A Parking Fine and a Refresher in Sales and Marketing

Shock, horror and confusion as I opened my post to find a £60 parking fine, courtesy of something called Parking Eye. When, where and how!? I couldn’t recall anything! Reading on I discovered I had used the car park of one of our local hotels without paying the required pay & display parking charges. How could that be? I regularly use this hotel for events and meetings and I have never had to pay before. So, seething, I rang up the hotel to inquire further. The receptionist politely informed me that they had introduced parking charges about four weeks previously and that there was signage all over the hotel advising of the charge. I argued for some time - explaining my side of the story and also highlighting the frequency of my custom - and asked was there anything she could do. All to no avail, other than to recommend I write to the parking fine management company, which I duly did – deep down sensing I was wasting my time. After all, if a top class hotel wasn’t interested in my side of the story, neither would they be. My husband told me not to bother.

 

Ok – so what’s this got to do with sales and marketing you ask? Well, once I got over my initial annoyance and established that there were indeed strategically placed LARGE signs all over the car park which I had failed to notice, I thought over what had happened and why and smiled wryly. Despite the hotel trying their best to draw my attention to something of importance, my preoccupied self had been in a state of temporary blindness. A few factors were at play:

1. I was madly dashing from A to B and the journey was irrelevant. It was all about the destination – I was focused, I was CLOSED!

2. I was so preoccupied with my thoughts, where I was going and what I was about to undertake, that I was unable to take in new information around me.

3. I wrongly assumed things were the same, nothing had changed – I was oblivious to the changes in my familiar environment and therefore blind to new and important information.

 

Now substitute me for your customers and the parking fine notices for your marketing messages and recognise a few important themes:

1. In sales and marketing terms: I am not the exception, I am the rule! Your customers (both potential and existing) are generally CLOSED – either too busy, too preoccupied or too focused on the now to take in new information which doesn’t appear relevant or of value.

2. Simply sending out messages, no matter how well-crafted, will usually fail to hit the mark. Just because we put our message out there, doesn’t actually mean anyone has seen, read, heard or understood it, let alone likely to take action. Marketing is only effective if it is read, heard, understood and results in action – otherwise it’s just noise and distraction.

3. Are we guilty of just “doing marketing” - ticking a box which makes us feel good but really unsure as to whether it’s actually reaching our audience or serving any real purpose?

4. Do we assume just because we’ve pressed the send button, the job is done? Do you follow up on your communication and try and engage with your customers verbally as well as visually? Do you seek feedback on whether your communication is getting through? This applies as much to following up on information and proposals sent in response to a request, as to the initial communication itself.

5. Are you aware of the need to perhaps slow down and seek real two-way, meaningful dialogue with your customers? As many of our customers are oblivious to the changes around them or ahead because of their focus on the madness of the day job, just sending through stuff which highlights benefits and solutions can be wasted. The customer often doesn’t actually realise they have a problem in the first place – they’re ok right now thank you very much so telling won’t work.

6. Selling today has got to focus much more on helping your customer STOP and think. Take time out to explore and uncover WITH your clients - their needs, challenges and problems - both today and in the future. Become the doctor who spends time helping the patient understand the problem and, therefore, the solution. Stop offering quick fix “pain killers” when, actually, the real need and solution may lie elsewhere. That’s how you’ll differentiate yourself – slow down, stop, engage, explore, ask, understand, highlight, solve, resolve, follow up, make it happen. Create action and results for your customers and you.

7. Hence, I wonder if less is the new more – doing less but brilliantly will reap a much better reward. It will allow you to truly stand out. Take time to understand your customers and target well and with individuality, thus enabling you to cut through the clutter and noise. Perhaps this requires new metrics in sales and telesales for some organisations, shifting the focus from quantity to quality and real output; in other words generating maximum return on your sales and marketing time and money, not just being busy doing mindless marketing and sales stuff!

 

Some final parting lessons from my parking fine experience: I did write a well-crafted letter to the parking fine management company and they actually agreed to waive the parking fee. They listened and understood and created some fabulous goodwill which served to remind me:

1. If you don’t ask, you won’t get! You just never know.

2. Listen to your customers and seek to understand and be flexible – the hotel didn’t and I won’t be going back; the car people did and I would if I could but I can’t!

3. Don’t listen to people telling you not to bother trying, there’s no point. You’re different and today is different, so just because it didn’t work for them, or didn’t work before, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try. This is all about you and how you chose to connect, and more importantly how you ensure you truly engage and stand out.

Comments

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