How to Make a Difference: Find Out What Your Customers Really Want

by Marcia Hoeck on March 28, 2012

 

 

“Moopie, are they dry yet?”

The clay figures we’d made that morning were taking FOR. EV. ER. to dry. And that meant we wouldn’t be able to paint them before we had to get on the road the next day, when it would be time for me to take my little charmers back home to their parents.

(I am “Moopie” to my son’s children, not because it means “Grandma” to them, but because I’ve been “Moop” to everyone in my family since before I can remember. For reasons known only to them, my older brother and sister found it easier to say “Moop” than to say “Marcia.”)

So, since the carefully sculpted Angry Birds, Hello Kitty, butterfly, worms, and pizza were going to have to sit and dry, we moved on. To t-shirt painting!

I’m the facilitator

I am merely the facilitator in these exercises. I guide the wishes of the true creators: Austin, age 7, and Sydney, age 3. I can get my hands on the good stuff and make it work — their job is to bring the ideas. (I have a friend who says that for a kid, having an agreeable grandmother is like having a big Baby Huey to play with — one who can drive.)

Austin is definitely more controlled in his art than his sister. He knows what he wants to create, and when he’s comfortable with his tools, moves ahead with confidence and a plan. If he comes to a new challenge, he asks for help. He asked for help painting the Angry Bird on his shirt. The fabric paint was blobby and difficult to control. He stood behind and directed me.

Sydney doesn’t have a plan, or a thought, or a moment’s hesitation. Anything goes, and she’s always thrilled with what she’s created. She threw the permanent fabric paint all over the table — it was all I could do to follow behind, mopping up. The medium was the message, for sure.

In the end, both kids got what they wanted out of our weekend (except I did make them take baths at the last minute). Both were very pleased with themselves.

They had been catered to and presented with options.

Listened to more than talked at.

Understood more than sold to.

Assisted. Guided. And respected.

And shown in every possible way how much they were loved.

After they left (and after my 3-hour nap), I was reflecting on how easy and natural it is to be Moopie. Kids know what they want from you, and the difference you make to them.

It’s almost the same with my clients

As long as I’ve been in marketing communications (over 28 years), I still grapple with the problem of how to communicate my own strengths, what I do, and how I can help, even though this is something I work on with my clients every day. It’s really hard to find the exact words that will speak to you — my clients and prospective clients.

We should all know how to describe what we do so people will want to work with us, right? And if I’m teaching this to you, I should be able to do it for myself, shouldn’t I?

I used to try extra hard to explain how I made a difference. I used lots of big words to tell you what I do – because, after all, I’m in situations every day where I may be meeting prospective clients, and they may need to know I can help.

But. Even though I know that’s important, when I stopped trying so hard to convince you of my wonderful strengths and started watching what you need and asking questions instead, an amazing thing happened. It became much more clear to me (and to you) how I made a difference.

I started asking questions on purpose

Two years ago, I did a whole slew of interviews with business owners, a lot of complimentary discovery sessions, and a many one-on-one networking meetings. I still try to do as many of these as I can. At the same time, I started doing “Ten Minutes with Marcia” on Thursdays, whenever I could — although it’s been awhile since I’ve had time for one of those.

I asked you questions, and you answered them. Or you asked me questions, and I answered. And as we talked, I learned what I most needed to learn.

I found that the better I got at asking questions, the better you got at telling me how I could help you, and what my particular strengths are to be able to do that.

You tell me what you really want

When I ask Austin what he really wants, he knows:

“I want to make six Angry Birds out of clay, three big and three small. Then I want this Angry Bird drawn on my shirt, but this paint is too hard. I can’t make it look good. So I want you to do it, and I’ll show you how. Please.”

 

When I ask Sydney what she really wants, she knows:

“I want to make a butterfly and a pizza out of clay. And Hello Kitty. Make a green dog on my t-shirt. Do it faster. And I want some milk. Please.”

It makes me feel really humble and special to be in this place with my grandkids. Because I know that, at that moment, I am the only person who can help them. I got the clay and the paints, and I spread the newspapers on the table on the porch, and I know how to draw both an Angry Bird and a green dog, and I can sculpt the best dang Hello Kitty either of them will see that day. I found out what they wanted and I gave it to them.

I am Moopie. And I make a difference to them.

You also told me what you want. You told me what you struggle with, the things that overwhelm you, and how stuck you sometimes feel. You told me how frustrated you are with your business, and how dumb it makes you feel at times, and the fear you sometimes feel, too. I’ve been in awe and so grateful for what you’ve shared with me, for what you trust me with.

And it makes me feel exactly the same way I feel with Austin and Sydney, when I can help you, too.  It makes me feel really humble and special to be in that place with you — to know, at that moment, that I am the person who can help you. I have the tools, and the resources, and the knowledge, and the patience. I spread the newspapers on the table on the porch for you. I found out what you want and I gave it to you. And I make a difference to you.

When I talk with you, I try to present you with options.

I try to listen to you more than talk at you.

I try to understand more than sell to you.

I try to assist. Guide. Respect.

And show in every possible way how much you are loved. Yes. I do love my clients.

(I know I’m not supposed to say “try.” I’m just supposed to “do.” But I’m not perfect and I don’t always get it 100% right, so I keep trying, I keep working on it. And I keep getting better.)

Moopie makes me a better coach

I think being Moopie makes me a better coach. Moopie slows me down. She’s not as intense as Marcia the business coach can be. Not trying so hard. She naturally asks questions, listens, and helps.

And maybe listening to what comes naturally is more of what we all should be doing, instead of trying so hard to figure out what we should be doing. When I do what comes naturally when working with you, here are some of the things you tell me:

“It feels good to see some light instead of overwhelming weight.”

“I feel very comfortable telling you how I really feel, and I can already tell it’s made a big difference, too.”

“Thank you for unsticking me.”

“I’m more engaged in my business than I’ve ever been, my relationship with my husband is better, and we have several new clients.”

“My mood and motivation have been much better since working with you, knowing you have my back.”

“You’ve really helped me clarify some important things in such a short while. You are quite amazing!”

“You don’t try to turn me into someone else, you just bring out my best me.”

“I feel empowered in a way I had not been before.”

“I cannot believe how much I have grown under your mentorship.”

“It’s been an incredible, incredible, experience, working with you.”

But here’s the key: I had to stop trying to figure out how to describe what to offer you, and had to start talking to you instead

And guess what? There’s a real consistency in what you tell me: you’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed with everything you have to do in your business, and you want someone who’s been there to guide you so the whole dang thing doesn’t just collapse around your ankles. You want to be able to cut through the crap, and it has to be easy, because you’re busy running a business. You want someone to hold you accountable, because you’re serious, and you want that person to also understand your fears, support you, and make you feel safe – because maybe you don’t do things the “right” way. After all, you had to learn this all on the fly, right? And you pieced things together as you went along, right? And what if someone finds out you never look at your bank statements or that you’ve never managed anyone before? Who the heck can you talk to about this stuff, anyway?

I know this is what you worry about, because you tell me. I know that supporting you in this way is my area of strength, my difference, and this is how I help you – because you tell me.

I’m the facilitator

And, like Moopie, I’m merely the facilitator. I can get ahold of the good stuff and make it work, and you can be safe to bring your ideas and let your imagination run wild. If you come to a new challenge, you can ask for help. Or you can dive right in and I’ll follow behind, keeping pace as best as I can, mopping up.

So why am I telling you all this? Did I think it was time for a commercial?

No. The real purpose, which I couldn’t get to without going through all of this, was to show you my process for understanding how I make a difference. So maybe it will help you make a difference with your clients, too.

Whether as Moopie or as coach, I need to ask how I can help

I need to know what you really want.

I don’t make it up. I don’t decide how I can make a difference and then find people to sell it to, although that is really tempting to do. It doesn’t really work though.

What I did was to start asking questions. I figured out how I could answer those questions in a way that could make a difference for you. I started answering those questions, before you were my client, and even if you never become my client. And now I continue to check my difference with you every time I work with you. The deeper I work with you, the more I find out what you want, and the bigger a difference I can make. At least that’s my intention.

It’s an ongoing process.

 

If you’d like me to ask you some questions, sign up for a complimentary Instant Insight session. And maybe soon, I’ll get back to the “Ten Minutes with Marcia” afternoons, too. Those are fun.

 

 

Bonnie Hutchinson March 29, 2012 at 8:55 am

Marcia, once again you’ve nailed it! I can personally verify that all you’ve said about yourself is true – as a friend and as a coach. Lucky Austin and Sydney to have Moopie. Lucky us to have you. Thanks for being not only a coach but a role model.

Satinder S Arora March 29, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Marcia, great article. It was a joy to read about your experience with grand kids and the simple lessons which came out of it.

Marcia Hoeck March 30, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Hi Satinder!
Great to hear from you. Thanks for reading and taking the time to say hello. Hope your business is going well.

Joan Clarke April 19, 2012 at 7:30 am

I completely agree that you need to know what your clients/customers really want so you can better help them. Thank you for this interesting post Marcia. Btw, your grand kids are adorable!
Joan Clarke recently posted..Specialty Makeup Brushes for the Average Person

Marcia Hoeck April 23, 2012 at 12:40 pm

I just now saw this comment Joan, so sorry! Thanks for stopping by and giving me feedback.
Marcia

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