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A Little Whining—When Will We Stop Thinking Buyers Are Stupid

by David Brock on August 30th, 2018

I’ve been away from the blog for a bit.  Three continents in 10 days, sitting in yet another airline lounge waiting my next flight.  I’m clearing email that has piled up over the just completed transatlantic leg.

There are two I’ve just deleted from my inbox.  Each is from a supplier that I have had long relationships with.  Each is up to their annual demonstration of how stupid they think their customers are.

The first is my renewal to the Harvard Business Review.  I’ve gone through this annually for at least 10 years.  My current subscription is ending and they are encouraging me to renew.  I click on the link, I’m offered another year at a certain amount.  I go to the web site, looking and the subscription price for a new subscriber.  As has happened year after year, my renewal is 40% higher than if I subscribe as a new reader.  (Maybe they are trying to drive me away).  They even toss in a few goodies for the new subscriber.

Ironically, I devour every issue of HBR.  There are so many articles about the “new buyer,” how they are smarter, how they research, how we can’t take them for granted.  They publish articles about customer loyalty and retaining customers.  I read them closely.

It seems the managers of HBR don’t learn from their own magazine.

No problem, I still subscribe, except every year it’s as a new subscriber.  I’m really not as stupid as they think I am.

Another comes from my car leasing company.  They are playing the same games they play every 3 years.  I’ve bought the current version of the same car for about 20 years.  Every once in a while, I decide to be wild and crazy, and get a different color, most of the time I revert to black.

My lease is coming up.  I’ve been deluged with offers from the manufacturer’s finance company, as well as dealers knowing my lease is ending.  “Get the current model of your car for the same payment you are now making…….”

The problem is, the dealers they are pointing me to offer the same car for significantly less than the offer from the leasing company.  And that’s published offers, one wonders what the offer would be if I even breathed the phrase, “could you do better….?”

Perhaps, somehow these companies have been monitoring my traveling and think in a momentary jet-lagged stupor, I may accept their outreach.  But in reality, I think they really don’t respect their customers, thinking of them as stupid.  (You might ask, why do you keep buying–I do like the products, I know I will get them at a reasonable price, but I just have to wade through their stupidity.)

We know buyers are smart.  We know, through their entire buying process they continue to research and learn.  (HBR tells us this)

So if we know these things, why do so many companies continue to ignore this, and treat customers and prospects as idiots?

Whining over, perhaps some of this is the jet lag talking.  They are calling my next flight…….  (At least I’m restraining myself from whining about airlines, that would be too depressing.)Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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  1. A usual David, you make a great point. There is an obvious counterpoint that “Sellers” like HBR or a car lease company have been brought into the modern era of algorithmic systems that generate these emails. These are based on buyer behavior accrued from some massive database purchased by the company from the likes of the scavengers-of-the-deep data mining operations – the same ones that send you pop-up ads for sparkly nail polish the second after your daughter borrowed your computer to check out “cool new things” – that sells the software that generates the emails telling you how stupid you are if you actually click on this. However, studies show that there is a certain percentage – deemed to be acceptable – of folks who actually do click on the offer, sans jetlag or other mind-altering substances. Yes, it is insulting, but, to quote Family Feud, Survey Says! On a professional side such as the B2B world we operate in, these games should be abandoned, because insulting customers has never worked. Apparently, Joe Consumer has a higher threshold.

    • Michael: I don’t disagree that too many take advantage of that “ignorance” on the part of customers. But does that make it right? Does it enhance the customer experience, driving long term relationships. Customers are smart, they eventually get it, they act with not only their wallets, but by actively complaining and making their dissatisfaction known. The argument that, “just because some will not notice,” or they can get away with it, is short term thinking on the part of the suppliers.

      To paraphrase, “You can fool some of the people, some of the time, you can’t fool all of the people all the time.” Regards, Dave

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