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The Patient Marketer

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The couple are examining winter jackets on a rail in the department store when the sales assistant makes a beeline for them. ‘What size are we looking for?’ he says, helpfully. They explain that they’re just looking, but he continues to follow them around offering assistance. So they excuse themselves and leave.

Marketing works best when we help people to get what they want when they want it. Trust and timing are an essential part of any marketing strategy, and patience is one of the most useful qualities a marketer can cultivate.

Image by Mike Melrose.

What Are Your Customers Looking For?

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

We are sometimes in the dark about what our customers want, so we make assumptions or ask them in the hope of happening upon the truth. There is a third way to get closer to our customers—one we regularly overlook. People’s actions and reactions can reveal more about their internal dialogue than their words. When did you last spend time watching what your customers do?

As an author, I spend an unhealthy amount of time in bookstores. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen someone take a thick book from the shelf, feel the heft of it in their hand—then put it back. I can almost hear them thinking they’ll never get through it. Sometimes I get chatting to them and ask them what they’re looking for. Most of the time they don’t know.

Try this. Head down to your nearest department store, cafe, gym or wherever your customers are. Then stand back and watch what they do. Are they feeling garments before they check prices? Are they more likely to make a purchase if they’re alone or with someone? Are they looking for something specific? Do they compare prices with online retailers on their smartphone? Do they buy what they came in for? The list of questions, observations and potential insights are endless.

We tend to think of our customers as intentional, rational human beings—which is why we spend a lot of our time marketing to their heads. We make and market better products and services by working harder to get a glimpse of their hearts.

Image by mgstanton.

What Standout Brands Do

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Have you ever noticed how a crowd exits a packed venue? Even when there are three exits most people take the middle one. You see this play out in business too. Take a walk through the running shoe department in any sports store, and you’ll find little to differentiate one shoe from another. When one brand starts designing and manufacturing with a new kind of material others follow suit. The same patterns emerge in marketing.

Every brand aspires to be unique, to stand out and create something meaningful—yet when it comes to executing on those aspirations we imitate, dumb down and deviate towards the mediocre mean. We head where everyone else is headed because the uncrowded edges feel risky. In fact, the opposite is true. You stand out when you stand for something— when you go to a place your peers or competitors aren’t prepared to go.

Image by Zoi Koraki.

The Listening Marketer

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

When I was young, Maeve Binchy was one of my favourite writers. She had this knack of creating characters who came alive. You somehow felt the people who owned the shops and arrived late for mass were real, and you knew them. I learned later from listening to interviews with Binchy that they were—at least their conversations were real. Binchy told stories of riding buses every day just to listen to snippets of conversation. On one if these bus journeys she overheard a young woman telling her friend she was going shopping for a silver wedding anniversary card for her parents. The friend marvelled that at the longevity of her parent’s marriage. ‘They’re miserable as sin together,’ she replied. ‘The worse the marriage, the bigger the card.’ That conversation went on to inspire Binchy’s successful book, Silver Wedding. Hearing the author’s story reminded me of the hundreds of missed opportunities we have every day to succeed by paying attention to our customers. It also reminded me again to wonder why so many marketing books have a megaphone on the cover.

The sales assistant in the running shoe store works hard to convince his customer about comfort, quality and price. The customer doesn’t pay attention. When he finally chooses a pair of shoes, his rationale tumbles out. ‘I like these because you can’t get them back home in Manilla,’ he says. Your customers are no different from the guy in the shoe store. They want to be seen.

When you become a listening marketer you don’t have to guess what your customer wants, you already know. The listening marketer understands what’s motivating his customers to choose and what language will encourage them to buy. What the listening marketer does best of all is make and sell things people want because he’s been unselfish in the pursuit of doing work that’s meaningful to the people he cares about serving. If you’re not listening, you’re not marketing. You don’t need a megaphone to matter.

Image by Jeffrey Smith.

Where Does Your Story Start?

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

The easiest part of telling your story is writing it down. The hardest part is knowing what to say and why it’s important for your audience to hear. You must begin by wondering why someone (not everyone), will care about what you’re creating. That very act of questioning forces you to dig deeper and ask what you’re promising to whom. It invites you to get clear about why you wanted to make that particular promise in the first place.

As marketers, we believe it’s our words that create value. But it’s the intention that informs the decisions guiding those words that delights and thus differentiates. Getting clear on that intention is where your story starts.

Image by David Bleasdale.

Unlock the magic in your story now.

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