How Well Do Your Customers Really Know You?

A friend of mine was disappointed recently when he went to a trade show and met one of his customers. As they talked it became evident to my friend that his long-time customer had no idea that his company did flex and rigid flex boards. Talking even further, this customer had no idea that my friend’s company did metal-backed boards either. All this customer knew about my friends’ company is what they did for him, six and eight layer simple epoxy boards!

What my friend found really frustrating was that he has been doing all of the right things for years. He has been advertising, sending out newsletters, writing columns, training his large sales team, and heck, he has even written books specifically on flex and rigid flex and on metal backed boards. And still this long-time customer only knew my friends’ company for what they did for him and his company. In short, he had only found what he was looking for and looked no further.

I am sure my good friend Dave Ryder, the co-founder and owner of Prototron would not mind me telling the story of what happens to his company at least a couple of times a year. Every so often when one of his salespeople visits a long-time customer, that customer will look up in surprise and say, “You mean you guys do prototypes? I never knew that, and all this time we have been working together. Ha, interesting, we have a lot of quick turn prototypes, maybe I’ll start using you guys for that. I wish I had known sooner.” And yes, Prototron does advertise, they do place ads featuring racing cars and jets and all the other symbols denoting fast-turn prototyping. And of course, if nothing else their name might give everyone a subtle, heck a hammer on the head, hint as to what they do PROTOTRON! (Proto-Tron). Ya think? 

I know that in these cases as in other situations I have heard about, or even been part of the first tendency is to blame the salesperson asking, “what the heck have you been talking to this customer about for so many years? How come they don’t even know what we do?” And my response to that is don’t bother. I am sure, positively sure, that your sales people have been telling your customers all about your company and all that you do. I am sure that they have sent your customers links to the books you have written, or the columns you have published about your technologies. Salespeople, by their very nature, are always eager to find something new, and exciting, to tell their customer. In many cases they are literally, desperately, looking for something new and exciting to tell their customers…so don’t blame them.

And don’t blame yourselves. Especially, if you have done all of the right things as my two friends have for many years. No, the problem lies with your customers. Customers are not interested in hearing your message or any other message until they are ready to listen to that message. Until then, they keep their blinders on, only focused on what they care about at the moment.

Your job is to never, ever stop your focused messaging. Your job is to say the same thing in all kinds of different ways, over, and over, and over again, ad nauseum. I don’t care how much you get sick of hearing or reading or saying your message, you have to keep doing it and even then, you are still going to meet someone at a trade show who does not know what you do, even if they have been your constant customer for twenty five years!

Why do you think every football game has one hundred and fifty Ford 150 commercials an hour on? Why do you think we still remember Mr. Whipple and his darn Charmin, or “ring around the collar” to this day even though neither of those commercials have aired in at least twenty five years?

Why do you think we all know who Flo is? Why do you think you know her competitors, the duck, and the gecko? Why do you think people who hate football still watch the Super Bowl for the ads and by the next day cannot remember what they were about, what they were selling?

Do you really think these companies like burning through money for the heck of it. One 30 second Super Bowl ad now costs a million dollars! 

These companies realize that they are dealing with a population that has the attention span of a gnat, not any gnat, but a gnat with attention deficit! They know that in order to get their point across, to get people to hear them, and know how great their product is, they have to say it a million times and then say it again.

And that’s what we in our industry have to do as well. We have to keep at it. To find new, and innovative ways to get our message into the heads of all of our customers. And then we have to do it again, and again. and again. Our goal is to be heard and then the hardest part…to be remembered. It’s only common sense.