As your Head Coach, I've spent the last eight months clearing entrepreneurs' psychological brush. Tough duty, to be sure. But just because you're a thoughtful, patient, balanced, tenacious, clear-headed business owner doesn't mean you can connect with customers--or harder yet, get them to change their well-grooved buying habits.
With that in mind, here is a quick, four-pronged attack for getting inside customers' heads, grabbing their attentions and, with any luck, earning their loyalty.
Boil the Frog Slowly. Need instant gratification that your strategy for world domination is working? First settle down and recall the "The Tale of the Boiled Frog."
Legend has it that if you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will hop out immediately to save itself (wouldn't you?). But if you place the frog in a pot of water at the exact temperature of the pond it came from, you can heat the water to a boil before the frog knows he's cooked. Voilà! Soupe de grenouille.
Point of the tale: Too much pressure arouses resistance, even suspicion, among customers (think about President Obama's comprehensive health care overhaul), while small doses over time wear them down.
Remember "New" Coke. Shaking things up is nice--it can also lead to a big mess, especially if you neglect your core product or brand.
Back in 1985, Roberto Goizueta, then CEO of Coca Cola ( KO - news - people ), tried to fend off Pepsi ( PEP - news - people ) by yanking "old" Coke off the selves and foisting New Coke onto its fans. People hated the stuff. Goizueta eventually apologized and brought back the flagship cola, repackaged as "Coke Classic." Today, New Coke is nothing more than a cautionary business school case study. Lesson: Fine tune anything you want, just don't mess with your meal ticket.
Have Real Skin in the Game. There is a leap of faith when buying a new product. Customers have to really believe in the decision, else they'll just stick with what they know--or if they do try something new, they won't take the experiment all that seriously.
Credibility comes from having your own skin in the game. Take Victor Kiam, the guy who made a fortune as head of Remington Products, the company he purchased after his wife bought him his first Remington electric shaver. (Recall that back in those days, electric razors were notorious for leaving bloody track marks.) Kiam's marketing tagline: "I liked it so much, I bought the company!" And his customers bought the razors--lots of them.
Speak Their Language. For those who aren't Irish, St. Patrick first attained prominence by converting the King of Ireland and his Druid priests to Christianity. Knowing the Druids were agrarian and that the Shamrock (a three-leafed clover) was a sacred symbol to them, St. Patrick addressed the priests--his customers, if you will--in fields of clover. As the story goes, St. Patrick plucked a Shamrock from beneath is feet, held it above his head, and asked, "Do you see that your Shamrock has three leaves united on one stalk? Doesn't this offer proof of a Holy Trinity?" The tale may be apocryphal, but the wisdom is rock solid: If you want to connect with customers, meet them on their own terms, and in their own language.
Management guru Peter Senge once said: "People don't resist change. They resist being changed!" Take these four lessons to heart, and you'll find the pushing will get a lot easier.
Dr. Steven Berglas spent 25 years on the faculty of Harvard Medical School's Department of Psychiatry. Today he coaches entrepreneurs, executives and other high-achievers. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org .