Flight Distance

By Dawn Lospaluto
In May 17, 2013

Among the fascinating observations in his entertaining and moving bestseller, The Life of Pi, author Vann Martel writes about  “flight distance”―”the minimum distance at which an animal wants to keep a perceived enemy.”

“Different animals have different flight distances and they gauge them in different ways. Cats look, deer listen, bears smell,” explains the co-narrator and protagonist, Pi Patel, son of an Indian zoo owner. “Giraffes will allow you to come within 30 yards of them if you are in a motor car, but will run if you are 150 yards away on foot. Fiddler crabs scurry when you’re ten yards away; howler monkeys stir in their branches when you’re at twenty; African buffaloes react at seventy-five.”

Sales prospects also have their own flight distances. In retail, for example, some customers will bolt a store if a salesperson approaches them as soon as they enter; others will politely decline the help and proceed to look around; still others will find the greeting welcoming and praise the shop for its attentive customer service. Experienced salespeople can make a quick judgment call about how quickly to approach each customer, but knowing how hard to keep after prospects without scaring them away is more difficult when you can’t see them. Are you sending them too many emails and alienating them? Are you sending too few and falling out of their awareness altogether?

In an  item in today’s [Re]View member newsletter, we cited an article in the May 13 issue of BtoB magazine by Christine Crandell, President, New Business Strategies, about four “customer experience disruptors” that can drive prospects and even some established customers away. The first is the point at which Marketing identifies a lead and tries to move it to the front burner and spur the prospect to act.

At this “zero moment of truth,” writes Crandell, “most companies believe they can accelerate the funnel velocity and treat prospects accordingly. That’s when the first disrupter happens: an inundation of marketing emails, irrelevant calls to action, ‘freemium’ offers that don’t work or aren’t really free, and those creepy follow-you banner ads promoting the product a buyer just looked at.

“This experience differs from what the potential buyer expects and introduces doubt in their minds,” she continues. “Buyers typically give a seller the benefit of the doubt and move forward”―continue walking into the store despite the salesperson assault―”but, in extreme cases, they will completely disengage”―turn right around and walk back out the door.

How to keep customers engaged without annoying them? When it comes to email, a lot depends on the message you are sending. Constant emails with special offers, new products, one-day sales, etc., will earn you a quick trip to the “block email address” folder. Emails with valid information, interesting content, and items the customer can use are far more likely to be accepted and even opened. The added benefit of good business content is that it establishes your company as a “go-to” expert in the field and someone they will likely think of calling should a need for services such as yours arise.

You don’t have to stop the emails, blogs, twitter messages, etc. Just make sure that you’re feeding your customers a diet of good, targeted content they can use to grow their business instead of a stream of junk food that fills their mail boxes but not their minds.

Dawn Lospaluto

Epicomm Senior Director of Communications, Dawn has been the editor of Epicomm 's "Bottom Line" magazine and its predecessor publications, "NAPL Business Review," Printing Manager," and "The Journal of Graphic Communications Management," for 20 years. She also writes and edits several Epicomm member print and electronic newsletters, including [Re]View, Management Bulletin, Highlights, and Discover; press releases; and various marketing materials; and oversees Epicomm 's book publishing program. Dawn previously served as corporate managing editor for Allied (now Honeywell) Corporation and as a reporter and editor for New Jersey's largest evening newspaper. She is a graduate of Douglass College (Rutgers University) and holds an M.A. degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she has served on the adjunct faculty.

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