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Tuesday, April 30 2013

I've banked for at least 15 years with a fairly small local bank. Last year it was bought up by a larger bank (not one of the huge Wells Fargo, Bank of America behemoths, but larger nevertheless).

The official date for everything to be transferred to the new bank was last Monday. Online banking was shut down over the weekend to allow for integration of the two computer systems.

On Monday morning the online banking system worked briefly. Then it crashed. I couldn't get into my account.

During several phone calls to the customer service department of the bank, I was told they had no information. When I asked if the problem was connected with the system integration, I was told "We have no information." In reply to my question about when they thought the system would be running again, they told me - guess what - "We have no information."

It so happens that a good friend of mine works in the customer call center. He shared privately with me that they were specifically instructed to say they had no information, even though everyone in the call center knew they had a major computer problem.

Later that day, I called again and one honest person did indeed tell me that they had a huge computer problem, they were working on it and hoped to have the system back up by that evening but he couldn't promise that would happen. He apologized and asked for my understanding.

I noticed how frustrated and angry I was when I felt I was being stonewalled with the "no information" statement; and how relieved I was when someone had the courage to tell me the truth, even though it wasn't what I wanted to hear and it didn't change the situation one bit.

The next thing that happened was that I noticed errors online in my statements. On Monday customer service promised to investigate and call back by Monday evening. Didn't happen. By Friday evening I was still waiting. In the meantime, my opinion of this new bank dropped to new lows. If someone asked me whether I would recommend them, guess what I'd say?

Yesterday I told one of the tellers at my local branch about my problem and she said: "Not everyone is the right person to help you. Do you want me to call and find a person who can really help you? I know you're frustrated and I don't want you to leave us because I've known you so long." I'm collecting all my information and will take her offer to help. Let's see what happens.

Lessons to be learned from this experience:

It pays to be honest with your clients even if you don't have good news to share. Most people are understanding and forgiving if you tell them the truth rather than trying to cover it up, especially when what you're saying is so obviously not true. Even if the client doesn't like the truth, it's better than having no information at all and feeling that they're being treated like idiots rather than valued clients who deserve respect.

A sincere apology helps to defuse a potentially nasty situation.

Do what you say you'll do. If you can't do it, don't promise it.

Value the power of personal relationships. They can work when all else fails.

Marketing is not just about GETTING clients. It's about how what you do AFTER to keep them happy ESPECIALLY when things go wrong.

Copyright 2005-2013 Maggie Dennison. All rights reserved.

Posted by: Maggie AT 02:17 pm   |  Permalink   |  5 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, April 11 2013

Writing for sales and marketing purposes is not primarily about "good writing." It's about human behavior, the psychology of sales and using words that sell your product or service.

Think about it. It's not organizations that buy your products or services. It's not government entities. It's not anonymous faces. It's people.

People do business with people they know and trust: this is as true when writing as when you're talking to someone in person. How do you begin to establish that trust? By writing in a form and language that they can relate to quickly, that make them feel they're having a cozy chat with you over a cup of coffee.

Here's the key: when you read, you hear the words in your head. If your writing is conversational, the reader will hear it as if you're having a conversation with them and they'll relate on a deeper level.

However, when you speak, you don't always honor the rules of grammar. Often you don't speak in full sentences.

Dangling participles, contractions, and sentences ending with prepositions: these are some of the things that were drilled into us at school as forbidden. And in good literary writing, that's correct. But in marketing, breaking those rules is often a step in the direction of conversational copy - because that's how we speak.

Or course, the language also has to be appropriate to the audience and the product or service. But in the end it doesn't matter how flowery, elegant or beautifully poetic your language, if it doesn't affect your audience and make them feel that comfortable with you, chances are it won't work.

Here's a really famous example of bad grammar that works. The Rolling Stones had a major hit called "I can't get no satisfaction." Would that have been as appealing if they'd followed the rules of good grammar and written, "I can't get any satisfaction?" I don't think so because good grammar destroys the rhythm that made the title catchy to begin with.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting you throw away your grammar books, or never open Strunk and White again. What I am suggesting is that hanging onto the rules of good grammar out of principle may make your marketing materials less attractive to your ideal clients than you'd like them to be. Be flexible. Be willing to overlook the rules in favor of the effect, where appropriate.

On the other hand, don't let the belief that it has to be conversational lead to sloppy writing, simply because you think you have a good reason not to be precise. That doesn't work either.

Remember the old adage that there's an exception to every rule? Create your own exceptions! And watch how response shifts.

Posted by: Maggie AT 04:38 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email

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Maggie Dennison, M.A

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The Magic Of Mindset And Marketing

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