Misconceptions can cost you money. If prospects believe something that's completely wrong or off base about your industry, they may not be so keen to do business with you.
If there are long-standing misconceptions about your business or industry that could be keeping customers away, your best move may be to educate your customers. Here are five ideas that can help.
1. Don't Run Away From Those Misconceptions
If you try to pretend that the misconception doesn't exist, you risk looking like a fool. When a potential client expresses reluctance to do business with you based on something they've heard, consider addressing their concerns head on.
"Every day, my team and I spend a good chunk of time educating others to help fix the misconception that affiliate marketing is spammy and a scam," says Jesse Lakes, CEO and co-founder of GeoRiot, an affiliate marketing firm based in Seattle.
One reason Lakes can't run away from his industry's misconceptions is that there's an element of truth to consumers' concerns, which is often the case with industry misconceptions. As Lakes explains, "Unfortunately, a few bad apples, acting in nefarious ways, have helped in creating far-reaching skepticism about this marketing channel."
By talking to customers about their concerns, however, it's likely some of them will come around. "We've found that while slow and cumbersome, open and direct conversations help shift the mindset," Lakes says, "and allow our potential client base to become comfortable with the industry."
2. Get Your Name Out There
If you want to prove people wrong, you've got to let people know who you are and what your business is all about so anyone with a misconception will conclude that what they've heard just doesn't apply to you.
Bryan Mattimore is in the brainstorming business. His Norwalk, Connecticut-based innovation company, The Growth Engine Co., which he runs with two partners, helps business owners and managers come up with creative breakthroughs.
As far as misconceptions go, Mattimore could have it worse—his industry isn't considered sleazy or unsafe or even a waste of money. But to people unfamiliar with it, what he does can seem like something anyone can do. As he explains, one of many misconceptions about his business is that "brainstorming is all fun and games" and that brainstorming sessions don't require much education or preparation.
"The reality is, we spend hours, days and sometimes even weeks preparing for brainstorming or, more accurately, ideation sessions with clients," Mattimore says.
Mattimore puts himself out there to do a lot of explaining. He writes and gives speeches about brainstorming, and he conducts creativity training workshops. He's also written for trade publications and published two books on the subject.
3. Show Them the Value of What You Do
A common misconception in many industries is that what you're selling is too expensive for what customers end up getting. Your problem may be that your clients don't really understand what goes into the product or service you sell and why you charge the prices you do. So tell them.
Your problem may be that your clients don't really understand what goes into the product or service you sell and why you charge the prices you do. So tell them.
Stanley Lee, founder of Sysil Group, a Los Angeles-based marketing agency, says that when he hears his prices are too steep, he asks his prospects what they will be getting for what they pay a competitor. "Often, the cheaper option leaves [them] doing more work themselves," he says, "or they're getting misled about what they're really getting [for the price they'll pay]."
During the sales process, Lee always tries to educate his potential customers, so they're actually comparing apples to apples. While not all prospects are convinced to use his agency, Lee says, some do.
4. Rebrand Your Business
If the misconception of your business or industry is deeply ingrained in the public's perception of you, you might want to consider calling what you do something else.
For instance, Lake says the affiliate marketing industry has made some attempts at referring to what it does as "performance marketing."
While you may not be eager to do business with a bail bonds insurance company, you may be perfectly happy to work with a surety firm, the name some bail bonds companies use.
5. Try to Change the Perception
If you can't rebrand your business, you could try to expand the perception people have of what you do. Acknowledge the parts of the misconceptions that are accurate, but explain the rest of the story. For instance, Seibo Shen is the founder and CEO of San Francisco-based VapeXhale, which sells vaporizers. These devices were created to extract active ingredients from plants in order to benefit from their medicinal qualities, but these days, they're mostly known for one thing.
"Many people associate vaping with recreational marijuana use because that's the sexier story," Shen explains. But in some areas they’re used for legally permitted prescription medications, for example. Others use the vaporizers for natural herbs like chamomile, he says.
Shen does his best, as he puts it, to "cut through the noise." And being heard is really what fighting misconceptions is all about.
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This article was originally published on December 30, 2014.