How many people do you know who spell their name J-e-n-n-e?
Not very many, I'll bet.
My daughter-in-law is Jenne, with an "e".
Because I'd never seen that spelling before, I just assumed it was super rare.
Then this happened.
I was at one of those craft sales and came across a local artisan who made bracelets bent into the shape of your name!
What a great idea!
I mean, I was never able to get Jenne any off-the-rack personalized stuff. She has one of those out-of-the-ordinary names. But here was my chance to get her something kinda cool with her name on it. Spelled correctly.
I gave the bracelet guy Jenne's name - and spelling - and he said he'd make the custom bracelet while I wait. Come back in 15 minutes.
"Oh..." he said, "What size is her wrist?"
Pretty small I think. But I wasn't sure. "Just make it small," I said. Should be fine. Or so I thought.
When I came back to pick up the finished product, the guy had a smirk on his face.
He said, "oh, I think you'll be pleased with the size. Your Jenne showed up here a few minutes ago and I had her try on the bracelet - then I adjusted it to fit her wrist. I hope it wasn't a surprise."
What? My Jenne? She lives 1000 kms away from here. How can that be?
The bracelet guy was puzzled. "She was here at my booth looking at the jewellery," he said, "and the girl with her called her Jenne. I asked her how she spelled her name and she said Jenne, with an "e". I just assumed it was your Jenne."
You know what happens when you assume, right?
That story about the bracelet that fit ANOTHER Jenne's wrist got me thinking about how often we make assumptions in our business - and how detrimental that can be to our success.
We can make assumptions when we don't know everything about a situation. We automatically fill in the blanks and make up our own story - mostly because we're trying to make sense of the situation.
Does that sound like something you do?
Here's the catch. Most of the time, that story you tell yourself is total fiction and you may have already made business decisions based on it. Hence, the ill-fitting bracelet.
Unless you can actually read minds, you won't get to the real truth until you actually ask! That's how you find out how your customers see the world, and what they are really feeling.
Be prepared - asking may not always get you the answer you like, or expect. But it will get you the truth so the next step you take will probably be in the right direction.
Why is it so hard to ask your client why they didn't respond to you, or ask your supplier if they like working with you? It's uncomfortable!
Here are a few reasons why making assumptions is bad for business. It can cause...
Try to be more aware of the assumptions you're making and consider trying to get to the bottom of the real story whenever you have the opportunity.
Ask questions when you can. Fill in the blanks with the truth. Take the time. In the end, it might help you adjust your product offering to better fit your market, stop worrying about what someone is thinking about your service, or find an opportunity you had no idea existed.
Here are my questions for you...
The Small Business Guide
Kim Houlahan is a marketing consultant who loves helping small business owners improve their marketing.
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