“The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through”. -Sydney J. Harris
Everyone knows that gaining more customers and retaining existing ones is extremely crucial to the success of any business. In trying to gain more customers, one of the most important things for a company is to highlight its strengths, and put its expertise on display, such that the prospective customer is amply impressed, resulting in an association. However, such display of expertise falls short often – simply because the company forgets to focus on how its products and services would benefit the customer, what needs, and expectations would the company be able to fulfil. The mistake that companies make is that instead of showing the benefits of the association, they offer too much free information to customers, in the form of a proposal. This information shows the company’s commitment, but does not gain even a promise of commitment from the prospect.
By giving out too much free information to customers, what a company is actually doing is allowing a prospect to benefit from its experience and knowledge, without investing anything into the association. It is imperative for a company not to give in to the temptation of trying to ‘lure’ new customers – instead it must hold back technical details and focus on asking the prospective customer about their objectives, need for the association, their reasons to buy, and the long-term goals of the customer company. Most often, prospects seem to be ‘window shopping’, and when posed with these questions, are unable to come up with any concrete responses, and answers that would be non-committal, which should be an indication for any company not too provide too much free information to them, and curb the amount of time to be invested in such ‘shoppers’. Prospective customers, who would be serious about taking the discussion to fruition, would have most of the answers, meaning that they would have the intention to buy but are waiting for the right company. Here is when free information to customers would help ‘seal the deal’ – it will show them your commitment and readiness towards the association.
Making the mistake of giving too much free information to customers could make them believe that your company is desperate for a deal. It is imperative to remember not to divulge technical information even to seemingly serious prospects. These should be ‘reserved’ for after they have signed an agreement with your company. The reason we are being so emphatic about this aspect is when you do give out too much free information to customers, they gain insights, which they would use to either do the job themselves, or use that information to strike a better deal with a competitor. It would be a self-defeating move for any company. Rather than giving out too much free information to customers, it would be better to ‘act’ as an advisor and confidante. Help them to understand why the association with your company would be the most beneficial, and what the consequences would be of choosing the wrong business partner. It is imperative to show the prospect that they need your company – help them to understand that with your help and expertise, their business would benefit a lot more than they expect.
We are not saying that your company should stop giving free information to customers, but ensure that this information is right and measured, depending on, to which kind of customers it is going out. The information that your company gives out should ‘enlighten and educate’ the serious prospects about why your company is best, the most experienced, and most ideally suited to help their business. The market is tough and resources for everyone seem crunched. It is usually for these reasons that companies tend to sell themselves short, and give out too much free information to customers, which would otherwise be worth a good amount of money. New and or small businesses tend to make and repeat this mistake often, and land up either with the worst kinds of customers, or no customers at all. Giving too much free information to customers tells them that your company is not convinced of its own capabilities, is desperate for business, an association with your company is not worth the trouble, or that they can endeavour to complete the project without your help and do it on their own. In addition, and possibly one of the worst things that can happen by giving too much free information to customers is that even though they agree to sign a contract, they would devalue and lower your charges way below market standards.
Do you know when you are giving too much free information to customers? As mentioned, companies may offer free advice and information to show their prowess and establish their authority on a certain subject. However, this would be adequate only during the first meeting / interaction with customers. If your company repeatedly offers advice and information, it would be displaying over eagerness, which customers can use to get a very low fee. The over enthusiastic approach could have a diametrically opposite effect – your company could come across as inexperienced and low on skill. The fact is that no company should give away more than required – there must be a balance of value and benefit to both. Value is both ways and hence benefit should be a two-way street as well. If a company provides valuable insights, support, and information, the customer must provide value through timely payments, responses to queries, and be ready to speak well of the company indicating their happiness in working with it. A lop-sided / or one-sided association is not a relationship, and will not last long. A customer must respect and appreciate the value a company brings to their business, while a company must ensure that it provides top class service and products, and always be ready to help the customer in a crisis.
A better approach than giving too much free information to customers would be to involve customers from the start of the project. Get their ideas, understand the reasons that made them associate with your company, and ask them what they would consider success, arising out of their association with your company. In addition, explain in detail the manner in which your company approaches a project – details such as your company constantly stays in touch with customers during the project, provides support such that minor problems the customer may have could be resolved immediately, and other such information. In all of this, giving too much free information to customers would comprise of giving them methodical instructions – which over time could lead them to believe that they could implement the remainder of the project on their own.
Another form of giving too much free information to customers would be to say that the project is easy. Your company could be giving the impression that it would be required in the initial stages of the project, or since it is easy to do, the company may not be needed at all. Even if the customer does ask a company to ‘kick-off’ the project, it would be at very low fee, and for a short duration – in either case, your company would not benefit from the association.
However, you look at it – giving too much free information to customers will never benefit a company. It would be better to help customers understand what your company can do for them, how your company will make their lives easier, and contribute to the success of their business.