Inspired by recent experiences at an international trade fair, I’d like to talk about the “monologue”. It’s so easy to fall into this trap and I admit I’ve done it, too. You and your team have put so much effort into preparing a beautiful stand design, sourcing the furniture, aligning with the trade fair organiser regarding logistical details, inviting people to visit you….and now you’re excited to get started, to talk to potential clients.
A person approaches your stand, you welcome the person and start talking about your company: how you do it, what it is you exactly do, you maybe even say why you do it. You list clients you work with, highlight your marvellous colleagues from the design, product development, engineering team who can’t wait to serve this person, just send us enquiries and we will help you out.
What is missing, though, is asking questions. These should come first. You need to find out who you are talking to. What is it that this person really cares about, given the type of business he or she is in. And don’t just ask questions, leave space to the person to ask you questions. It’s so hard to do but essential in order to adapt your story, to make it relevant to the person you’ve welcomed at your stand.
Good luck with your next trade fair!
The two most important currencies in today’s marketing world are attention and trust. People trust you with their time, with their recommendation and maybe, just maybe, with their money.
If you want a chance to have the kind of impact you seek to make, you need to build some tension, the kind of tension that compels people to take action, e.g. subscribing to your newsletter or buying your product.
There are two main ways to create it: either framing your message around what is to be avoided (fear) or around what is to be achieved (desire or aspiration). Look at ads and analyse what its main focus is about, you’ll start noticing its everywhere.
Once you’ve defined your audience, who the person you seek to impact via your brand story, your product and/or service, is, it helps to pay attention to the group the individual is part of. After all, we humans are social animals.
How does the group influence the buying decision behavior of the individual?
What are the accepted norms within the group?
What is “proper” behavior which others within the group reward in what kind of way?
What is the meaning that individuals find within the group?
What gives them a sense of connection?
Analyse the terrain, the habitat of the individual, when it comes to being part of a group. It might give you insights into important dynamics when it comes to choosing or not choosing your brand.
People can be grouped by many things: age, nationality, gender, which party gets their vote….
What interests us as marketers is the worldview of the people we seek to serve, the audience we made our product/service for.
What do they fear?
What do they believe in?
What is their perception like?
What do they hope for?
What are their go to brands for different needs?
What is it they aspire to be/become?
What kind of decisions do they tend to make?
What are the internal narratives they keep telling themselves?
When doing marketing, it helps to first imagine the worldview of your audience, the lense they see the world through. Once you have that, you can frame your brand story in such a way to create hooks. These serve as signals to your audience who, when you’re just starting out, will mistrust and judge you.
There exists an experiment which you can do in order to find out if you’re selling yourself short, which particularly might be happening if you are a freelancer.
Here it goes: Imagine if you had to charge 10x more than what you’re charging right now, for your product, for your service, whatever it is that you’re offering?
Just doing better or working harder is not a valid answer. Think about the product/service and determine the changes you’d make. Feel free to bounce your ideas off of me by dropping me a message.
Empathy is hard. It’s just hard to imagine how it’s like to be someone else.
If you’re truly curious about the people you seek to serve with your business, though, here’s an exercise for practicing empathy and gaining insight into a market.
Pick something that is not from your “world”. With this I mean something you know little to nothing about, preferably you don’t even like it at all. For example, if you dislike heavy metal music, visit websites to research it, the kind of language they use, the kind of images, the colors, everything. Dig deep to understand that world, go visit a concert if you can. Talk to heavy metal geeks, ask questions.
Extrapolate from what you’ve learnt and go broader. Imagine how it would be like to be part of that group, what you’d be like, what type of content you’d consume, how you came to love heavy metal music.
Play with this and do it with different worlds: a nutty snack, adventure travel, first person shooter gaming, fishing…
Once you’ve defined your audience and brand positioning, it’s helpful to understand the difference between desires and needs. When you’ve reached a decent level of wealth, it’s easy to mix the two. (Primal) needs are things you absolutely have to have. Think of the lowest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: air, water, food, shelter, clothing (the basic kind, not those fancy party dresses)…
All the rest are desires, not real needs.
If you can frame offer in a way that will address a primal need of your customer, your marketing will have more impact. If you say “people want fast, luxurious cars”, then that is all you can frame your brand story around. If you dig a bit deeper, though, you could e.g. realise that “people want fast, luxurious cars because it gives them status and a sense of power”.
Have a look at the following elements of value.
Compare these elements with your offer. What are the primary elements where you add value? How do you communicate and make this clear to your audience?
Once you’ve figured something out that works, you should keep doing it. The challenge is to avoid neglect continuous testing. You can test your copy, your brand promises, your storytelling, your distribution channels, your pricing, an endless amount of thing.
What will you be testing next?
Years ago I had a conversation with an entrepreneur who managed a product design and product development studio. After I asked her how business was she started to complain how her customers didn’t understand product design, that are not clear about its value and on and on. It seemed to me that she was directing her marketing efforts towards people who didn’t believe what she believed. In her case it meant she first needed to sell the idea that design mattered to her prospect, before she could actually hope to make a sale.
I wonder what she’d achieve if she had focused her efforts more towards the kind of people who already understand the value of product design. I wonder what might have happened if she made correct assumptions about her customers and provided them with a brand story that satisfied a true need or desire. The sales cycle would be so much shorter and she’d have much more fun working with these kind of customers.
If I had to name one aspect that impacts marketing success the most, I’d choose empathy.
You’ll never be able to be in your audience’s shoes, feel exactly what they feel, think exactly what they think, mimic exactly their worldview. But you can use your imagination to fill the gap, in order to create the kind of marketing that will serve your audience.
A good exercise is to imagine imaging why people who do not buy from you choose to do so and why for them this might be the right choice. It’s easy to say “they just don’t get it”, much harder to empathise with the reasons for their choices.