Are people trying to help or just taking your money? Yes.

by Jason on September 9, 2011 · 0 comments

That sequence from The Wire pops into my head more times than I’d care to admit, and I have no idea what it means ūüôā

I’ve spent a lot of money on coaching, business services, training, and other stuff that’s not in the food, rent, or entertainment categories over the years. ¬†Basically, things that’ll help me get closer to a goal. ¬†If you’ve ever joined a gym, you’re in this club too.

In the sales pitch for these things, there’s a common thread of resistance that I think most people encounter, myself definitely included: is this person or company just trying to get as much of my money as possible, or are they genuinely trying to help me achieve my goals?

There are lots of scam artists out there, and if you watch the news or shows like Marketplace (aka Jason’s favourite yelling at the TV time,) you’ve probably been poisoned to some extent by exposure to the extreme cases, so it’s natural to have some skepticism during a sales pitch. ¬†And then there’s the “wife test” (insert your significant other there) – what will they think when I tell them? But here’s something I realized a few months back:

We can both be right.

Is a business trying to take as much money as they can for what they’re offering? Very probably. It’s what businesses do. ¬†Is their product or service a scam? That’s up to you. ¬†I believe that two people with identical backgrounds and needs can sign up to the same program with an identical curriculum or offering, and one of them can end up wildly happy and successful while the other can complain for the next ten years about how they got “taken.”

It’s really up to you, and it’s one of those cases where you can pick your outcome in advance. ¬†I’ve been in situations where I felt a little like Schr√∂dinger’s cat, flipping rapidly between “scam” and “value” states, until I broke the pattern by deciding whether or not I was going to apply the process and maximize the value I could get, or if I was going to sit back and do nothing and then act surprised when I didn’t get anything out of it except a little poorer.

Now let’s take this back to marketing in general: so many businesses drop the ball in the post sale phase by not even recognizing that there’s a post-sale side to marketing. ¬†A systemic, reproducible sequence needs to be in place to reassure the customer that they’ve made the right choice (and this needs to go beyond the refund period) and to inspire them to take action based on their purchase. ¬†This is what’s going to get the referrals, and more importantly reduce the negative referrals that come from an unsatisfied customer who’s happy to tell everyone they know to steer clear of you.

(And no, this isn’t about the Bernie Madoffs of the world doing actual “you’re going to jail” scams. That’s a different thing entirely – I’m talking about education and training for the most part here.)

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