Are you sure you really know why your customers use your services? Do you know why some quit using your services? It may be for different reasons than you think.

I’d like to share a story with you. It’s about something I learned one day that changed my entire outlook on marketing. 

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During my ad agency days, I had a client in Indiana that was an architectural firm, designing schools. This was a first-rate firm with an impressive history of winning big contracts.

Some school districts with building projects have the habit of narrowing down their search for an architectural firm to three finalists and, before choosing a winner, inviting each of them in for one last presentation. On this occasion, my client didn’t make it to the final three. They were mystified, even a little shaken up. They were not accustomed to losing and they never missed being in the final three.

So they ask me if I would meet with the president of the school board and a couple of other members to see why they didn’t get the job or even make it to the finals. Since I was an outsider, they thought that these people would feel more comfortable opening up to me.

Little did I know I was about to uncover something that made me question about everything I thought I knew about marketing.

Looking for answers

Several board members agreed to meet, so one morning I drove to their school, located north of Indianapolis, with my list of questions.

We talked for a while and soon I was wondering how to sort through it all. Just what are the critical decision factors? The board members offered lots of views. Reasons were flying around me like January snowbirds heading to the Keys.

I took careful notes for my report. I had this big list of important factors.

After the meeting, I invited the school board president to have lunch. The two of us continued chatting and he told me how just how impressive those final three firms were. Picking up the check, ready to leave the restaurant and head home, I remarked that as good as all three firms were it must have been really tough to pick the best one to design the school.

That’s when he revealed the real truth. “Oh no,” he said. “I always know who is going to win the project even before we start interviewing firms.”

My jaw dropped. “You always know from the beginning?” I asked. “Yep,” he answered.

What really counts

As we stayed at our table and continued our discussion, he said there was one firm that he had worked with before and he felt comfortable with them. He told me that he knew that if he changed his mind about something during the process, they would be fine with it and not get upset, create problems or embarrass him.

So I remarked that he was really the one who chose the firm, not the entire school board. He agreed. He said he had the most influence and the others basically looked to him. “So everything else, all the presentations, all those reasons we discussed were just for show? They didn’t count?” I inquired.

“That’s about right,” he said as he smiled.

I left and, driving back, I wondered if I should I give my client a two-sentence report, which would be like this: The school board president already liked and felt comfortable with one of the other firms. Nobody else actually ever had a chance.

My big list of reasons my client didn’t get the job were worthless.

The emotional factor

People make choices emotionally and then cook up practical “reasons” to legitimize their choices. They want to feel safe and comfortable and avoid making a mistake, especially the biggest mistake of all: Creating a bad experience for themselves. Or even worse… repeating one!

So do all those reasons you put on your website about how your cleaning method is superior really amount to much? Or is it how friendly and accommodating you are perceived to be? Perhaps it is how safe and comfortable you make customers feel?

Without a doubt, when you visit your customers, their personal experience with you is going to be a big factor in whether or not you’re invited back. A big factor. It may even be the only factor, assuming you do a competent enough job whenever you clean.

But how do you communicate in a personal, friendly way on your website?

Should you risk not having your personal photograph on your site? Or even better, your family photo? So many cleaners have an “About Us” page and never even mention their own name on it. I would bet that more than half neglect this important aspect of the “About Us” page.

How about saying that you hope every single customer likes you because you are already going to like her just for being nice enough to invite you into her home?

Why not say that lots of people could clean her carpet, but you will clean it so good until it is so clean they will want to roll around on it like kids rolling down a grassy hill in the summer?

Oh, and by the way… sure, you are going to do a wonderful cleaning job, but it just so happens you also have a box of candy in your truck and you don’t plan on taking it back to the shop. How could they not like you?

Corny? Absolutely. My mother once worked in an upscale women’s apparel store. One time they mailed out postcards to customers that hadn’t been in the store in a while. It said only two things: “We Love You. We Miss You.” The store was soon flooded with ladies returning, many of them carrying their postcards.

Emotion wins the day. Make it your ally.

Gary Arndts is a cleaning and restoration Internet marketing specialist. Recognizing that fresh content is now an essential part of successful Internet marketing campaigns, Arndts, along with cleaning industry experts, offers cleaning and restoration content and a wide variety of marketing resources and artwork at www.MarketingZoo.com. MarketingZoo members get fresh videos, infographics and articles on cleaning and restoration each month along with a selection of artwork for hundreds of postcards, banners, emails, coupons and much more.