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What’s Your Customer’s Context?

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

Yesterday I got chatting to Sarah in the street about the sofa she didn’t buy. Sarah, who has three daughters under the age of seven had been looking for the perfect sofa for ages. When she finally found the perfect one she put down a deposit on it and waited for it to arrive a few weeks later.
This sofa was $8,000.

The following morning she began to question her decision. ‘What on earth am I doing? I must be crazy to spend this kind of money on a sofa, especially when I have three small children.’ Sarah decided to cancel her order and keep looking. Which is why she was leaning on her gate telling me the story yesterday about the sofa she did buy. The sofa that was $2,200, with linen covers that can all be removed and chucked in the washing machine. The sofa that’s perfect for now.

We get caught up in the story we want our customers to believe. We obsess about finding the perfect words to express the value we create—often forgetting to consider the story the customer tells about what’s right for her.

What’s the story your customer is telling herself?

Image by Donnie Ray Jones

The Ready And Willing

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

The sandwich boards positioned on the footpath. Posters pasted inside the bus shelter. A pair of charity fundraisers stationed outside the university. All marketing tactics designed with one goal in mind—to make the product, business or cause more visible.

The reason our marketing falls flat is that the people we want to serve are not interested in our need to be seen or sell. Customers are motivated by their need to be seen and understood. We all are.

The good news is it’s easier to make things people want than it is to make people want things. When you stop trying to get the attention of the casual passer-by, you have more resources to tell your story to the people who are ready to hear it. What do they want from your product or service?

Image by Judy Dean

The World Inside Your Customer’s Heart

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

There are few better lessons in the art of storytelling than those learned by watching a great real estate agent auction a good property, on a chilly Melbourne morning. Last Saturday, I looked on as an agent sold a million dollar home by reminding potential buyers how they would feel every weekend as they strolled to the cafe on the corner to have a delicious pastry with their flat white.

Having gone through the legal formalities, he didn’t waste much time talking about the quality of the construction or the fixtures and fittings. Instead, he painted a picture of what it would be like to live in that home, in that location. He reflected the story already in the buyers’ hearts back to them.

The young couple who bought the home (with the help of their parents, who stood by their side), had grown up in the area. They wanted their baby son to grow up there too.

Contrast this first agent’s approach with that of the one whose client’s property was passed in at auction later that day. The second agent led with the facts. He gave details about the land size, the distance from the city and statistics on property values in the area. Information that without meaning or context made little emotional connection with potential buyers and their worldview.

It’s believed that marketing is an unethical attempt to motivate people to buy through the back door of their emotions. Of course, storytelling in the wrong hands is a powerful tool that can encourage people to make decisions they later regret. Our job as ethical marketers is to help people to do things they want to do today and won’t regret tomorrow. We can only do that by understanding what’s in their hearts and by being able to say hand on our hearts that this is what we did.

Image by North Charleston

You Don’t Need Everyone

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

Keeping a customer is more valuable to your business than courting one. Fred Reichheld, from Bain and Co, points out that return customers buy more products and refer more friends. Yet the majority of our marketing is devoted attracting more customers.

When startup Dollar Shave Club launched in 2011, the brand had some stiff competition in Gillette—the brand that had dominated the razor blade market for more than a century. The startup founders knew they’d never beat Gillette at the consumer awareness game, but they could shoot for customer affinity. That’s what they did by launching a subscription razor blade service at a competitive price.

Mass awareness isn’t working so well any more. Thankfully, we’re moving beyond thinking about how we can win the battle for every customer’s mind and recognising that the future of business is about understanding how to get closer to a particular customer’s heart.

You don’t need everyone to succeed. You need to matter to someone.

Image by Roberto Trombetta

Easy Isn’t Always Best In The Long Run

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

The billboard outside the old cemetery read like a real estate advertisement.

‘Last remaining graves for sale.’ It seemed to scream inappropriately at the traffic roaring past.

In the past, these local burial plots would have been acquired by neighbouring families who were getting their affairs in order. Now even essential products and services have competition.

There’s no doubt that a billboard is a great way to capture everyone’s attention. But it may not be the best way to engage with the people you want to matter to.

It’s important to prioritise best above easy whatever you’re selling—especially if your customers will be around to do business with you again tomorrow.

Image by Natash Ramasamay

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