I know. I get it. Our customer service inbox is full of questions from lovely small business owners and yet the answers are in the email they just replied to, or on the web page they just came from. Don’t get me wrong, we love getting questions because it means people are interested in, and considering buying, my class or course but each time we get an influx of questions, I sit with my team and discuss how to fix this. What aren’t we explaining properly? What isn’t clear? How can we make it clearer?
Then, yesterday, I GOT it. In a few minutes I understood exactly what is happening. I felt what it was like to be in my customer’s shoes. And it all started with a Facebook page post from Chloe’s school.
I’d vaguely noticed a few school emails popping into my inbox about a parents’ evening. I skim-read one and thought I would get back to it when I had time. I didn’t think too much of it and honestly, forgot about it.
Then a post appeared on the School’s Facebook page saying parents’ evening slots were booking up very quickly and if we wanted to attend, we needed to get booking.
All of a sudden I got FOMO – fear of missing out!
Now I was kicking myself that I hadn’t acted right away. I went into my emails and followed the links to book. No slots. All booked up.
I messaged the school Facebook page and asked if any more slots might be coming up and they said yes, they were just confirming teacher availability.
A few minutes later a bunch of emails dropped into my inbox – all ‘invitations’ to speak to teachers. So I booked a spot with all of them, covering the different subjects.
Then I went back and read the first email.
I had it all wrong. In a nutshell the Pastoral parents’ evening was about how the children had been managing over the last 3 months and to address any fears or worries we might have about going back in September.
It wasn’t about subjects or schoolwork. It was about care and wellbeing. So I didn’t need multiple appointments. I just needed one, with her lovely head of year.
Even then, I was worried about getting it wrong – had I read that correctly? Why had they sent me several invitations? Was I supposed to book more than one? I messaged the school Facebook page again and the very patient teacher manning the messages confirmed, yes, I only needed one appointment.
This seems obvious now, but I was busy when the first email arrived and I didn’t read it properly. Then I got fear of missing out because slots were getting booked up. Then, because I hadn’t grasped what the slots were for, I booked 3 because in my head, they were to talk about something different, something schoolwork related. THEN I took the time to go back and read the email and even though the email explained what the appointments were for, I STILL had to double check I only needed the one appointment. THEN I cancelled the two I didn’t need. Then I relaxed.
And I understood what it’s like to be my customer.
I regularly send out emails about classes and courses, usually with deadlines. I always link to the sales page and I always make sure I have answered every possible question on there. I often also include answers to the most commonly-asked questions, within the email itself.
The people who get those emails, maybe you’re one of them, are often busy. Some skim-read them on their phone and think they will read them properly later. Some get distracted and never finish reading. Some people read it but then want to be 100% sure they have understood it correctly. Some people aren’t big readers and they find it easier to quickly ping their specific questions over on email. Some get FOMO (fear of missing out) when they see me posting about the course or class on social media and they don’t want to have to dig out the email they missed, ignored or deleted at the time.
I had a huge AHA moment. These lovely people – who receive my emails and follow me on social media and do everything I described above – are all just like me. I do all these things. So, why did I think my customers would be different?
It gave me a whole new perspective on my marketing. I realised that I can’t ‘fix’ this ‘problem’ of people not reading my emails and sales pages, where I’ve already answered all the questions, because it’s not a problem and there is nothing to fix.
It’s human nature at its most wonderful.
It’s my diverse, amazing, busy audience of small business owners fitting in everything they need to do in their business and life and responding with what they need to know, right now.
It doesn’t matter how well I explain things on my website or in the email, lots of people have a specific question relating to their specific circumstances and they need an answer to help them decide if it’s right for them. Even if they read everything, many people still need reassurance they have read and understood it correctly. Their time and money is precious and they don’t want to make a mistake. Lots of my amazing customers buy first and ask questions later, because they love my classes and have a fear of missing out.
Do you see? My response to the parents’ evening was just another version of this.
So, I have a challenge for you. I want you to think about how you react and respond to emails and social media posts. I want you to think about the questions you have, about what gets your attention and what annoys you. I want you to think about what makes you buy, what gives you a fear of missing out, about what compels you to get in touch with the company concerned. Then put yourself in your customer’s shoes.
They are just like you. They react and respond just like you. So, how can you help them?
How can you make your product descriptions and sales pages clearer? What frequently-asked questions can you add to your website, social media and emails? How can you take the doubt and fear out of buying from you?
And I want you to think differently about answering the same questions time after time. This is a wonderful thing. These lovely people want to buy from you, they just want to get clear in their head that it’s the right decision. Remember, they are just like me with my crazy, unstructured reaction to the school emails.
These questions are really saying ‘I want to buy, I just need you to tell me it’s OK’ and that’s an amazing thing.
Claire Mitchell is a best-selling author of the Awesome Marketing Planner and founder of The Girls Mean Business, a mum and business owner. She has been featured in Marie-Claire, The Guardian, Closer Magazine, Essentials, The Huffington Post and on the BBC.