Archive for February, 2014

Exciting vs. Relevant

It’s an important distinction to make, especially because what’s exciting to you may be irrelevant to your audience. Or, worse, boring and irrelevant.

We’re reminded of an old standup routine poking fun at local news ads – how they always seem to be excited about new technology (have a quick peak here: Does anyone in the audience care about Doppler 5000, or “Chopper 4”? Aren’t we more interested in what’s happening in our community, what affects us, and what we can gossip about?

It’s funny, but it makes a serious point. As business owners or department heads, we can become enamored with our own products and processes. We lose touch with what audiences actually care about – and what compels them to buy.

Which is not to say that showing off your tech is always irrelevant. For a new business, or a small business, a helicopter or sophisticated computer is a big deal. It goes a long way toward establishing the credibility that makes bigger clients buy.

But for “News Channel 4,” it’s wasted ad time. Make sure you’re not wasting your marketing budget on things only you care about. Take time to connect with your audience. Send feedback forms to your fans. Hang out where they hang out. And don’t be afraid to ask: “what message should we be sharing?”

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Sell To The Few

…The fans. The people who actually need what you can offer… and are willing to pay for it.

In an audience of 100, maybe 10 people will be willing to buy your book or follow up lecture. That’s okay. Tailor your presentation to those 10, and forget trying to “convince” or “persuade” the others.* Those 10 fans are already convinced and persuaded. You just need to remove obstacles between them and the sale.

Obstacles like lack of trust, or lack of familiarity. These are easy enough to assuage through effective communication. Bottom line: if you’re talking to people who already want to buy your product, all messaging should prove you’re the “safe” choice. The default. The sure thing.

You don’t have to be flashy or even be better than your competitors. You just have to show people they can trust you. Then close. No hyperbolic phrases or diluted “please everyone” messages required.


*Even Jordan Belfort, that famous ‘Wolf of Wall Street,’ only tries to close 1 in 4. He knows the other 75% just aren’t buying.

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Speak Softly

…and substantiate your arguments. That’s one way to stand out, especially if your competitors are fond of hyperbole, adjectives, and empty statements. Be the one who makes simple statements, then backs them up with evidence and great performance.

An IT friend of ours does this to great effect. While everyone else in his technical field is busy talking big – discussing the ‘two billion data points‘ they’ve managed ‘end-to-end‘ across the ‘full stack‘ at the ‘enterprise level‘ – our friend states simply what he can do. Then he provides his clients with test scores, showing his percentile in each knowledge area.

To our knowledge, no one else in his field is substantiating their resume in quite this way. And it’s a differentiator for him. More than a few clients have commented on how impressed they were by it, and how (more importantly) they were sold by it.

You can do the same, and should, especially if you’re selling something intangible (like IT services). It’s fine to pepper in a few adjectives when you’re talking about a car – something physical that people can see and feel. But when you’re selling the abstract, it’s more important to be concrete. Be simple, honest, and direct. And use those test scores (or that killer website or those awards and testimonials) to make your service as real as possible.

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Great Artists Steal

Not directly, of course. Any artist caught committing obvious plagiarism is likely to end up in court – not to mention the hidden (and potentially greater) cost of lost credibility and fan attrition. But great artists steal in non-obvious ways. They take great ideas from other media and incorporate it into their own. They take a little of this and a little of that, and combine two things in a way that makes something surprising and interesting. Something that feels new, but has already proved successful elsewhere.

Same goes for brand marketing. Consider Lexus, who in early 2012, started training “geniuses” to help customers understand new car tech. This is a ripoff of Apple, but when appropriated for the car market it bolstered Lexus’s already great customer service. No one cared that the idea was stolen. They just cared that it was smart and it worked.

You can steal an aesthetic, too. Umpqua Bank feels more like a Starbucks, or ultra-modern salon, than a boring financial institution. They can call themselves “The World’s Greatest Bank” because, if nothing else, they don’t look or feel like any other. It’s not original. It’s just original relative to other banks.

You can do the same in your marketing. Steal shamelessly. Just don’t steal within your own industry. Try selling candy with fashion models and fancy photography. Try making your corporate newsletter look like a trendy magazine. And don’t be afraid to steal the style of your favorite action or art film for your next piece of video marketing. You’d be surprised how effective these mash-ups can be.

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