You Know What Happens When You Assume?

There are countless stories about an athlete, team or contender losing before ever stepping foot into the venue in which they are to compete. This rings true despite intense training, planning and preparation. What is the likely cause of this apparent forfeiture? The answer is simple – assumption. An assumption is convincing oneself of something with little to no supporting information. In other words, you psych yourself out long before seeing your rival face-to-face.

Assumptions, especially negative ones, can derail sales and marketing efforts long before they start. So let’s go over common assumptions that lead small businesses down the road of premature defeat.

Assumption No. 1: People Hate Ads

Some businesses feel as if they have to apologize for their ads. In other words, they assume that they’re an interruption or intrusion on customers’ lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s some proof. Every year during the Big Game what do people talk about the most (besides football, of course)? Everyone is abuzz about commercials! The point is people love commercials – good commercials. It’s the bad ones people hate. Never assume your pitch is an obstacle for your audience; just make it worth their time.

Assumption No. 2: No One Can Touch Me

A business owner once told me that he was the top operation in town and that his closest competitor was a joke. This is a classic example of a guy becoming way too comfortable. Over time, he lost respect for those seeking his position and failed to keep an emphasis on aggressive marketing. He assumed his company was untouchable. Think about the world’s top search engine company. In 1998 industry titans all but ignored, what was then, a tiny two-kid-startup. Today, this search engine company has completely obliterated the competitive field and holds nearly 70% market share. Vigilance is critical; if you hold the lead position in your area, work as though you are in third or fourth place. The underdog will gladly push you out of the way in pursuit of the position taken for granted.Assumption No. 3: The Audience Is Stupid

Quite often I hear ads where the announcer is, literally, shouting the message (a feeble attempt to circumvent resistance). There are other instances where advertisers claim to have the biggest sale of the year – weekly. Remember, no one likes to be engaged in a condescending way. Beyond that, today’s audiences are quite savvy. Many take time to check out local reviews, comparison shop, read consumer reports and other things before making a decision. Never assume your audience can’t put two-and-two together. On the contrary, respect their collective intelligence and communicate accordingly.

My former sales trainer frequently asked, “You know what happens when you assume, don’t you?” I always hoped that he’d make this particular question rhetorical (it wasn’t). As a small business, you also have to face a tough question. Are you losing the sales and marketing competition on account of assumptions?

Walter Dailey is a former ad agency partner and experienced marketing professional. He is the lead consultant and executive producer at Dailey Sound Vector Media, a creative services organization that specializes in developing commercials, jingles and marketing campaigns for small businesses throughout North America.  Ask Walter your questions