With thanks to our guest blogger, Polly McGee, freelance writer, digital strategist and broadcaster with flair.

 

In a market strewn with commodities, the contemporary small business increasingly uses a niche, value-added strategy to carve out a particular part of the market. The long tail business model defines your customer into a narrow demographic that you can tailor your offering to – including your words.

The danger of a business built on deep expertise is that the dive becomes so deep that the customer gets left behind. I have had this experience twice in Tasmania recently, where the evangelistic work of the provider had the net impact of totally alienating the customer (and my interstate guests), with what came across as arrogance and superiority, rather than the desire to take us on the journey of discovery with them. Both times there was an assumption that we knew nothing about the subject matter, and a patronising monologue ensued. Followed by no sale.

It is a fine balance as a provider of any niche service or product to simultaneously educate, entertain and ascertain the level of interest without interrogation. You don’t want to pitch too basic, or drown people in jargon. The same rule applies for your digital communication. Especially on websites, too much text turns many people off and makes information difficult to find. Too little or too specialised or too hard to navigate has the same impact.

Two ways to keep your customers and potential customers happy is to curate information into easy-to-navigate areas of your website. A blog with thoughtful indexing and keywords to search is a space where you can regularly educate in a conversational way to help your customers keep abreast of what you are doing. Assume that anyone who stops by to read a blog is genuinely interested, so give them an authentic conversational snapshot of the day to day, behind the scenes of your work.

A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page also gives you a chance to put the basics across, and is a live document where as customers ask you regular questions you can update to reflect common enquiry. This information is designed to be entry level and will therefore not come across as patronising or dumbed down for more savvy customers.

Have your words read by someone outside your business who is not familiar with what you do to make sure your text is a logical narrative and easy to navigate. Make it clear where customers and potential customers can contact you and ask questions, and ensure that both in your digital and face-to-face dealings, you keep asking how you can do it better to make their experience one that leaves them satisfied, feeling heard and appreciated, and leads to a transaction at the end.