Every day, millions of businesses across the country lose sales. Millions of meetings and events have a lower turn-out than expected, and untold money and man hours are spent with only mediocre results to show for it.
Why is this? Because the people who write the e-mail notifications, the press releases, the snail mail sales letters, the sales pages on websites -- the list is endless -- leave out critical information because they assume the reader already knows it.
Think of the customer who hears about a product you have for sale or an event you're putting on, gets all excited about it and wants to buy or attend, and can't because someone didn't think to make it clear how they can do that. Or it's a needlessly complex process, or it's impossible to make the purchase or attend the event because of a technical glitch. Sounds silly, but this happens all the time.
And what kind of an experience does your customer have when this happens? Not favorable. And how does that disappointment, irritation, loss of respect and trust impact your business? You don't have to be Einstein to know that you've probably lost that customer as well as everyone they share their bad story with.
- You remember the event details, don't you?
My vote for the worst assumption goes to everyone who assumes that customers read every correspondence you send them, and also remember what was in it. Example: I often receive e-mails reminding me that event XYZ is taking place tomorrow at such and such time, but they fail to include the address. Yes, the original invitation had the address in it, but who knows where that e-mail is?
Unless someone's really committed to attending that event and is willing to do some research, they'll just blow it off.
The fix? Assume ignorance: What you should assume is that every notice you send out is the first time the recipient has ever heard of your product, meeting or event. Every notice should include every piece of pertinent information -- and even better, what the product, meeting or event is about and what benefits the reader will get out of it.
- Dead links are a deal-killer.
Another deal-killing assumption is that all links in your e-mails or on your website work. Those links could be completely dead, or they could take the customer to the wrong page.
How many times have you clicked on a link to find out more information about a specific product or service, and the link takes you to the company home page, rather than to the product? It's annoying, right?
Unless someone is incredibly interested, this will cause them to move on. And these are prospects who are already interested in whatever "it" is. They pre-qualified themselves, and through sheer carelessness you've lost them.
The fix? Check links weekly: Never assume your links are working properly, check them before sending that e-mail and test them at least once a week to make sure they're still working. Make sure that a link takes the reader to exactly the page they are expecting to see, with the information they are expecting to find. The experience has to be easy and flawless. No one has the time or the patience to hunt for something; it's all too easy to click away and find it somewhere else.
- Are your subject lines doing you any favors?
The last damaging assumption is subject lines in e-mails that give the reader no clue what that e-mail is about. The reaction someone has when faced with dozens of e-mails in their inbox, and a limited amount of time or patience to read them all, is to delete anything that doesn't appear to be of interest.
It's just plain lunacy to assume that people are going to open an e-mail without first knowing what's in it for them. Very few people are willing to take a look at something that's not immediately of interest to them. The reaction you want prospects to have when looking at a subject line is "Hey, this sounds like something I'd like to know more about."
The fix? Tell readers what's in it for them: Your subject lines should make it clear what the reader is going to find inside. All of your correspondence and printed material should satisfy the questions who, what, when, where and why. Subject lines should reflect as many of these as possible. If you tell the reader what they can expect to find when they open that e-mail, the people for whom that subject is of interest will open it.
Some businesses intentionally use crazy subject lines they hope readers will open out of sheer curiosity. But unless you know for sure this is the kind of lure your market responds to, it's a big mistake to assume a significant number of people will respond to this tactic.
Give your prospects and customers an experience that motivates them and makes it easy for them to take the next step. So many businesses make it difficult to do business with them; you'll stand out by offering the opposite experience.
Sydney Biddle Barrows is a New York based business consultant and recognized expert on the customer experience. You can find out more about her coaching programs, consulting practice and her newest book, Uncensored Sales Strategies, at http://www.sydneybarrows.com.