How Does Your Marketing Really Make People Feel?

Imagine it’s a busy Thursday morning and you’re replying to the emails that came in overnight from people you were eager to hear from, when out of nowhere an unsolicited sales email interrupts your flow. Of course it’s just one email, it only takes a second to delete it, so where’s the harm in a business owner casting her net as wide as possible? After all someone might bite.

The problem we’re faced with as business owners and marketers is that just one email from lots of people trying to cut through the clutter creates more clutter. And people, (the ones you are hoping will become your customers) who are on the receiving end are jaded by it all. Here’s the email that landed in my inbox. How would it make you feel?


Good Morning.
[You don’t know me, so who gave you permission to interrupt my day?]

In August we launched our 27th Annual edition of XYZ Magazine.
[Why should I care?]

XYZ magazine is a high quality “coffee Table” styled magazine, which is kept for many years.
[How does this help me?].

The 2014/15 issue is on Sale for a year at newsagencies, we also sell it at the XYZ Exhibition and the following year we give the magazine out to Brides attending the Exhibition, (while stocks last).
[What are you trying to sell me?]

So, In essence you are receiving three years of exposure for the price of one.
[How do you know ‘exposure’ to your readers is my problem?]

We are running a SPECIAL OFFER until the 18th of December 2014!
[This is not my emergency.]

No payments are due until 2015 and we can offer payment packages.
[You still haven’t told me what you’re selling and why it matters to me.]

The XYZ Exhibition will be held on the 1st of March 2015 at the XYZ Hotel.
[Not sure why I need to know.]

If you would like further information on XYZ please either email me or call me on.….….

Have a lovely day.
[Do you mean that?]


Traditional advertising and PR’s obituary is constantly written and re-written, but we’re so scared of being invisible that we continue to use marketing tactics that do nothing to help grow our businesses. What’s worse than being invisible is alienating people.

The best marketing leads with the customer’s story. Every one of us has the opportunity to do that and to practice empathy, even if we don’t have the budget for a beautiful two minute film.
[Update: Apparently the link doesn’t work in the US. This is an unofficial version without the original soundtrack.]

Image by Cedric Lange.

The Value Of Connection In A Low Touch World

What matters in a world where.…we can tell a device to order the shopping, place our coffee order without speaking, have a conversation involving thumbs and zero eye contact and before we know it, get to our destination in a driverless car?

What’s scarce today will be even more scarce tomorrow. And that’s our opportunity.

Image by Lena Vasiljeva.

The First Step To Building A Marketing Campaign

As marketers we tend to get lost in the tactics like designing flyers, scheduling tweets and growing a Facebook following—this makes us forget the more important stuff.

A campaign by definition is “a systematic course of aggressive activities for some specific purpose”.
The following is hard for you to hear and so it’s hard to write too because I know it may not be the answer you’re hoping for. We all want the sequence, the step-by-step, the foolproof, guaranteed-not-to-fail method. The thing is, if there was one then we’d all be telling our stories like homogenous drones without really connecting to our customers.

The key is not to see marketing as ‘a campaign’ that starts and ends, or as part of a process that you’re getting through, but to think of your marketing (and your product) as a love note that makes an emotional connection with your customer.

Walk into a lululemon store, pick up any item of clothing and turn it over in your hands. Every stitch, seam and tiny detail says, “we cared enough to get to know you”, to their customers.

What would you want to say to your customer if you were face to face?
What opportunity do you have to tell her what she wants to hear that other brands and business don’t have?
What is the competition too scared to try?

Say and do that thing.

Image by Audrey.

Why Visibility Is Overrated

TRY OUR TAPAS” screamed the sandwich board on the pavement outside the empty restaurant as the customers spilled out onto the pavement waiting for tables at the cafe next door. True story.

One of my clients recently did a marketing audit and found that a third of his business came from repeat clients, another third from referrals, and the last third from all of his other marketing efforts combined (things like flyers, speaking engagements, magazines, advertising, sponsorship, radio and on and on). No surprises for guessing what he is doubling down on now.

We all need to look for opportunities to put that ‘y’ in front of ‘our’.
The people you are hoping will become your customers are tired of being asked to see you.
What they desperately want is for you to see them first.

Image by shirokazan.

Six Things Focus Groups Won’t Tell You

If you’re a fan, you may remember the scene in Mad Men where Peggy—fairly new to the job, joins the other girls from the typing pool in a lipstick testing experiment. All the while the ad executives are secretly looking on and taking notes from behind a two way mirror.

The ad guys were smart enough to know that if they showed the lipstick to the girls and asked them a bunch of questions they wouldn’t necessarily get to the truth. Far better to allow them to experience the product, watch what they did and how they reacted.

Mostly when we don’t know what our customers want we ask them.

If you ask the woman who chooses the bright pink lipstick why she liked it she will try to find some rational, fact based explanation to explain her decision. The truth is she may not know why she chose it other than ‘it felt right’ (or maybe it matched her hair), and it probably messes up the spreadsheet. We’re looking for proof and as Rory Sutherland would say, “Numbers however rubbish they are have the appearance of objectivity.”

Photo by Scott Moore.

The Trouble With Marketing And The Opportunity For The Future

I met with a prospective client recently who had acted on conflicting advice about marketing tactics from a couple of different sources and failed to get the results he’d hoped for.

“The trouble with marketers is that each one tries to sell you on their solution.” he said. “The SEO guy will tell you that SEO is the answer. The social media agency will say that Facebook marketing is the way to go. The content marketing firm will tell you that content is king.”

“So what do you think I’m here to sell you on.” I asked.

Well, getting to know your customers and understanding their story, so that we can serve them better, which will make our story better in the long run?” he replied.

The trouble with marketing is that we’ve separated it from everything else we do to serve our customers. We’ve come to regard marketing as something that gets done after the work, to promote the work. But marketing is the work, and the work, if it’s meaningful and relevant should be the promotion. The story we want customers believe is as valuable to our businesses as the products we sell and the services we design.

If we keep trying to use the tactics in isolation just so we can feel like we’re ‘doing marketing’, then we’re killing our own stories along with those of the customers we serve. You don’t want your customers to trip up over your marketing on a ‘super pavement sign’ you want them to experience it in a meaningful way.

Marketing isn’t something you do. It’s something you live—if you choose to.

Image by justified sinner.

The Characteristics Of Great Brand Stories

Great brand stories.….

Are rooted in truth.

Created with intention.

Have a bigger purpose beyond a single bottom line.

Add intangible value to something that was once a commodity.

Take time.

Make the customer the hero.

Change how people feel about a product or service.

Start with the customer’s story.

Don’t matter to everyone.

Appeal to the heart twice as much as the head.

Create evangelists and naysayers.

Make people to feel like they belong.

Give people something to talk about, but more importantly something to believe in.

Are shared.

Image by György Rétvári.

Who Is This Marketing For?

Before holding the meeting.
Before working on the strategy.
Before choosing the medium.
Before building the website.
Before writing a single word of copy.
Ask yourself, “Who is this marketing for?”

If the answer is, “It’s for our shareholders, the board, my boss, or so we can feel safe doing what we’ve always done.”—go back to the drawing board.

If it’s not designed to serve your customers, it’s not marketing.

Image by Stephanie Wallace.

What Does Your Marketing Do?

Marketing is something we do every day and yet we forget to think about the result of what we do beyond how it helps our businesses. We think we design marketing for our customers when mostly we design it to solve an immediate need we have as business owners.

When you think about what your marketing does consider these two lists.

We each get to choose which list we operate from when we go to work each day.
Which one are you choosing?

Image by Lord Jim.

How To Begin Developing A Product Story

While the guy shopping at the hardware store might think he’s comparing the features and benefits of the latest drills what he’s actually doing is imagining all of those shelves beautifully hung.

We like to believe that our product story begins with the customer’s relationship to the product, when in actual fact what the customer is focused on is his relationship to himself (in the presence of the product). When he asks himself (or you), “How is this better?” what he really wants to know is, “How does this make me better?”

4 Questions To Ask Before Developing Your Product

1. What’s the change that will happen in your customer because your product exists?
2. How will he look, feel, think and act?
3. What will he say, believe and do once he is using it?
4. How exactly will he be a better version of himself in the presence of this product?

You can make the most technologically advanced drill in the world, but if the product doesn’t match your potential customer’s worldview then you’re going to be stuck spending time and money trying to make him care about it before he ever considers buying it.

Product development doesn’t start with the story of your factory, the technology or even the number of those features and these benefits.

It starts with the customer’s story.

Image by Roben Joyce.

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