Business Strategy

How To Avoid Sending The Wrong Message to Your Customers


I was recently reading in a local newspaper when a full page colour advertisement caught my attention.

The ad was a recruiting ad for a new car dealership. The dealership was looking for new people to join their commissioned sales team.  The ad was full-page and in color.  Although not a national circulation newspaper, the city wide distribution easily numbered in several hundreds of thousands.  As a result, many, many people that morning would be opening their paper, enjoying their coffee, and would see exactly what I saw.

The name of the dealership was prominently featured, multiple times, as well as a picture of their retail location. Their website, physical address, phone number, and even a map of the location was clearly noted. The ad made it crystal clear who they were, what they sold, and where they were located.

At the top of the advertisement were the words “If You Are”, then followed by a very prominent, centered, and clearly bolded word standing alone in the middle of the page:


What followed wasn’t much better – “ambitious”, “driven to succeed financially” and “willing to do what it takes to achieve your goals”.

Now I get it… A company that sells a product often appreciates aggressive salespeople. They are tenacious. They drive results. They don’t like to take no for an answer. They can (often) be manipulative, but they frequently close deals.

Do you know who hates dealing with aggressive salespeople:


No one likes being “closed” in a sales context, especially if it is being done by an aggressive person.  No one wakes up in the morning thinking, “today is a really good day to be “closed” by an “aggressive” salesperson.” In fact, knowing that you might be dealing with an “aggressive salesperson” may be deterrent enough to make you want to avoid that car dealership all together.

I know that this ad was intended for the eyes of potential recruits, but the reality is that many potential customers (including me) saw it (since it was prominently featured, in color, in a full-page ad in a well circulated newspaper). So when someone like me, or my friends, or anyone else who doesn’t like aggressive salespeople looks at the ad they note to themselves:

Don’t go there, because if you do, you will have to deal with an aggressive salesperson

If I were in the market for a new car, and I saw this ad, I would be reluctant to go there because I know that I would have to likely deal with a salesperson who is aggressive, and I would prefer not to deal with this type of person.

Here are three simple ways to avoid sending the wrong message in your communications:

1.  Read your communication through the lens of a “potential new customer”  

If a potential new customer saw your communication, what would they think?  How would it impact them?  Is there a possibility that they can take the wrong message?  Will they interpret their potential experience with your product or service as negative because of what is conveyed through your message?

2.  Have an “at least two sets of eyes” rule with outbound marketing or communications

This can be trickier if you are a solo-preneur, but try to at least get a second opinion on your marketing or public communications.  Ideally, the reviewer has a much different personality from you.  I love meshing analytic minds with creative types, as both have very valuable perspectives and when combined they can create great things.

3.  Play critic to your own marketing content

A useful habit is to play critic to your own marketing content before you publish.  Take half an hour and pretend you are the most annoying internet troll who is going to dissect and criticize, in any way possible your message.  When you engage in this experiment you often get very interesting results.  A part of your brain opens up that may have been dormant while drafting your advertisement.  You often see things, and change them, through this exercise.

What message is your marketing communicating? Is it a message that will attract or that will deter potential customers?

About the Author

Ryan Clements is a business consultant, sales trainer, speaker and writer. He consults to companies and entrepreneurs on marketing and sales strategy, and is a frequent speaker and trainer in the areas of sales, marketing, entrepreneurship, productivity, leadership and motivation.  He also writes widely on these subjects and has published a book and given a TEDx talk on career fulfillment, a topic which he speaks often to schools and students about.  For speaking, consulting or training requests please visit his website at