• Potential customers don't want to talk to you -- and that's okay Nov 1, 2010

    Potential customers don't want to talk to you -- and that's okay

    One of the paradoxes of the wired world is this: The closer we are drawn together the more we seek to maintain our distance.

    While the latest solicitations from Facebook friends or LinkedIn contacts remind us that there are fewer than six degrees of separation between any two people, we are increasingly on our guard against undesired solicitations or personal contact. The worldwide communications web that demolished the distance between our little villages has also stripped us of the comfort and security that comes from doing business principally in our own neighborhoods with the people familiar to us since childhood.

    We have become very wary.

    So we don't just stop in to talk to the owner of the new bistro that opened down the street. We google the place and yelp it and visit its website and print out its menu before we "risk" making a visit.

    This is entirely understandable. With so many businesses, products and services competing for our attention, we have to become more selective. And with so much more of our time taken by sorting and filtering myriad inputs, we want to be really sure that we have made a good choice before we invest our time, intellect and emotions in making person-to-person contact.

    What does this mean for your online presence?

    In our opinion, most businesses and organizations are not providing enough information -- or the right information -- for potential customers to make good decisions about whether or not to make contact. We are inclined to tell our stories in broad terms designed to make us seem as attractive as possible to as many people as possible. In doing so, we gloss over the details that might give  potential customers the information they need to decide whether or not we providethe best solution to their needs.

    This strategy might have made sense in an era of information and resource scarcity. (If there is only one eligible bachelor in town, he won't have to reveal much about himself in order to find young women willing to go to the dance.) But if I am given the choice between 10 or 100 competing suitors -- all of them instantly available yet comfortably at a distance -- I will do a great deal of research before I pick up the phone. And I will disqualify many otherwise suitable contenders -- and this is important -- simply because they did not provide me with enough information to make an informed decision.

    The risks of being honest ...

    Of course, by providing plenty of relevant information to potential customers, you run the risk that they will decide that you are not the right provider for their needs. But that's okay. Because the reverse is also true: The customer who does pick up the phone (or fill out the form, or click to your landing page) has already checked you out thoroughly and needs very little additional convincing that you will provide the best answer for their needs.

    And that's okay, too.