You can tell a lot about an organization by the way it behaves. The things that an organization says it cares about matter, of course. But what matters more is whether the organization’s actual behaviors match up with its communication. It is one thing to say “our customers come first.” But what matters more is whether, behaviorally, that is actually true.
Two quick, recent stories to illustrate the point, both of which come from recent experiences with vendors to our company.
Story #1: One of our key vendors recently recommended that we adopt a certain CRM program to help us grow our business. It was a major initiative for our company, that would have required significant resources of budget and time. We wrestled with different ways to explore it, and possibly adopt its use, and eventually “put a fence around the project” so that it did not distract everyone on the team. We put a lot of effort into it, with the support of this vendor, but mostly confined the project to one member of our team.
After about a year, we realized it just was not the right tool for our company, and decided not to proceed. I approached this vendor to let him know we would not be adopting the tool, but told him to invoice me for the time he spent on the project…. which was not a small number. And his response shocked me. “I gave you the advice to adopt the tool, you put a lot of time into this project, and decided not to follow my advice. I am not charging you for that time. Consider that my investment in our relationship.” I was speechless, because most people would still have invoiced me for the time spent.
Story #2: Also recently, with a different vendor, we were working on a major upgrade to some of our marketing materials. It was a big project, with some significant expected cost. Long story short… while the project was producing a good result, it was taking significantly more time than was originally estimated. And eventually it became clear that the original cost estimate was way off. Way off. But this vendor, did the right thing and told me he would honor the original estimate. I even offered to at least split the difference with him, and he would have none of it. He wouldn’t take my money. I offered twice. So, the project is being completed, and while it has taken a lot longer and should have cost me a lot more, the original estimate has been honored.
We spend a lot of time with our clients, and on this blog, talking about how important your message is, and how thoughtful and intentional we all need to be in our communication. But sometimes, it is important to look at actual human behavior also. And no matter what message we craft, no matter what our website or marketing materials might say, the most powerful message we can “speak” to our clients comes from how we actually treat them.
Behaviors speak loudly. And when I see behaviors like the ones from these two vendors, I am reminded how powerful our behaviors are. What we actually do, and how we actually behave, is almost always the most powerful marketing tool a business can have.
And because of their behaviors, these two vendors have my enduring loyalty. Not only will we stay with them, but I will (and have) bent over backwards to refer others to them.
Message matters. Behaviors often matter more.
Have a great day.
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