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The Green Sheet Online Edition

November 26, 2018 • Issue 18:11:02


Listen well to bridge what divides

As if you didn't already have enough to do in maintaining and growing a solid merchant portfolio, another factor has come to the fore: politics. This is playing out in the marketplace in significant ways.

For example, researchers at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis studied more than 550 million sales on eBay in 2015 and 2016 and found that people are more likely to make purchases from those they perceive as coming from a similar political persuasion, and absent other criteria, they make assumptions about others' beliefs based on location.

Location, location, location?

Thus, Nebraskans are more inclined to buy from sellers in Missouri than they are from those in New York. And if you do business across state lines, you need to consider whether your location is something you want to broadcast.

Taking a public political stand is also something that can be unwise for business owners. "Political operators can win by dividing and conquering, and they do so routinely," wrote J. Walker Smith in "Why Taking a Political Stance Is the Biggest Mistake a Brand Can Make," on the American Market Association's blog, June 1, 2017. To grow, brands have to keep rolling up bigger numbers of buyers. They can't afford to alienate a large percentage of their buyer base."

Common ground

So when devising your marketing and sales strategies how can you be authentic without alienating swaths of potential customers? Leaders at HP Inc. grappled with this shortly after the 2016 presidential election.

In an April 23, 2018 article published by HP's ezine, The Garage, Dan Salzman, global head of media, analytics and insights at HP, wrote that the company prides itself on being accessible to everyone, but in evaluating a campaign in development in December 2016, his team wondered, "Do we think the situation we are portraying here is relevant to the Trump voter?"

They further asked, "Can one 'general' approach to marketing work across opposing political tribes? Or do we need different, targeted communication customized to each audience? Should we approach America's political tribes the same way we approach marketing to different demographics or ethnicities? And more importantly, are there core values shared across these groups that we could address through our brand's voice?"

To learn more they "embarked on a market research journey that transformed both our team's thinking and practice," Salzman wrote. And after some "eye-opening real-word listening sessions," HP discovered new, common ground.

Listening well

And that brings us back to basics we all learned in Sales 101: the art of listening. While politics is a loaded topic, much of its charge can be diffused if you park your political opinions at the door, leave your MAGA or pink pussy hat in the car, and put all your attention on your prospect to get a good picture of the individual, establish rapport, find out what his or her business is up against and determine how you could help.

For a little reminder on the benefits that come from listening, you might enjoy Celeste Headley's TED presentation, "10 ways to have a better conversation," which is here: www.ted.com/talks/celeste_headlee_10_ways_to_have_a_better_conversation/transcript?language=en. end of article

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