7 Things You’re Doing that Make Your Customers Feel Stupid and Hurt Your Brand

December 3, 2013 | Branding

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Don't make me feel dumb.Everyone wants to feel smart. No one likes feeling left out because they just don’t get it. And few people are willing to admit when they don’t understand something.

Make your prospects feel smart and they are more likely to become customers.

Unfortunately, many brands make things difficult for their customers and hinder their own sales.

7 Things you may be doing wrong, right now:

  1. Not giving customers the information they need to make the sale. I used to frequent a bakery in Chicago that had a huge display case of tempting goodies. But, they would never label anything, so I had to ask about each item: what is it? what’s in it? how much does it cost? While I loved their baked goods, I hated going through this ordeal. And if it was busy, I would feel worried about slowing other people down. So, I found myself avoiding going there, and avoiding trying new things. Provide basic information to customers, especially when it will speed up the sales process.
  2. Using too much jargon and too many industry terms. On your web site or in sales presentations, it’s easy to want to shorten names to acronyms and fall into industry lingo. But your clients may not understand the terminology. I made this mistake myself recently. I had a prospect ask for an estimate to redesign their web site. One of their goals was to get better search rankings. I wrote up a long proposal including many options for SEO. When we went over the proposal together he said it looked good, but what is SEO? (If you don’t know, that’s Search Engine Optimization.) Take the time to spell out acronyms at least once and make sure you use plain speech to explain the benefits of your product or service. People who do not understand what you are offering are scared of making a poor choice, and therefore reluctant to buy. Industry jargon is particularly dangerous when there is a middle person doing research for an actual buyer. This is often the case with B2B sales.
  3. Having a web site with poor navigation. A web site that is hard for your customers to find the information they want is going to give them a sense of frustration. Sometimes, this is very obvious and the prospect leaves your site as the irritation mounts. Other times, it is more subconscious, and the prospect is left with a bad feeling about your brand. This is a bit like first impressions, it can be hard to measure, yet very powerful.
  4. Not clearly explaining the benefits of your product or service. This is Marketing 101: explain the benefits of using your service, not the features. It’s common for new business owners to talk all about the services they are capable of performing, or what their new product can do. But if the buyer does not see a benefit for themselves, they are unlikely to buy.
  5. Making it unclear what the next step in the buying process is. There are two common ways this can manifest itself. For e-commerce web sites, if a consumer doesn’t understand the checkout process, they may freeze up and not complete the transaction. If they get worried about their credit card being charged incorrectly, or not having the right item in their cart, they will often abandon the sale. Another common mistake is not having a “call to action” in your marketing materials. Make it clear what they should do next to keep in touch, get an estimate, buy your product, etc.
  6. Presenting something so creative and new that no one understands it. Some new technologies are so different that it can be hard for consumers to grasp. But for the rest of you entrepreneurs, you’re probably creating a product or service that is understandable. Make sure that you are not too creative in the way you present it to the market that people don’t get what it is your offering. If it is a new twist on an existing product, frame it in the light of how it’s better than the known entity.
  7. Choosing a brand name that people don’t know how to say. Remember when Prince changed his name? No one knew how to say it, so he started to be referred to as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Choosing names that are too foreign, or a strange mix of letters and numbers, can make it hard for people to know how to use your brand name. There’s nothing worse than someone wanting to make a great referral but feeling too unsure of themselves to go ahead and do that.

I’m convinced that many Americans have fears that started in childhood that other people will think they are dumb. No one wants to feel dumb. No one wants to worry that other people think they are dumb.

Good communication and making customers feel good about themselves is at the heart of building a positive brand image.

Have you had any other experiences where you’ve felt dumb and knew the brand could have done a better job explaining something?

3 comments

  1. animated logos | December 4, 2013 at 9:23 am

    You are right, your shared points are very important and every webmaster and sales executive should avoid these mistakes. Most important point you shared is “Having a web site with poor navigation”. A website is the hub of your online business and if it is not perfect, professional and user-friendly then definitely you are wasting your time and money.

  2. Toni McNulty | April 12, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Good points! I’m encountering #2 as I work on improving my website. I read articles from SEO experts that sound great, but I can’t implement their suggestions until I spend way too much time just looking up the meaning of terms they use.

  3. Emily Brackett | April 13, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    @Toni Glad this was helpful. You may also want to read our post about why there is so much confusing and conflicting SEO advice (beware of what you’re reading). http://www.visiblelogic.com/blog/2014/03/3-reasons-why-seo-advice-is-conflicting/

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