There are two ways to go about customer acquisition. One is to try to get a sale. The other is to try to get a customer. Most people in business are going for the latter. They aren’t interested in making a quick buck. They want their customers to come back or, at the very least, say nice things about them to their friends. Recently, I received a voice mail from a Yellow Pages sales representative that made me cringe as a person who cares intimately about customer service.
So, let me get this straight, Mr. Salesperson:
- You are assuming I want to continue service. (I had actually already canceled 6 months ago, and apparently he didn’t get the memo. I don’t want to continue service. At least for me, it was crap. I did not get a single phone call, let alone a single customer).
- If I don’t call you back, service is going to be automatically renewed. (It had better not be automatically renewed, especially after I was misled into getting locked in for an additional six months the first time I purchased services with the Yellow Pages. How many times do I have to cancel before service is actually canceled? Say it with me, “‘No’ means ‘No.’”
- Oh, and when your service is automatically renewed, it is going to cost you even MORE money. (Oh, well, I guess that makes sense. My phone has been ringing of the hook and the ROI of your model is through the roof. Oh, wait. That’s right. That never happened. So, in your world view, price and value are negatively correlated. Hmm…)
Well, gee. I don’t know. When you put it like that, how can I refuse? I better call you back so that you can sell me some additional service that I don’t need. If I call now, will I get a toaster thrown in?
Some Takeaways from this Yellow Pages Scam
Yes, I’m calling it a scam. Anything that uses bullying tactics to get you to spend money on something you don’t understand is, in my book, a scam. I thought about writing this post about why businesses shouldn’t use the Yellow Pages, but I realize my business (freelance copywriting) is somewhat unique and that my situation may not apply to all small businesses. If you want to know whether the Yellow Pages is worth it for you, I would check out this in-depth article from Search Engine Land.
The issue of whether or not the Yellow Pages is a worthwhile advertising investment aside, I want to focus on some lessons from my experience with the Yellow Pages on how you can get and keep customers for your business…
- Always reinforce value. I was naive to sign up for the Yellow Pages in the first place. The initial salesperson (not the same as the one who left the voice mail) sold me with hypothetical arguments. “If you could get x amount of customers, then your return on investment would be y.” Don’t make these sleazy arguments with your customers. Demonstrate your value. Say instead, “When company a advertised with us, their return on investment was b.” Prove your value. Show your customers what they will get from buying your product or service. And tell them about it over and over again, even after they’ve purchased.
- Never assume satisfaction. The first call I got from the Yellow Pages after purchasing was when it was time for me to renew my service. And the pitch? “I wanted to make sure you didn’t want to make any changes.” Where was my call 1-2 months after my initial sign-up that said, “I wanted to see how the service is working out for you.” There was no such call. Why? Because I don’t think they care. Don’t be that company. Show you care by following up and showing genuine interest in whether or not your product or service is working for your customers. That way, when you eventually do get around to asking for more money, they won’t laugh you off. Most customers won’t complain if they are dissatisfied; they’ll just move on. Make it a point to ask your customers at every stage. Address the problem before it really becomes a problem.
- Don’t threaten or bully. I would be lying if I told you that scare tactics didn’t work. Fear is a very powerful emotion. You can usually persuade someone to do something if you can make them afraid of not doing it. But, first of all, there’s an issue of credibility. Most people won’t believe you when you try to scare them. They call your bluff and see you for the manipulator that you are. Secondly, and this is the kicker, you can’t get away with it twice. You know the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you.” If you want your customers to come back, you can’t scare them into buying from you. In the long run, that’s only going to scare them away.
- Justify your price increases. Don’t just tell your customers that your prices are going up. Tell them why. Explain to them how your costs have risen. Explain to them that you want to keep providing them with exemplary service (assuming you have been doing so), and simply won’t be able to at your current prices. Most customers will understand. You can even throw in something extra, even if it’s small, to show your customers that they’re actually getting something for the price increase. No one is going to pay more just because you ask them to. Always give reasons for raising your prices.
- Focus on the relationship, not the sale. I don’t know that this is a separate point, but it’s something you should remember in all of your interactions. Never are you trying to get a sale. Always, you should be trying to build a relationship. Charles Green, author of Trust-Based Selling, says, “The customer is the relationship.” You don’t want a transaction. You want a life-long business relationship. That’s where the money really rolls in. Never force a sale. If your customers matter to you, act like they do. Don’t close sales; build relationships. There is no closing. There is only building.
Again, I want to point out that this is merely my own personal experience with the Yellow Pages. I would recommend you get a second (or third) opinion before forming a judgment about whether or not to use them for advertising. That being said, I feel obligated to warn you. My experience has been nothing but a terrible product followed up with atrocious service. But, hey, at least they helped me realize more fully what kind of business I DON’T want to run.
In the end, it all boils down to this: love your customers. Really love them, and the rest will take care of itself.