Marketing 101 | Reach Your Customers through Their PAIN

*Originally posted on March 15, 2011 by PhilStalnaker at Pro/Vision Coaching.

Recently, I was delayed (when I say “delayed” it was more like an effort on the airline’s part to force me to move to Chicago permanently) and hunkered down at an outlet near a credit card kiosk. As I charged my phone, I couldn’t help but watch the two sales people try relentlessly to capture the attention of the hurried passers-by. The incentive they offered was actually a good deal—a free flight after the first swipe—but no one was interested. Why not? If we were to put their success rate into numbers, it would have to be less and a half percent success rate.

Let’s break it down: at Midway airport, there are 6 gates at the end of the concourse set in a semi-circle. The kiosk was perfectly located at the entrance to the semi-circle, where at least 10 flights per hour were shuffled through (coming AND going). At the average of 135 passengers per flight (according to the airline), over the course of 8 hours, that puts the foot traffic at around 21,600 people during their 8 hour stretch. FYI, I started watching during the last 30 minutes of these particular salespeople’s shift. I inquired how many credit card apps they had sold, which they embarrassedly answered “2”. That means, they literally succeeded at a rate of .000093%.

What was so wrong? Who would not be willing to take a free flight that literally took nothing from them? I say that, because I had already taken advantage of that deal and had acquired the free flight myself. Despite how friendly the salespeople were, no one cared. Curious to find out why, I interrupted a conversation between one of the salespeople and a lady who was overly against this deal. As an objective third party, I asked her why she was so against the deal. Her answer was blunt and honest, “I hate this credit card company”, she said. “They worked me over before and I won’t forgive them.”

“Makes sense to me,” I said, but quickly responded with another question. “Why not sign up, use your swipe to buy a gallon of milk, get your free flight, and then discontinue the card? You would be out nothing, but would have successfully enacted revenge on the company you are angry towards, and you are taking the flight from them.” Without hesitation she turned, filled out the application with a smile, then walked over to me after and thanked me for my help.

5 minutes later that exact same situation repeated itself with a married couple. Again I interrupted the conversation (I also had to include some advice on where to find the pizza that everyone else had while walking around), and again the result was exactly the same. These salespeople, in the last 5 minutes of their shift signed 2 credit card applications from people who were audibly NOT fans of their company. All they had to do was speak to their pain. I’ve already typed over 500 words at this point, so hopefully the lesson is evident, as I doubt I can make the next 500 interesting enough for you to read. Of course, this could never have happened if my flight wasn’t delayed for over 5 hours…

By the way, the credit card companies have no problem with giving people easy ways to opt out after getting the incentive, because statistics show that less than 5% of people will actually go to the effort of discontinuing the card. Laziness, and the credit card companies, win out in the end.

I’m also posting a picture of the shirt that the sales people gave me as a thank-you for getting them those sales.

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