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Articles filed in: Marketing
Every week, my favourite bookstore restocks the shelves at the front of the store with new releases. And every time I go there, I think the same thing. What are the chances of any book—no matter how good, being found here?
The truth is, the books that sell are the ones that people come into the store knowing they are going to buy. The book that’s been recommended. The thing they’ve already heard about.
Breakthrough ideas and bestselling products are rarely stumbled upon.
They are recommended—passed from person-to-person.
Our job isn’t to be found. It’s to make something worth talking about.
We do that by understanding who we do our best work for and why—then creating something those people love.
Image by Germán Poo-Caamaño
There’s a difference between a good story and a great story.
A good story gets our attention. A great story changes us.
Successful marketing campaigns and brand stories don’t convince us.
They move us.
A good leader gets our vote, and sometimes, our respect.
A great leader gains our loyalty, and often, our love.
We don’t have to be smart enough to manipulate people to act.
We have to be sincere enough to move them to act.
Image by Nevada Halbert
The best marketing does two things:
1. It empowers people to make decisions now that they won’t regret later.
2. It helps people to do the things they want to do.
If you’re helping the people you serve to do both of these things, you can proudly say you’re a good marketer.
Image by Eric Shoniya
In the golden age of the advertising businesses of all sizes relied on ads to promote and sell their products. Giant corporations reached us via TV and whole page newspaper ads. Small businesses got our attention by placing small ads in the local newspaper. In the past advertising allowed average products to gain traction. Now we block and ignore.
When conventional advertising became less effective, many businesses migrated to social media platforms. The promise was that targeted promotion would enable us to reach more customers for close to free. While it’s easier to target and reach prospective customers, there is no guarantee that more people will be won over. That doesn’t stop us spending the majority of our resources trying to reach potential customers, and relatively few to convert or retain them. According to Econsultancy, for every $92 we allocate to creating awareness, we spend $1 on converting the customer.
How could we invest our resources wisely?
As is often the case the clues lie in understanding what’s unchanging about people. We still buy things the people we trust are buying. We eat in the places our friends tell us serve good food. We know where to get the best coffee because our neighbours tell us. We do things we see others doing. We always have done. We always will do.
Lasting success isn’t built around launching one PR campaign after another. It’s powered by trust. Whenever you see a business that’s endured look for the trust engine that’s driving its success.
How To Build A Trust Engine
1. Care more than the competition.
2. Make the best product.
3. Give your customers a story to tell.
4. Make it easy for them to tell that story.
In the quest to do work we’re proud of trust trumps awareness every time.
Image by Spyros Papaspyropoulos
We often use customer insights to inform product and service development. Throughout the process, our goal is always to empathise with the customer. But sometimes the language we use stops us from achieving that goal. For example, it’s harder to imagine a particular person with a problem by making a list of customer ‘pain points’, than it is to think about what’s wearing a customer down.
For example, we might list the pain points of someone (like my mum), who has trouble opening jars with her arthritic hands, as impaired grip, limited mobility and so on. But we form a more complete picture when we do the work of understanding the impact of those pain points. We get a sense of the emotional cost of living with those pain points when we think about what’s at stake for the person we want to serve.
Here’s how this works in practice.
Two Customer Insights Exercises
Exercise A. Make a list of your customers’ frustrations.
Exercise B. Stand in one customer’s shoes and fill in the blanks in the following sentences.
I’m tired of doing [X] and not achieving [Y].
I’m tired of feeling [X] and never being [Y].
I’m tired of being [X] and not doing [Y].
I’m tired of saying [X] and never getting to [Y].
When we do exercise B, instead of a list of pain points, we get an understanding of the customer’s story and her internal narrative. “I’m tired of having to ask for help and not being able to cook properly because I can’t open jars. When I can’t open a jar I feel like I’m getting weaker and losing my independence.”
What’s your customer’s story?
How does your product or service help your customer do less of X and experience more of Y?
That’s the story your customer wants and needs to hear.
Image by Kirsty Andrews
Our expectations about the quality of products have increased exponentially with our ability to perfect the things we produce. When quality improves our tolerance for mistakes plummets. Interestingly, the same isn’t true for human interactions. Even though digital technology has enabled degrees of efficiency beyond our wildest dreams our expectations about how people will use it to serve and connect with us have dropped. Product reliability is a given. Great service and emotional intelligence are not.
Now when you respond to an email in good time or simply reply at all, people are blown away. When you take the time to listen to a complaint and acknowledge someone’s feelings, they are not just satisfied, they are delighted. When you go the slightest bit out of your way to resolve someone’s problem, you make a customer for life.
We spend much of our time working on perfecting the hard thing and not enough time doing the easy thing. People want to be seen and heard just as much, if not more, as they want things to work. Helping is both priceless and underrated.
Image by Jessica Lucia
The bookstore in Albert Park had just opened when Thomas, dressed as Batman, and his mum walked in. They headed straight to the children’s section at the back. They were shopping for a present for Ben, who was having a superhero birthday party that afternoon.
‘Let’s get Ben this book about Brazil. Then he can learn all about the people in Brazil,’ Mum said.
‘No! I want to get him a book about Batman,’ Thomas shot back, bottom lip out and cape askew.
In the end, they bought both books, but you can guess which one Ben loved.
It’s obvious that Thomas will be the best judge of what Ben likes. But his mum still has an opinion, based on her assumption about what’s better for Ben in the long run.
We sometimes make assumptions based on our opinions about a customer’s wants and needs. It’s hard to be objective about our ideas when we are invested in the outcome. But that shouldn’t stop us trying to stand in our customer’s shoes for long enough to understand how he feels. Our opinion is immaterial if it doesn’t align with the story the customer believes.
Image by Jonnie Anderson
The two falafel makers at the weekend market sell an almost identical product but achieve very different levels of success. The marketing tactics they use are similar. Make eye contact with potential customers, offer them a small sample to try and use the time they’re chewing to launch into your sales pitch.
The first maker tells passers-by his falafel are the best in the world. ‘I should know, I make them,’ he proclaims.
The second tells potential customers that her falafel are vegan, dairy and gluten free. ‘They are delicious hot or cold. Wrap them in pitta bread with some salad and hummus, and you’ve got an easy, tasty and healthy lunch,’ she says, as customers line up to hand her their ten dollar notes.
We spend days, months and sometimes years perfecting our product recipe. We should honour that devotion to creating something that matters by perfecting our sales script too. If you want to make something matter, you must be able to tell the people you want to serve why it should matter to them.
Image by Stijn Nieuwendijk
Every few months another new restaurant on Bourke Street closes its doors for the last time. Sometimes it’s like watching a car crash happening in slow motion right in front of your eyes. The events leading up to the closure follow a familiar pattern.
There’s the launch day fanfare, accompanied by balloons, the menu reveal and opening offers. The staff member stationed out front hands out leaflets to the hundreds of passers-by trying to entice them in. Many put their head around the restaurant door. Most don’t go inside. A few promise to come back but never do. The sandwich board on the pavement advertising discounted ‘specials’ get bigger and brighter as the days turn into weeks, then months, where too few lunches have been served. Those adverts are a sure sign that the lease won’t be renewed.
Bourke Street is one of the busiest streets in the heart of Melbourne—a place thousands of potential customers walk up and down each day. But setting up shop there does not guarantee that the right customers will come and keep coming. We have come to believe that being known is the key to being successful. That’s not always the case. The people and companies that succeed are not just visible to everyone—they’re resonant with the particular group of people that they have optimised their business to serve.
Back to Bourke Street. There’s a new restaurant that’s quickly become a favourite with busy office workers and weekend shoppers, looking for a quick pit stop and a healthy bite to eat. The first thing the owners did was to design the entrance with empathy. They didn’t want people to feel intimidated to step over the threshold. They wanted to avoid people feeling that they had to commit to sitting down if they walked in—which they believed would stop them coming in at all. They removed the door and left the restaurant completely open to the street. They’re giving people the opportunity to see straight away if this is their kind of place.
Being known by everyone isn’t going to get us to where we want to go. Being right for the right people is where we start. And understanding how to show and tell those customers that we’re right for them is the way we build a sustainable, successful business. We don’t need to find more ways to make everyone see us. We need to find more ways to make the right people sure of us.
Image by Garry Knight
The Friday evening tram was jam-packed with commuters, our bodies so closely pressed together you could feel the heat from the passenger standing next to you. As the tram made its way up Collins Street, the people travelling alone avoided eye contact. Two women next to me were chatting about the black jacket the younger one was wearing.
She mentioned the brand name and the store where she’d bought it, then went on to describe why it was ‘worth the investment’. ‘I’m a junior lawyer. I work long hours. I always feel put together when I’m wearing this jacket, even when I’m leaving the office after a twelve-hour-day.’ Sold.
If only the brand’s designer and marketing team had been there to overhear the conversation.
Of course, it’s not always possible to be in the room or on the tram, when our customers have something valuable to share. But it is possible to create a mechanism for hearing and acting on what they tell us. The stories our customers tell—the words they use and the feelings they express are part of our story. We should know and use them. What’s your customer awareness strategy?
Image by Matthew Henry