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Part of what makes City Sidewalk unique is that we don’t shy away from delivering painful truth. We’ve always believed that you are paying us for our professional expertise and opinions and not to mince words. Too many professional communication firms think it’s better to feed clients a crap sandwich to ease any kind of painful truths. If you don’t know what a crap sandwich is then watch the Back Alley Blog for our next article.

Our bedside manner takes a bit of getting used to. Not everyone appreciates blunt and honest. If we had to describe ourselves to any fictional character it would most closely resemble Dr. House played by Hugh Laurie. Prospects and new clients are often caught off guard when they receive a double-barreled shot to the chest of brutal honesty. 

To illustrate this a bit better, we’ve decided to describe a recent preliminary discovery meeting we had with a prospect. She took advantage of our “Free hour of honesty” where we started the conversation off by asking her to give us a quick idea of what her business was all about, and what problems she was hoping that we could resolve for her.

If you ever choose to meet with us you’ll probably get a similar question. It’s a bit of a trick question since the answer usually opens the door for us to illustrate the foundational problems many small businesses have with what they do, and the customers they market themselves to.

What follows is the general conversation. We’ve changed some of the dialogue for brevity and to protect the identity of the client.

Prospect: “We create some of the most unique and creative corporate and personal gift baskets for a variety of clients across Metro Vancouver.”

City Sidewalk: “Anything else?”

Prospect: “Our clients tell us they love us all the time, we always get great reviews, but for some reason, we can’t seem to increase our lead generation, so that is the most important problem we are trying to solve.”

City Sidewalk: “Anything else?”

Prospect: “Not really, that’s everything in a nutshell.”

City Sidewalk: “Thanks for sharing. Here are a couple of other questions if you don’t mind answering before we dig a bit further. 1) What are you selling, and what do your competitors sell? 2) What are your customers buying?

Prospect: “Sorry, I thought that I already covered that; we sell gift baskets.”  – then delivered with a bit of a chuckle, “our clients buy those gift baskets.” 

City Sidewalk: “Anything else to add?” 

Prospect: “Not really, but just in case I wasn’t clear, our clients love us.”

City Sidewalk: “Ok thanks. Let’s take care of some rather important things right off the top so we can make some quick progress. You ok, if I dispense with the niceties?

Prospect: “No problem, go ahead. I am a bit concerned that you don’t understand my problem though… you asked the same question two different ways. I want to make sure you understand that we sell baskets and that even though our customers love us, we are struggling to increase leads or get referrals.”

City Sidewalk: “I heard you loud and clear. I asked the question slightly differently to see if you’d answer differently.”

Prospect: ‘No, I’m pretty sure I know what we sell, and what our clients buy.”

City Sidewalk: “Ok, thanks for confirming it with me.”

Prospect: seeming a bit frustrated, “No problem. Anytime.”

City Sidewalk:  “Well, you definitely have a problem that needs some attention.”

Prospect: “That’s why we’re here.”

City Sidewalk: “The problem is that your customers don’t give a shit about your business, or the baskets they buy from you.

Prospect: Stunned, mouth slightly agape. Probably thinks I’m an asshole. “Pardon?”

City Sidewalk: “You don’t agree?”

Prospect: Silence

City Sidewalk: “Want me to explain?”

Prospect: Nods head, looks like she’s on the verge of walking out.

City Sidewalk: “Your clients only care about themselves and what your company and products do for them.”

Prospect: Looks befuddled, but slightly hopeful.

City Sidewalk: “You don’t sell baskets. You’re selling messages of appreciation, thankfulness, and joy. Your problem stems from you thinking that you’re selling a product, or that that is what customers are buying. — Anybody, can sell a basket… Costco, sells gift baskets. Does a gift basket from Costo scream “I appreciate you!”

“Your clients aren’t buying a basket, they are investing in a gift that says to the recipient, “you matter, you’re loved & appreciated. Delivering that kind of gift also makes them look and feel thoughtful, caring, and appreciative too — it’s a double bonanza.”

Prospect: “I was so close to walking out 10 seconds ago. I never thought about what people were actually getting. I mean I know it’s the reason, but I never looked at it from that kind of viewpoint. I only thought about customers and products.”

City Sidewalk: “I’m glad you didn’t walk. I put an hour on the meter, and we’ve still got about 45 minutes to find out if City Sidewalk can actually help solve any of your problems.

Prospect: “You already have.”

Hopefully, this story illustrates how important perspective is when it comes to identifying what it is that you sell, and what your customers are actually buying from you. Separating the forest from the trees is critical and it can be done quite easily if you ask yourself the right questions.

Do NOT underestimate the power and value that some of the simplest questions can have over your perceptions. One small shift in perspective can dramatically allow you to see all sorts of different things.

Feel free to give us a call and take advantage of our “Hour of Honesty” – We don’t judge and whatever you share with us is kept in complete confidence.