let your customers in on your secret sauce

People will buy your stuff if they buy into you, so use transparency to your advantage

Target audience: Businesses, brands, marketing professionals, SEO specialists, agencies, general public.

Chris AbrahamFolks care more about how you made something than what you made. Well, not really. If what you made isn’t good, they won’t be interested in you at all. However, if you have a modicum of success, then folks will want to know as much about your culture, gear, tools, vision, operating principals, habits, and process as possible.

So, if you’re in business, you need to learn to make your organization as attractive as possible.

Let people know about your business’s personality, your narrative, why you matter, who you are in the community and your backstory

How, you ask? Well, the best way is to let them in on your process — your magic — and what makes your products and services special. And by special, I don’t mean the best price, the best quality, or the best service — though those are always top-winners — but also your personality, your unique narrative, the story of your existence, why you matter, what you’ve gone through, who you are in the community, or who you used to be.

I tell clients they need to give till it hurts when it comes to blogger outreach and online engagement. You need to offer the gift people want and not the gift you’re ready to give. You need to do the same thing when it comes to developing a cult of personality online.

All things being equal, people will buy your stuff if they buy into you. While word of mouth, referrals, and ratings are valuable, what do people see when they arrive at your site? Are you too corporate? Is your company a black box? How generous are you when it comes to the value-for-value?

Be transparent with your process and showcase your mastery

Back in the day, the very first company I knew about that did an amazing job of sharing the kitchen sink online — everything, to a painful level — was a Savile Row tailor by the name of Thomas Mahon who has had an amazing blog about the ins and out of making bespoke, handmade suits called English Cut.

It’s incredible how much of the shop he gave away: chalking, cutting, sewing, measuring, fabric selection, cut, fit, and finish. Honestly, he taught you everything about bespoke suit-making except actually teaching you how to make a suit.

We’re all so afraid of giving people a portal into what we’re doing with the mislaid assumption that everyone can, or even wants to, do the stuff you’ve already achieved mastery in. So, why keep the process so close to your vest?

In a post-recession America, more and more people are interested in investing their hard-earned dollars into people, into personal production, into innovation, and into a generous attitude. They want to have the utmost certainty that their money is going to the right folks: honorable men and women who have both the mad skills, the generosity of spirit, the responsiveness of service, and the transparency required to do long-term business with — to build a trusted relationship.

I used to be a professional photographer. I started off as a commercial shooter but ended up shooting for Corbis and Pacific Stock. Since real, professional, photographers are so rare, I was always being asked to speak. Nobody wants to be a photographer more than a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, or an accountant.

While I was always being invited to share my images in a slideshow, you know what? People suffered through my photography in order to ask me the questions they were more interested in: what equipment, film, f-stop, aperture, and ASA I used.

“What lens do you use?” folks would ask, or “Are you Nikon or Canon?,” or “Do you run Fuji 100 or Kodachrome?” Inspiration, the Muses, or innate talent don’t matter. What really matters is the quality of the glass in a lens, the depth of field or the point of focus, or the hours and quality of light during which one makes images.

It doesn’t really matter whether I felt severely insulted that all these amateur photogs fancied all of my “shooting for the best stock shop on the planet” success to be reducible to the camera bodies I chose (Nikon F4s and N90s), the lenses I picked (Nikkors: 20-35mm 2.8; 35-70mm 2.8; and 80-200mm 2.8), the bag I used (back Domke F-2), the film I favored (Fuji 100, Kodachrome 64, and Velvia 50 slide film — this was a long time ago), or the time I shot (the first and last hour of sunlight during the day).

Give away the shop to build trust and respect online

People are hungry, curious, and looking for a leader or confidant. Becoming a guru to folks online requires becoming a subject-matter expert. And if everyone online recognizes you as an expert, if folks incessantly share your good advice to their friends and followers, and if you’re willing to give away the shop to build trust and respect online, you’ll be able to not only sate the curiosity of the skeptical but you’ll also make sales, especially in an environment that lacks innate trust and respect (like SEO, social media marketing and digital PR — yeah, what we do).

So why don’t you take some time to realize and recognize a couple of truths: Folks want to know more about you, folks really want to like you, folks would love it if you engaged with them, folks really want to know how and why you’re successful, and folks really want to know that if they give you money you’ll be able to give them something back of equal or greater value.

What will you do right now, after reading this article, to better connect and engage with your natural allies and future customers? How will you earn their respect and build their trust? How will you woo them and impress them with your amazing abilities to cut wool and tool leather in such a way that they’ll want to be your customer for life?

OK, now do it. I dare you.
Chris Abraham is a partner in Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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