Most peo­ple think of trans­parency as almost the oppo­site show­man­ship. Most peo­ple are wrong.

Trans­parency is let­ting prospec­tive cus­tomers see through to what­ever they feel they need to ver­ify in order to con­fi­dently give you their money. Or to at least take that next step toward doing busi­ness with you.

But a lot of per­sua­sive tech­niques help build con­fi­dence in the prospect.  The dif­fer­ence is that trans­parency cre­ates con­fi­dence in highly skep­ti­cal or sus­pi­cious prospects, in sit­u­a­tions where most other per­sua­sive tech­niques sim­ply wouldn’t work. “See­ing is believ­ing,” and all that — it’s pow­er­ful stuff.

So the less trust, the more you need trans­parency. When the police offi­cer pulls you over, he’s not going to take it on faith that you don’t have a gun — he wants you to keep your freakin’ hands where he can see them. He demands transparency.

Sim­ple, right? But like most buzz­words “trans­parency” is most mis­un­der­stood by the very peo­ple mouthing it most often, to the point that they’re obliv­i­ous to the proper way to use this per­sua­sive tool in mar­ket­ing small and medium-sized businesses.

And for the record, the proper way is the way that not only cre­ates trust, but also increases prof­its. The proper way requires trans­parency AND showmanship.

Trans­parency Becomes Showmanship?

Here’s what I mean: If you owned a wood-fired pizza joint, and adver­tised it as such, most cus­tomers would believe you, even if they couldn’t see the oven when they walked in the door. Even if you put the oven in the back.

But they wouldn’t believe with any­thing near the con­fi­dence they’d have if you had that brick, wood-fired oven right out where every­one could see it, so that they could see the wood logs amidst the open flames, and watch while you actively slid raw piz­zas in and cooked piz­zas out. Nor would they pay you as much money for your piz­zas if they couldn’t actu­ally see it all for them­selves. Trans­parency makes the difference.

That’s a great exam­ple of the RIGHT use of trans­parency.  But is it ONLY transparency?

Or does rear­rang­ing your restau­rant to fea­ture a highly vis­i­ble oven lean closer to show­man­ship than just plain trans­parency? When does “let­ting peo­ple see” become “mak­ing sure peo­ple notice and care about the difference”?

Openly knead­ing the pizza in the front of the restau­rant trans­par­ently proves that the pizza dough is fresh made. Spin­ning and toss­ing it in the air ensures cus­tomers get the mes­sage (in an enter­tain­ing and enjoy­able way) through a bit of show­man­ship. I rather doubt that hand-tossed pizza actu­ally tastes bet­ter than hand-made-but-non-tossed pizza. Or that see­ing the wood oven makes the pizza taste bet­ter than if the oven was in the back. But most peo­ple are will­ing to pay more for these things.

Bot­tom Line: trans­parency won’t get you were you really want to go with­out a lit­tle help from showmanship.

OK, but this is Tues­day, so how am I going make this into a Prac­ti­cal How-To?

2 Steps to Trans­parency & Showmanship

Ask your­self:

1. What strate­gic dif­fer­ence are you try­ing to con­vey to prospects?

What value-added activ­ity or secret ingre­di­ent or qual­i­ta­tive dif­fer­ence is your com­pany using to jus­tify your pre­mium pric­ing? What expe­ri­en­tial dif­fer­ence are you hop­ing to con­vey that would fur­ther jus­tify your price pre­mium in the eyes of the customer?

2. How can I use trans­parency to trans­fer con­fi­dence & show­man­ship to add emo­tional voltage?

Now that you’re clear on what you need the cus­tomer to believe in order to hap­pily pay you more money than your com­peti­tors, how can you use a bit of trans­parency to PROVE your claims. And then ask: how can you add some flair, drama, and emo­tional punch to the pre­sen­ta­tion of it all?

And because this is Tac­ti­cal Prac­ti­cal Tues­day, here are some exam­ples of how you might work through this exercise:

Exam­ple 1: Ser­vice Company/HVAC

Here’s a com­par­i­son of how dirty your coils were, Mrs. Smith…”

Strate­gic Dif­fer­ence and Value Add: Our HVAC Com­pany Has Bet­ter Trained Techs and Offers a More Thor­ough Tune-Up for Less Money.

Trans­parency Prac­tices: When HVAC tech­ni­cians per­form a tune-up, do they show the cus­tomer the parts they replaced?  And I mean that on both ends — do they show them the shiny new part that’s going in, and do they show them the rusty, dirty, and worn old part that came out? That’s a good use of transparency.

Show­man­ship: Might the HVAC tech­ni­cians make a show of tak­ing the brand new parts out of the plas­tic bag or pack­ag­ing they came in. And per­haps make a bit of a show of visu­ally inspect­ing the part to make sure it’s right? Bet­ter yet, per­haps maybe lubri­cat­ing or adjust­ing the thing prior to installation?

Or if there’s no part to replace, do they take before and after pho­tos on their smart phones to show the client?  Do they note the sound of the A/C unit as it stains away prior to the visit and point out the sweeter pitch of the sys­tem after the tune-up?

Exam­ple 2: Shoe Com­pany or Bicy­cle Store

Do you think these guys are seri­ous about fit?

Strate­gic Dif­fer­ence and Value Add: Fit & Cus­tomiza­tion of brands that can’t be bought (or at least can’t be fit) by big box and online commoditizers

Trans­parency Prac­tices: Post­ing the 7-point mea­sure­ment and fit analy­sis used to pro­vide a cus­tomer match between run­ner (or cyclist) and shoe (or bike). Show­ing the cus­tomer the tools and the mea­sure­ments at each stage and how those go into fig­ur­ing out the best fit.

Show­man­ship: Exam­in­ing the old shoe and show­ing the wear pat­terns to the prospect. Explain­ing how, if the bought a shoe with the wrong last, what can hap­pen to their foot or run­ning gait or mus­cles and ten­dons. Invest­ing in a piece of equip­ment that can pres­sure ana­lyze a runner’s actual, in-motion gait. Mak­ing a big deal out of that in-motion analysis.

Putting tes­ti­mo­ni­als and pic­tures of happy clients on the wall. Dis­play­ing let­ters of appre­ci­a­tion from the man­u­fac­tur­ers them­selves. If Abra­ham Hyde will go on record as say­ing your store embod­ies the real spirit of Saucony shoes, for exam­ple, post­ing that up or even post­ing a pull-quote from the man would be a per­fect piece of show­man­ship. You might also con­sider show­ing off pic­tures of your­self as a young run­ner, from back in the day. Show­ing off the tan­gi­ble evi­dence of your own cycling adven­tures is a great way to allow peo­ple see and ver­ify your pas­sion for what you sell.

Show­man­ship & Imputed Qual­ity = Fat­ter Profit Margins

Trans­parency with­out Show­man­ship is a wasted effort. It’s like build­ing a high qual­ity prod­uct that doesn’t impute qual­ity. Smart, prof­itable com­pa­nies invest in show­man­ship and imputed quality.

Is your com­pany going to be one of them?

 

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