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SDS 86 | How To Connect With Customers


It may come as a surprise, but most people don’t know what their customers want. In one research experiment, 90% of the executives surveyed were shocked at what their customers found valuable when they did a poll of what their customers were buying. Our customers buy for their own reasons, not for our reasons. It’s so important to have the outside experience looking in and asking the stupid questions to understand what our customers are up to. Marketing and lead generation expert Terry Pappy has been looking at marketing and integrating that with business development for decades. Her clients include big organizations such as Marriott and AAA and other great things. She says the B2B customer wants their vendor or resource or whoever is providing them with the service or the product to know their business. Terry shares some tips on how to powerfully connect with new customers to help them people figure out where it hurts and then provide the support to get through those pains that we call business.

Listen to the podcast here:

How To Powerfully Connect With New Customers with Terry Pappy

My guest is Terry Pappy. She is a marketing and lead generation expert, doing it for decades for big organizations such as Marriott and AAA and other great things. The reason why I brought her on the show is she has some interesting ways of looking at marketing and integrating that with business development. Welcome, Terry.

It’s so great to be here, Mark. How are you?

I’m so glad and it’s great because I got you on the show. Let’s kick this off with Better3. Why did you choose Better3? That’s such a great story. Why don’t you share that with my audience?

When I first started my business in 2006, I just started with my name in the company because I didn’t know how to brand myself in a way that was going to be different from what everybody else was expecting at the time. I stuck with my name. As I started to evolve my approach and what I was learning as a business owner out there doing it directly with my clients, I was finding that they knew so little about their customers. It was breaking my heart. I would have these questions for them when I would first start working with the client and they’d be like, “I don’t know.” They’d make these generalizations or assumptions about their customers based on either purchasing behavior or what they thought they were doing.

In fact, it was totally different. I started interviewing my clients’ customers and doing these really in-depth qualitative research efforts that yielded amazing intelligence about their customers. That totally transformed not only what they were saying but how they were serving them. Of course, because you know that stuff, you still have to develop the branding and the communications the right way so the customer listens and takes action and buys from you. Then it’s all about cultivating the relationship over time because obviously, getting more wallet share from your existing customers is a great way to have the cheapest type of marketing. Sales effort is getting them to buy more from you over time.

Communication is what's missing. It's the part that clarifies your message. Click To Tweet

That’s part of that sustainability and scalability that we’re all looking for as executives. I want to make a call out here. I want my audience to absolutely nail this in their brain. Your research matches the research of other people that I’ve talked with and that is people don’t know what their customers want. They really don’t. In one research experiment that I was acquainted with, 90% of the executive surveyed were shocked at what their customers found valuable when they did a poll of what their customers were buying. Our customers buy for their own reasons, not for our reasons. It’s so important to have the outside experience looking in and asking the stupid questions to understand what our customers are up to.

It’s very different for business to business than it is business to consumer. They both want an experience. They both want attention, but the business to business customer wants their vendor or resource or whoever is providing them with the service or the product to know their business. They want them to understand what they’re facing, what they’re being pressured with, what they’re dealing with. Almost like a business partner in many ways.

In fact, they don’t have time to teach people how to adapt their stuff to their business.

It’s like an investment. It’s like, “I don’t want to be a vendor. I don’t want this to just be a transaction. I want you to get into bed with me and help me grow my business.” That’s the attitude that every provider should have about their customers.

Without that, you’re going to be taken out by competition that is willing to partner closely with customers. In fact, if you think back to a lot of shows that we’ve had, we’ve talked about how do you better know your customer, including with Betsy Westhafer in the customer evaluation boards where we bring them on and create the future together. Without a doubt, that’s so critical indeed. How do we go about understanding what the customers really want? How do we get them to tell us the truth about what they really want?

SDS 86 | How To Connect With Customers

How To Connect With Customers: So many clients, especially in the B2B world, do not capture the essence of exactly what their customer is struggling with.


You have to have an objective interviewer and that’s the key because so many of my clients will say, “We do these feedback forms or we do these surveys.” Especially in the B2B world, they do not capture the essence of exactly what that customer is struggling with. I’ll tell you why. It’s because often the customer doesn’t know. You have to do the right kind of questioning, the right kind of probing to get underneath exactly what that customer is struggling with. They’re not used to being asked these questions. They’re not used to being asked the emotional impact of a bad decision in their business. They’re not being asked these questions because they don’t have suppliers or vendors that are giving a crap about how they feel about their business.

I’ve done a lot of work in the past with market research for clients. We would do blind market research, pre-launch of a product to find out what’s going to attract customers right out of the gate. Instead of guessing, I would talk to people as that objective third party and talk to COOs and CEOs. That’s where this great information came from is talking to these people through many hundreds of hours that I’ve done these interviews. In every case, they didn’t know what they didn’t know. It’s a blinding flash of the obvious there and we can’t get that information from just a survey. Surveys only poll what people know that they know. Part of my job in a conversation is to uncover what they didn’t know and then probe around that to get to the real value props. I learned a lot from that process.

I had an interesting experience as I was first starting to do these types of discoveries with my clients’ customers. I had a client who was a medical doctor and she was running a consultancy for Mass General and Partners HealthCare. She had been a Baldrige Examiner and her role in the organization was to help healthcare organizations improve their performance and apply for the Baldrige National Quality Award. She was very good and very reputable. When she first started working with me I said, “I want to talk to the CEOs that you’ve done business with, that you’ve worked with.” I interviewed probably about a dozen CEOs of major healthcare organizations throughout the country. It was remarkable because what I was discovering that I shared with her was completely contrary to what she thought they wanted. She was so used to delivering this excellent consultant results, the analysis, the assessments and the strategic plans and how they can approve it.

In the clinical world it’s very data-driven and they have those analytics, but what these CEOs were looking for was a relationship. They wanted a peer-to-peer expert to go shoulder-to-shoulder with them and empathize with what they were struggling with as the leader of a very large clinical organization, dealing with pressures from accountability, the insurance and all of the things that make healthcare such a big tangled mess. The other thing was that she didn’t realize how revered she was in the industry and her personality was very competitive. She was a competitive swimmer, she almost won the Olympics. She had this very competitive personality. It was her natural inclination to automatically feel that every other consultant doing similar work was out to get her business or competing with her.

She was very much looking in the side view mirrors all the time when she needed to focus through the windshield and see where she was going and have that partner of that CEO. Then of course all the work would get done. It was that assurance, it was that confidence, it was that reliability that she was not cultivating because she didn’t realize that’s what they were aching for. Through this discovery and I laid it all out for her and I made tactical recommendations like, “Here’s how you can do this.” Through those suggestions, she changed her behavior. She started giving them the attention that they needed because she builds her business on referrals. Within two years she went out on her own, started her own consultancy. She took two healthcare organizations to the Baldrige National Quality Award in the same year, which was the first time that’s ever happened in the history of Baldrige. In two years, she got her consultancy big enough where Navigant Consulting purchased her organization and now she works with them. It’s one example of how something so seemingly overlooked can literally transform your business.

Referrals are great, but they should be the icing on the cake. Click To Tweet

I think that high-level relationship of the valued peer with that expertise is sought out by executives. I was fortunate enough to write three books with Jay Conrad Levinson, Mr. Guerrilla Marketing. I can remember very clearly sitting in a car with Jay driving into dinner one night. I said, “Jay, what do you think is the most important aspect of marketing?” He says, “What we do is covert psychology. Our customers hire us to be their psychologist in around the business.” That was a huge insight for me because we do help people figure out where it hurts and then provide the support to get through those pains that we call business.

It’s enlightening from the standpoint of like, “We don’t have to work so hard.” We just have to focus over here and give that beloved the attention that it needs in order to see how it delivers business outcomes that we want and it will.

You’ve identified two things that are critical. One is understanding your audience’s needs and doing so by using an objective observer versus those of us who drink the Kool-Aid of the product. Then the importance of relationships at high levels within organizations to create that relationship. What else do we need to do to create that connection with customers so they want to give us their money?

You’ve got to break through the noise and that noise is complexity.

A customer who’s confused cannot choose.

SDS 86 | How To Connect With Customers

How To Connect With Customers: You have to pull out a hook that is going to resonate with that audience, and you do that a number of different ways.


I am a victim to my own creative talents in that I love to write. I can get on behind the video camera and I can just go on and on. I have a very precise message but I can’t deliver it precisely because I enjoy communicating so much. I’m a victim of my own enjoyment of what I love to do. In the last few years, I’ve worked hard to refine my ability to deliver a very succinct, clear and on target message. It’s challenging to do that because you have to start with a lot. You know you’re a writer like I am. You have to start with a lot and then you pair it down to find the real gold that’s in the content that people will really get.

Communication is what’s missing. You can have the knowledge and the insight about what the audience wants and clearly feel that at a gut level. You have the honor and respect and dedication to commit to the relationship, but it’s what’s missing, what pulls those two together and it’s the communication part. It’s the part that clarifies that message and you don’t have to give them everything in your house in that message. You give them one thing that’s going to make them crazy. That crazy is like a great crazy. It’s like, “My business is going to go under crazy,” whatever it is to get them to think a little bit differently, to give them that distinction that’s going to help them shift that brain into gear where they’re like, “This is something I need to explore.”

It’s that polarizing thought where people go, “I have got to learn more, I want that.” Finding that is incredibly challenging. How do we do that?

It requires stepping back, understanding what that audience wants, looking at what value you’re providing and then pulling out the most succinct portion of what that is. Almost like Lionel Richie was so known for his hook in his bands that were the biggest hits. You have to pull out a hook that is going to resonate with that audience and you do that a number of different ways. It is unique to each particular customer because you don’t want to use a boilerplate approach to stuff like this. It’s very personal and it’s because you’re like talking to that person one-on-one and you want to make sure that what you’re saying is exactly what’s in their head, what they’re worried about, what they’re excited about, what they’re wanting. You need to understand what that is and speak very specifically to that one person.

How do we do that in general marketing or don’t we?

You simplify your message and you multiply your sales. Click To Tweet

General marketing is what most of the people are doing out there. They’re talking to everybody. They’re trying to do the drift net approach of marketing where they’re just scooping up whatever they can grab. What ends up happening is they may get business in the short run but it doesn’t turn into long-lasting satisfying relationships that are beneficial for both parties, not only the business but the people who are receiving the actual benefit of the goods and the services that are being sold. What’s so important to me is that long-term relationship. Some people just aren’t patient, “I need this quarter to be X. I need this year’s revenue to be this much percentage higher on my balance scorecard than last year.” The next thing you know, you’re just focused close up. You’re not looking at the long-term and taking the steps to get there. Just like that podcast you did where you talked about how people don’t have a marketing plan. They don’t have a funded marketing plan and they just don’t get what that is. They feel like it’s busy work. They just have to get organized or whatever, when in fact it’s an intentional plan that lays out how you’re going to function, how you’re going to communicate and deliver your marketing.

Without the plan then you get confused and then customers don’t buy. Instead of a drift net, what do we do instead? Do we do some spearfishing?

You took the words right out of my mouth. You’ve got to figure it out, get that spear out and just focus on that one thing because what it’s going to do is a lot of people think, “I’m missing out on a lot of audiences. There are all these people over here that need to be addressed and what about this group over here?” If you go back to that generalized approach, what you’re going to find is that it’s not going to resonate with the right people and you’re not going to get good quality leads. You’re not going to get good quality customers. That doesn’t mean that you only have one message, one campaign, one this, one that. This is why I mentioned earlier that it depends on the business. If you are looking at a couple of different audiences, then you need to cater that message to that audience and do that specific campaign to that audience.

You never know where they’re going to come into you, where they’re going to find you. It could be a referral. It could be through some of the postings you’re doing. You never know where they’re going to come into your world, so to speak. You have to be very consistent in what you’re telling them to do and where you’re sending them and what you’re asking from them. There are a lot of different ways that you can bring that together by having that very succinct spear type of an approach to your target market and you will do very well.

It’s so important to understand this, especially when you’re marketing to high-level executives. Each one of those executives has a completely different worldview. What they find important is different and what they say yes to is different, which requires completely tailored messages. The messaging to a CFO is different than to a COO is different than to a CEO is different to a CRO and necessarily so. Otherwise, you’re going to miss the mark completely in what creates value because each of them sees value through a different lens. Even though what you might be bringing to an executive in a business to business environment is identical as far as a product, why they choose is radically different.

SDS 86 | How To Connect With Customers

How To Connect With Customers: Pick the thing that you absolutely love the most that is a high-profit center for your organization, and get known for that.


When you’re looking at executives in the C-Suite, whether it’s the CEO or the other levels of the C-Suite, they are the top dog in that particular vertical of the business. They not only have their extreme expertise in that area, but they also have their own unique personality.

The temperament is amazingly aligned.

They want to be courted in a very specific way. This is where the relationship building comes into play because unless you really know and understand and take the time to get to know that person, it depends on the type of sale. Obviously, if you’re doing a high-ticket item and you’re dealing with a large organization, you’ve got to put the time in, you just have to. You can’t find these people and nurture them through a sales funnel that’s like a bunch of emails and a couple of videos and podcasts. It’s not how it’s done. You can get their attention that way or at least show up on their radar that way, but when it comes to getting ready to sit down and have that conversation with that executive, you have got to understand who they are, what matters to them and talk to that. Don’t go in there pitching your stuff. Go in there trying to be of service to them and understand where they’re at and listen.

My audience might be thinking, “This sounds complex. You’re going to make me create all these custom messages for all these target markets that I want to go after. That sounds hard. Can I just go back to getting referrals?”

Referrals are great and they should be the icing on the cake. A lot of my clients do come to me and they’re like, “I’m in a referral-based business.” I’m like, “Good for you. That’s awesome. What happens when the referrals dry up? Do you have a marketing plan in place to deal with generating new leads and opportunities for your pipeline?” They usually say, “No.”

People need to stop and think about what is their intention. Click To Tweet

The problem with referrals is we can’t control what our customers say and when they say it, and it’s not scalable. While a referral is a good situation to have, you’re right, it is the icing on the cake. It’s the candles sticking in the icing that attracts interesting things to the party but it is not a sustainable model. By the way for the audience, if you run a referral-based business, your business is unsaleable. Nobody’s going to buy your business if it’s referral only. If that doesn’t put a wave of shock and cold through your body and saying, “I’ve got to pay attention, I’ve got to put together a formal marketing plan,” then good luck.

To your earlier point about, “It seems overwhelming. I’ve got to develop a channel on a campaign for every particular audience,” actually you don’t. You need to pick the thing that you absolutely love the most, that is a high-profit center for your organization and get known for that. This is why I work so well with speakers and independent consultants because it’s a lot easier to do that for them. What’s funny is so many of them come to me with so much expertise like, “I worked at this company, I did this and I did that and I’m an accountant and I can do all these different things.” I’m like, “That’s great, but what is the one thing that turns you on that gets you revved up, that is a total slam dunk when it comes to serving your clients and that you enjoy doing?” That’s what we focus on. They’re so afraid to be known for just one thing.

In the world of consulting, training and speaking, there’s one person that pops into mind that did that extremely well. That would be Stephen Covey. He’s known for one thing, The 7 Habits. There’s not a single original idea in the book, not one, but he assembled and he made it his platform. The Covey Leadership Institutes still is alive and it’s been a while.

Here’s the other thing. Look at all the other sources of revenue that he has put in place based on that one thing.

There was a time when he had retail stores selling planners. That’s the most amazing thing, that single focus that allowed him to generate an extraordinary business and change a lot of lives.

SDS 86 | How To Connect With Customers

How To Connect With Customers: It is a much more effective way to communicate, build relationships, make sales, and get that income up.


I actually have a Franklin planner. I’ve been using it since the early ‘90s and I love it. I just can’t let go of paper.

I too operate off of paper. I’ve got all my automation systems, but when I designed my day, it’s on a three by five cards.

A lot of my clients come to me and I’m like their fire hydrant of information. They’re like, “How do I do this?” I’m like, “Hang on. I’m here to simplify.” I’m working on my next book. In fact, I just titled it. It’s called Simplify and Multiply. What I’m finding is a lot of solopreneurs are out there that they could be these executives who decide, “I’m done with the corporate thing. I want to go out and be a consultant. I want to go out and speak on stage. I want to share my wealth of knowledge with the world in such a way that I can give back.”

It’s like legacy building. It’s like it’s the true give back. They come to me and they’re like, “I want to do this.” They have so many questions about running their business and even the most seasoned executive like the one I was telling you the story about before, the healthcare executive. She had so many things that she was learning about marketing and about financial and all this stuff, when in fact she was at the top of her game, but she never ran her own solo practice. What I want to do is create a guidebook and a message that allows solopreneurs to sit back, take a deep breath and understand that this is doable and it can be a lifestyle business that can be the most rewarding experience of your life. That’s what I’m working on now and it’s all about how to simplify and multiply. You simplify your marketing and you multiply your leads. You simplify your message and you multiply your sales, and it all worked so well together.

Then say that simple message over and over again. It is branding. It’s fundamentals of marketing, repetition, repetition, repetition. At about the time you’re sick to death of saying your most important thing to your customers, it’s about the time that they start to take notice and go, “That’s interesting.” Then everybody changes it up, “No, pick one.” It’s hard to pick one, we get bored. It’s also hard to pick just one.

What’s interesting is sometimes I have to hold their hand and say, “Hang on, let’s try this. Let’s look at the metrics, let’s see what the response is.” The analytics will show that it is a much more effective way to communicate, build relationships, make sales and get that income up.

Marketing is always a long tail event. The reason why is on the average, 2% of the population that would need you or afford you is in a position to buy you at the moment that you reach out to them. What that means is you do marketing and you go, “Nobody’s responding.” People don’t have a need and they’re not buying right now but you have to keep reaching out to them so that when they need what you sell, they think of you. After 138 years, does Coca-Cola still needs to advertise? Yes, they do.

They do, at the risk of becoming irrelevant.

You have to market. You have to get your message into the hands of people and that consistency is so important. Just to recap, we talked about understanding your audience’s needs and doing that through an objective third party that asked questions. Just doing a survey is not going to get you the information you need. It’s going to create confirmation bias and you’re going to talk about stuff that’s irrelevant. It’s the craziest thing, that’s the way it works. Next is it’s important to create a relationship with people so that your customers know that you are there so that they win. Then the third thing is clear messaging absolutely targeted using what’s most exciting, what gets you most juice because people love to do business with people who are passionate about what they deliver. What else do we need to talk about when it comes to the aspects of grabbing those customers and getting them to take a notice?

Patience. We’re so trained to go for that brass ring right off the bat. We get foisted upon so many different technologies to use now that make it easy to be a pain in the butt. You need to step back and think about what are your intentions? What are you trying to do here? Are you trying to get that brass ring and run off to the next one? Are you trying to be known for something, to be respected in the industry, to be looked upon as a go-to resource for help and for guidance? That’s what people need to stop and think about is what is their intention? Yes, business is about money. Yes, we want to meet our revenue goals. Yes, we want to grow. Everybody has a very specific goal in their business. At the end of the day, when we’re looking at our lifespan and what our experiences in business and who we are as people, building relationships and helping one another, we’re all in this together. I think that just being patient and understanding that there are people out there that want to work with you, that want to align with someone who sees them for who they are and what they’re about and acknowledges them in that way.

In a philosophical sense, the way I like to position that is right now there is somebody that is praying for you to be the answer to their prayer. We have to show up.

It’s all going to work together in this big beautiful painting that is life and that is business life.

When are you expecting your book to be out?

It will be out in 2019, probably the fourth quarter.

We’ll look forward to that. How does my audience get ahold of you if they’d like to tap into the Terry Pappy magic of understanding customers’ needs, creating a relationship and creating crystal clear messaging?

The great thing about what I do is I’m tactical. Not only am I strategic but I also do tactical implementation at Better3. My recommendation is that your audience, if they’re interested in learning more, they can find me at and they can also find me on LinkedIn. I would love to link up with your audience. I do weekly video tips on selling and marketing that are a lot of fun. I sit at my computer and I just have a good time. Anyone who wants to reach out to me can get me at

It’s such a delight, Terry. Thanks for being on the show.

Thank you so much, Mark, for having me. It’s been a blast.

Important Links:

About Terry Pappy

SDS 86 | How To Connect With Customers
At Better3, I help professional speakers and independent consultants build stronger, simpler marketing platforms so they can generate more leads, get more referrals and land more lucrative contracts. I’ve had extensive experience and success working with these two types of solopreneurs who want to grow their income without headaches or being overburdened with marketing tasks. 

Speakers and consultants need the following to be truly successful income-wise:

—A clear problem they solve for a specific audience that they can be known for
—A professionally presented marketing message that resonates with their audience
—An automated marketing machine that attracts, nurtures and develops relationships

Speakers and consultants need steady but manageable growth in their business because they are the sole talent and the source of their income. That is why these two professions demand a different approach, because their business is won by developing relationships in a precise manner over time. The most successful speakers and consultants say this is their winning formula, and we’ve cracked the code on how to implement it for our clients.

Learn more by visiting or feel free to reach out to me via my LinkedIn contact info.

Show Credits

Music: The Lachy Doley Group, Gonna Make it Up
from the album Conviction | Used with permission
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