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Business Owners…Try Making It A Conversation

People want to do business with people – not businesses.

conversation.jpgA few business owners seem to get this. But don’t seem to get it, though. It makes me wonder how business owners see themselves relating to their target audience.

Perhaps that’s the first mistake…target audience. What image do you create when you hear the term target audience? For me, I’m looking off the deck of a boat at an expansive sea whose swells ebb and flow. What I don’t see are the individual drops of water that make up the sea. In other words, I don’t see the individual people in the term target audience. I can’t imagine I’m alone.

Most marketing copy I read today does one of two things: It either tells me all about what ‘you can do for me;’ or it tries to make me identify the problems I face. Both work to some degree. The former by being straight forward in what we offer. The latter perhaps more so by getting me to feel that you understand me and my problems and, thus, can help me solve them. Yet I think they both miss the boat.

Why? Well, neither are really about having a conversation. When you just tell me about your business, there’s no room for me because it’s all about you. And when you make it about me and the problems I face, it’s still from your perspective. You’re not there, in it, with me. And if you were once where I am, it’s difficult to recapture the difficulties I face when you’re no longer in them.

I think that’s what Colleen Wainwright, the Communicatrix (gosh, I can’t help by love that name), was getting too when she wrote this comment on a recent blog post of mine around having the conversation with your niche.

Most of the time, people are thinking about what they want to say, rather than the people they're going to say it to. You can't possibly have a conversation with your customers (or anyone else, for that matter) over the sound of the projector running, if you catch my drift.

And that seems to be the crux of most marketing content I see today. Not all, but most. Business owners seem to spend more time being concerned about what they want to get across to people than they do considering what people want to hear. Yet giving them what they want and need is the key to being successful.

So how do you do that? Make it a conversation. Instead of being so concerned with getting all the right content so gingerly placed so perfectly on the page, engage in a conversation. When you write copy, think about it like you’re sitting down with someone referred to you from a friend. First, listen to them. Figure out what they need. Then speak (or write). But do so as you would in a verbal conversation by adding to it, not trying to turn it into something you want.

You may be the expert on your topic and the referral may be coming to you. But they want to feel honored, cared for and listened too. They want their opinions to matter. And they want to know that what they know has value and merit.

Just remember, your target audience is made up of individuals. Engage them as such and you’ll be doing business with people instead of a trying to reach a marketing buzzword.

What do you do to engage individuals in your business? How does your blog serve the conversation and how has it helped build relationships?

P.S. …I just found out that today is Colleen’s Birthday. Stop by and shoot her a b-day wish.

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  1. Susan Payton says:

    I think one of the things my marketing company has going for it is that we listen. We realize that, as you say, businesses are people. Businesses are people who get up in the morning, have kids, and who enjoy life.

    It’s not so hard to listen, and to ask questions. That’s what makes a conversation. I try not to tell potential clients what they need, without really hearing what they are telling me.

  2. 🙂 Amen to that. The first rule of selling is to remember that people buy because there’s something in it for them. You can’t possibly find that out without listening.

  3. Something I have done is gotten other “experts” in the field of parenting on board with my blog as regular posters. This allows for a wide variety of topics from people who really know what they are talking about. They are open to questions and discussions so readers can feel comfortable asking questions.

  4. Just noticing something. There used to be a day where you would walk into a store and talk to the actual owner of the store and they would have a real conversation with you. They might remember you as a customer. They might have actual employees that had worked there for many years, not just teenagers who could care less about the work. The store might have an actual help line where you talk to a knowledgeable employee and not some computer or help desk outsourced to another country.

    My point is – is perhaps this push for “conversational marketing” really a symptom for how impersonal and out of touch most companies have become to the average consumer? Why so much effort into something that used to be a given for good customer service?

  5. I think Webomatica has a point.

    I also think there are still (thank gawd) stores like this; for some reason, people started *wanting* things to be automated, cheaper, impersonal. Of us walling ourselves off from our neighbors on our own plot of green in the suburbs rather than bumping up against them in cities.

    It’s funny–people always crab about how surly New Yorkers are. In my experience, they are friendlier–for reals friendlier–than their counterparts in suburban-esque L.A., which is friendly on the surface and almost absent beneath that. I’m speaking in generalities, but also from the vantage point of having lived in 3 major cities (NYC, Chi and L.A.) for all but a handful of my 46 years.

    And thanks, btw, for the birthday shoutout! This has been a tremendous day of joy, getting all these good wishes from my internet pals!

  6. businesses or brands come with a personality too. they should talk and understand people of their target audience. a branding is said to have failed when the message it sends to it’s intended target audience do not get to them or does not connect to them somehow.

  7. Nomad Snickle says:

    Small businesses which become bigger listen to their customers individually. As a business grows, it increases its customer base so that it becomes more difficult to have discourse with each and every customer. Some customers wish to feel “important” enough to have the ear of management whether or not they have meaningful input. Others fail to understand that businesses build upon the needs of a variety of customers.
    It’s easy for the customer to misunderstand what business managers face if they haven’t walked in their shoes.
    Of course, it’s also easy for the manager to grow out of touch with all customers, and many businesses (large and small) fail because of this and little else.
    We all need to try to understand the view from the other person’s eyes, and we all need to practice humility and forgiveness.

  8. a good conversation is always the key to business especially big ones. That’s why there is the wine and dine method and playing golf or tennis to better improve relationship with the clients.

  9. Nomad,
    Without a doubt. I think that when businesses loose touch with their customers they’re only setting themselves up for failure. We have to serve the people who love what we do.

    True. But how can small businesses use methods like these to strengthen relationships with clients/customers?

  10. Louis Bartlett says:

    An entire category of marketing stems from a sense of community. And what is community? It’s a discourse or common conversation that engages like-minded individuals in the act of communication. One of the major flaws in common marketing techniques is the dichotomy of push and pull marketing: whereby both attempt either to attract or install the purchasing process, but neither actually posits the notion of engaging a conversation between the consumer and the company. The ultimate – and most successful marketing technique – would actually marry message and dialog so as to engage the client, not just attract or persuade the customer. In the end, conversation leads to rapport which leads to trust and a mutually beneficial transaction, or one would hope.

  11. Dawud… awesome post. The concept is timeless… we have to look at our customers both individually and collectively. If we can’t balance the two, we’re screwed. Since each customer is unique, we need to celebrate that. However, being able to see the connections and patterns among customers is what keeps us in business.

    As always, you’re a genius.

  12. You need to have a great personality to make a good business from start, all that you need to remember is that your client is the most important part of your business

  13. Louis,
    Sounds like we’re cut from a similar cloth. I truly believe that the relationship is the key to long-term success. I focus on small business, specifically service-oriented businesses. For my clients, it’s imperative that they establish, build and nurture mutually beneficial relationships. It’s the one advantage I feel small business has over larger businesses.

    Exactly! You simply won’t be in business long if you can’t meet and communicate to your target audience.

    It is the connections that keep us in business. Each business owner, I believe, needs to find the commonality between their clients. Find the strings of likeness and you can understand where your business is succeeding and failing.

    Great point. Take care of those who take care of you – that’s what I say. And customers and clients are taking care of me…they make my lifestyle possible, they pay my bills, they meet the material needs of my family, etc. I never loose sight of this, which is why I do my best to take care of their needs as well.

  14. Money Merge Account says:

    That’s true. I’ve had several people contact me from my mortgage blog (I’m in the mortgage industry) about how they’ve enjoyed the way I write is such a conversational tone and thought they’d see what I could do for them. That’s all it takes. Then if you can follow that up with a good business model and customer service that leaves clients amazed, you just earned yourself a client for life.

  15. Money,
    That’s basically how I’ve built a successful business.

  16. Dawud, I’ve been amazed at how the comments on my blog are increasing apparently because I’ve shamelessly copied your style of asking a question and linking to the comments box… here I was thinking all these individual understood how the comments worked just because I did. That link is working magic and I’ve got some conversations going.

    Thank you!

    Anne Wayman

  17. Anne and Dawud,
    How do you link directly to the comment box? When I do that on my WordPress blog it opens up the post with the comment box at the bottom, but it doesn’t do the cool thing that Dawud does here. I hadn’t thought about it before, but that is one of the ways that Dawud makes this site so friendly. Thanks for pointing it out, Anne.

  18. The word target is harsh, isn’t it. Maybe a better word is intended audience. And maybe its not audience either…

    Audience implies one person performs and other person receives. It’s that one way thing again.

    As a marketer, the first thing is the receiver… you can’t be all things to everyone or waste your efforts trying to engage people who aren’t interested. Just trying to get the focus on the other person is a big effort because most business wants to focus on the company, not the customers, potential customers and former customers. I’ve had people even take me to task for referring to them as customers. Not sure what a better word is.

    Sorry for the rambling today on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, but you struck a chord with me today, Dawud!

    Thanks for making me think!
    Chris Brown

  19. Anne,
    You’re certainly welcome. I say all the time that I hear to engage in conversation and build relationships. And…it warms my heart to know what I offer helps you. Thanks.

    Depends on your Blogware. If you’re using WordPress, you create a link to your entire post URL and then add /#respond to the end of it.

    I’m not really fond of any of most marketing and business terms. They seem cold and impersonal to me. I only use them because they’re familiar to people.

    It’s so true that the most effective marketing comes from focusing on your client or customer. Notice I didn’t make that plural. I always tell my clients they should write as though they’re speaking to one person. That way, when they nail it, the person in their ‘target audience’ will feel like they’re being spoken too directly.

    Hey, great hearing from you.

  20. Bytecoders says:

    That’s really true, especially for web sites made for search engines not people.

    In fact, people is what you are searching.

  21. Bytecoders,
    Exactly. I have so many clients over the years who want to focus on SEO when they forget that it’s people who they’re trying to land in their business, not search engines.

  22. I couldn’t have put it better myself. As a training manager i emphasis the point of talking to the customer, if you really talk to the customer and listen you can be given clues from the customer (un realized needs) that can be brought up while in the conversation> The products that you suggest need to be directly related back to the customers needs and how it will benefit their current situation.

  23. Jay,
    Business is almost always about relationship, don’t you think?

  24. All the point is here and what I wanna add is all the baby boomer people should start to learn more instead of use their old communication system. It’s now 2008, not 1988. Evolution with the communication is very important. wish this keep everyone in mind.

  25. Business has to be about relationship. If you dont have good relationships you wont have a successful business.

  26. I think another big important thing in business is when the company has a reasonable report between quality and price. I am working for a Technology Transfer Office and I realized that, when you are fair, even if your prices are bigger than others have, you make yourself a name. And this is what any customer wants: honesty!

  27. I sure could have used this when I was in business a couple of years ago. I sure was one of the guilty ones, more worried about what I was going to say and how I was going to get my point across than listening to what the others were saying. Its never to late to listen and learn. I’ll just start from today and use it now. Thanks.

  28. a good conversation is always the key to business especially big ones. That’s why there is the wine and dine method and playing golf or tennis to better improve relationship with the clients.

  29. דם אמיתי says:

    to Heather from Mom 4 Life. if u have several forum on different subject’ isnt it hard to get experts ?

  30. I agree about improving the relation with the client, The key is to think as a client and try to satisfy their needs with your product or service.

  31. I think active listening is the key. Your customers/clients should be priority and you should always make customer service #1.

    Clients like to be heard.

  32. moratmarit says:

    I can here the new knowledge.
    Thanks for the great reference post.

  33. Exactly, Business is about relationships – built on trust and integrity. Great Post, thanks

  34. says:

    an interesting conversation is always the key to business especially big ones.


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