And how do you picture them engaging with your marketing materials? Do they drop everything to read your latest e-blast? When they’re sorting their junk mail, do they open your flier? Or do they toss it in recycling with everything else?
Some marketers have a sophisticated grasp on audience behavior. They have eye tracking studies showing where site visitors look first. Studies pegging the exact time viewers lose interest in a clever video ad (it’s after the brand name appears). Even studies about how consumers move through a retail store, and where to put the freshest fruits and brightest colors.
You don’t need a consumer psychologist to ‘metricize’ all your branding, but it does pay to try to see things through the customer’s eyes. Remember: every ad is an interruption. You need to understand where your customer was coming from (and where they were going), when you got in their way. Then use that understanding to make the interruption count.
A flier with a lot of “blah blah” corporate copy is easy to recycle. But one that says “recycling this would be a mistake,” is a lot more interesting. It’s a wink and a nudge to the reader. An in-joke that says, “we know what you were about to do.” It may just be intriguing enough to open.
This is essential in the PR business, when you’re trying to get the word out and get “ink” in your local paper or industry magazine. You can’t just write a sales pitch or bit of brochure-style copy. If you want journalists to pick up your story, you actually have to tell a story.
Same goes for marketing. Even though your company owns the medium, the same editorial standards apply: you need to give the audience something helpful or interesting, something completely opposite of a “hard sell.”
The acid test for this comes from Harry Beckwith’s brilliant book, Selling the Invisible. Beckwith suggests you sit down and write a sales pitch about your company — why someone should work with you, what makes you great, what makes you unique. According to Beckwith, this exercise should be easy. If it’s not, you should stop focusing on marketing (or PR) and start focusing on creating a better service (or better stories).
In other words: stop thinking about marketing as a way to “convince” consumers that you’re great, and instead use it as a tool to illuminate the greatness that’s already there. Show, don’t sell.
That’s the most important phrase in sales. Not “I’m great,” not “look at this great thing I have.” We’ve all been on the other end of those sales calls. They’re egocentric, desperate, and disingenuous. Worse, they sound irrelevant. They reflect no sensitivity to our needs, so we find it easy to tune them out.
Here’s a different approach: removing “selling” from your vocabulary. Instead, think of sales calls and marketing materials as an opportunity to help — to listen, start a conversation, make a connection, learn something. Treat your next interview as a chance to understand what a department (or company) needs. Then figure out how you can help (or if you can’t, help figure out who can).
This works for video marketing, as well as two-way conversations. It’s all in your attitude. Do you spend three minutes pushing product, discussing your history, and proving that you’re the industry leader? Or do you spend the time showing the audience a mirror image of themselves, only better? The latter reflects a deeper understanding of your prospect, and it’s a far more effective “sales” tactic. Just don’t call it that.
Is a perfect place to be. Allegiant Air understands this. They don’t fly to a lot of major airports or compete with major carriers. Instead, they serve small destinations almost exclusively. As of October 2009, they had competition on only five of their 136 routes. They’ve seen insane growth as a result.
The same applies to marketing, packaging, customer service and sales. Anywhere your competition isn’t – any component they choose unanimously not to compete on – that’s an opportunity for you.
Does everyone else have a strict return policy? Good. Be lax. Be Zappos.
Does everyone else make mid-sized cars for the mass market? Good. Be Hummer or Smart Car.
Never mind competing for a share of the pie. Go make your own pie. Find an under-served (or completely un-served) market and make it yours exclusively.
You can start by assessing the “brand personality” of your competition, then making your marketing say the opposite. Think of Geico. In an industry saturated by “competent” and “compassionate” messages from the likes of Allstate and State Farm (“good hands,” “good neighbors”), Geico chooses to be amusing (“so easy a caveman can do it”). These companies are all offering essentially the same thing, but Geico manages to differentiate itself as the cooler, more accessible brand. Go and do thou likewise.