Traditionally, marketing people have spent a lot of time, energy, and money on branding. They want prospects and customers to associate their company with certain characteristics. The Internet, however, has pulled back the curtain on most businesses, and the prevailing marketing wisdom now is that your brand is whatever your customers say it is. You may want to portray your company as caring or quality-driven, but if the public sees you otherwise, and talks about you online—that’s your brand. It all comes down to the words used to describe you—and the words the public uses are far more powerful than the words you use to describe yourself.
With that in mind, here are seven words that you never want to hear when customers talk about you. They have no place in your company—or your marketing.
- Indifferent: Nobody wants to deal with a company that doesn’t care about their needs. Unfortunately, it’s easy for many companies to pass this off as a “customer service issue.” The thing is, your marketing sets the tone here. If all of your messaging is about how great you (or your products) are, that doesn’t establish any kind of trust. If prospects pick up that all you care about is making the sale (as opposed to meeting their needs) they’ll probably look elsewhere, unless they are purely price shoppers.
- Inaccessible: If you’re selling a high-ticket item (such as a custom home, for example) that has a long sales cycle, you need to be available to your potential customers. Part of the reason the sales cycle is long is that people have questions that they need answered before they make a buying decision. If you’re inaccessible—or appear that way because you don’t provide answers to important questions—your potential customers will find someone else who will give them the information they need to make their decision.
- Clueless: No business would ever deliberately portray themselves as clueless. But if you’re not careful about the information you put out for the public to see, you can create that impression. Your marketing information needs to be accurate and it needs to communicate that you are an expert in your field—someone worthy of trust. Something as simple as poorly written marketing material can undermine your credibility—even if your company excels at what you produce.
- Unreliable: People like doing business with other people they can trust. Your marketing can go a long way in beginning to establish that trust. If your promise something in your marketing (answers, responses, downloads, free samples, books, etc.), make sure you deliver on your promises. If your website promises that you’ll get back to inquiries within 24 hours—do it!
- Arrogant: Sometimes there is a fine line between exuding confidence and projecting arrogance. Customers like confidence. They hate arrogance. It’s wonderful to be self-assured when talking about solutions to your customers’ problems. It’s arrogant when you never listen to their questions or when you dismiss their concerns. Maybe you’ve been “around the block” a few times. Just remember, this may be your customers’ first trip.
- Expensive/Cheap: We’re combining these two words for an important reason: The real issue is not price—it’s value. Customers who really feel that they received value rarely complain about price. Conversely, customers who paid the lowest possible price are more likely to complain about poor quality (despite the price). There’s nothing wrong with saving money. But your marketing should emphasize what customers get for their money—not how much they spend.
Are there more than seven “bad business words” that should never describe your company? Probably. But if you can eliminate these seven, you’ll be taking great strides to landing the kind of customers you really want.