Your Customers Don’t Care About You

It’s true.

The moment you start talking about yourself is the moment you start losing.

Personally, I am just as guilty as the next guy when it comes to this, it’s challenging not to engage in self-gratifying communication.  Like most, I am passionate about what I do and I want the person across from me to be confident that I am able to deliver on our company promise.There is no doubt that as human beings we have a natural affinity to talk about ourselves; self-promotion is hard-wired into our DNA as a survival mechanism.  However, when it comes to our businesses it seems that all we do is talk about ourselves.  At least in most personal conversations there is some give and take. But whether it is on our website, in our client presentations or in a sales pitch all we do is talk about our capabilities, longevity, happy clients, experience with a little bit of the client peppered in so we don’t look too selfish.

We have had several clients ask how much they should be talking about themselves to their customers so we starting digging into our data to find some answers.

For reference, our company, PROOF, uses customer insights and data to help companies identify the most effective messages and communication to differentiate themselves and drive sales.  So we have mountains of data around what kinds of messages are most effective across a litany of industries.

Out of the last 100 studies we have run we tested an average of 15 communication concepts per study. On many of these studies we tested communication concepts that were about the client (i.e.  “We have won several industry awards,” “Our company has worked in your industry for XX years” and “We have a proprietary process that does XYZ”) and then tested how important those communications were when considering whether to hire them.

Here are the 5 most commonly used self-important communications used by companies, what percent of the time we tested those communications and where they ranked (out of 15) in importance to their customers and prospects:

Communication tested % of the time How important (out of 15)
Industry expertise 74 percent 12th
Awards 71 percent 15th
Experience / Other clients 65 percent 9th
Proprietary IP / Method 59 percent 11th
Exclusive partnerships 42 percent 14th

What this means is that there is an average of 11 different communications that are more important to your customers than something about you.

So, if you are talking about yourself you are losing the battle to win over customers and losing big.  Think about your elevator pitch, the content on your website, your collateral, etc. How much of it is about you or your company?

Here is a quick exercise:

  1. Write down 10 things that you think will win over your customers and you can’t talk about yourself.
  2. Which one of those things do you think is most important?
  3. How many times do you talk about that vs. yourself in your communications?

Subjective Language is Making Your Elevator Pitch Completely Forgettable

Your elevator pitch is the single most important communication of you or your business and why you are relevant.

Last month I wrote about how you can use your elevator pitch — or 20-second summary of your business — as a litmus test to determine if you are creating your own market or if you are competing in someone else’s.  I received a litany of emails and comments about the elevator pitch exercise so I thought this month I would point out the critical error most of you are making: subjective language is making your elevator pitch irrelevant.

Subjective language is usually used in elevator pitches when businesses try to point out a perceived advantage in the market.  This usually manifests itself as an ignorable “we focus on the customer first” or “we deliver a quality product at a competitive price” statement. Because these typified statements contain only subjective language the brain does not know how to categorize them, so it ignores them.

Next time you listen to someone give their elevator pitch pay attention to how you actively listen.  Without realizing it, your brain is filtering through all the words that are being said and attempting to create a simple categorization of what the person is trying to communicate.  You might even translate someone’s elevator pitch that isn’t objective enough for them: “So, you sell insurance to people who own small airplanes?”

Your brain is trying to translate what you hear into a simple, objective category called a “schema.”  Our minds use schemas, or groups of cognitive elements that are associated with a single concept, because we are bombarded with so much sensory data that acknowledging all of them consciously would be paralyzing.

Consider an objective pitch like one Zappos might use; “you can return anything, anytime, for any reason.”  Zappos is using measurable concepts that mean the same thing to everyone.  Because objective words are measurable and finite, our brain can easily categorize and remember them.

Here is another exercise to determine how effective your elevator pitch is:

  1. Write down your elevator pitch.
  2. Cross out the subjective words
  3. Circle the words that are objective and measurable.

A great elevator pitch is only one or two sentences and contains only objective, measurable language.