Don’t Interrupt, Join the Conversation in Your Customer’s Mind
Your marketing is wasteful. I’m 99% sure. The majority of businesses engage in busywork, a charade that we use to make ourselves feel good about it. We do things that clearly don’t drive any results, why? Because we ought to do something, right?
Direct mail campaigns with zero return on investment, and we keep going and wasting money. Expensive trade shows with no leads or customers, and we keep attending. Blog posts and other lead magnets not generating leads, and we keep writing them.
Einstein said it best, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
There has to be a better way, a way that gives you results. There is.
The Customer Is the Hero
You might’ve heard Shakespeare’s famous “All the world’s a stage” phrase. It’s a perfect way to look at the world, more specifically with a business lens to understand how customers think.
Every human on this planet is a hero, a protagonist in their own play – life. It’s a first-person experience, an autobiography of sorts. We play a role, with an unwritten script.
It’s important you understand this concept because I’m an actor in your life’s play. My role is small, I might not even have any lines in your play. I was invited to perform in your play, when you found me on Google, when you received an email from me because you’re on my list, when someone referred you to me. I became part of your play without solicitation, without an audition. The conversation I was invited to is related to your marketing, to the business, something specific. I’m not part of the conversation about your kids, or your health, etc. I’m only part of the conversation I was invited to. My conversation became part of your conversation about marketing. I did not impose my own conversation on you, to dictate my own narrative and re-write your story.
No, I’m just a supporting actor. My role is to support you, to be part of your story, to bring my knowledge and expertise to help you achieve your goals.
Every customer is a hero in their own play. They invite businesses and business representatives into their play to a specific conversation or conversations. When you’re invited, you’re joining the conversation that’s already happening. If you’re selling IT services, your customer’s conversation about IT needs is already happening. You were invited to be part of that conversation.
Businesses, although not human, do have their own play with employees as players. The problem is, majority of businesses try to impose their own narrative on their customers’ stories. This causes conflict, and instead of being invited to join a supporting role in your customer’s play – you become one of the villains, the antagonist.
This problem, in many cases, stems from a lack of knowledge. You simply don’t know enough about your customers to know what conversation is about. You need to know what it’s about to be able to join it.
If your marketing isn’t working, you don’t know your customers well enough.
It doesn’t matter what tools you use (even if you pay for HubSpot), it doesn’t matter who you hire, it doesn’t matter what you do or how much of it you do, your marketing will not work if you don’t know your customers well enough.
I’ve worked with too many businesses that were “doing” marketing, but in reality, they were doing busy work. They weren’t getting any results, even though they did pay for HubSpot, they blogged, they emailed, they did it all. No results.
Know Thy Customer
You need to know what conversation is happening in your customer’s mind. Conversations are not always the same, they change as goals change, priorities change, the environment changes, etc.
When you know what the conversation is, you can figure out a way to align your own conversation to your customer’s conversation. You will be invited to play a supporting role in their play, helping them defeat whatever monster is standing in front of them.
If you’re a fan of the comics, or at least the Marvel movies. Think about easily stories blend together between the members of the Avengers. Main heroes have their own stories (Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, etc.). Then, Avengers’ story blends their stories together. Sometimes they show up in their friends’ stories, like Iron Man in the Spider-Man movie; or Hulk in the upcoming Thor movie.
When you research your customers, you need to understand what drives them, what their goals are, what they are struggling with, what obstacles are in their way, who are the players in their story. You need this information to understand the underlying narrative, so you know what conversation you need to be a part of.
This is especially true in sales when you already have their attention and you need to figure out how to close the deal. Price isn’t always a factor (think Rolex watches), quality isn’t always a factor (think $1 store merchandise), reputation isn’t always a factor (think of DaVita, the dialysis provider). What you think is important, might not be what your customers think is important.
If your marketing and sales are based on assumptions, or anecdotal evidence, or just general knowledge, you’re not going to get the results you’re looking for. You will interrupt your customers’ stories, and end up as a villain they need to avoid or fight against.
This is why I love inbound and content marketing. It allows customers to find you when they are seeking someone to fill a supporting role in their play. Someone who can join a specific conversation to help them. The better you know your customers, the easier it is to bring them in with high precision. Knowing your customer is a critical part of an inbound marketing strategy. It is the foundation of everything.
The people who say that inbound marketing doesn’t work, even when they “did” inbound marketing are the ones who did not know their customers well enough (assuming they actually know how to do inbound marketing). You can’t go hunting deer with a fishing rod, you can’t go shark fishing with a worm, you can’t generate leads with a free PDF just because it’s free and you assumed your customers might want it. Millions of landing pages go unvisited, millions of PDFs go unread, millions of webinars are not attended, millions of videos are not watched. There’s a reason for that. You can’t feed beef steak to a vegan. Period.
Customers are heroes in their own stories. Figure out what it is, and join their quest to help them defeat the “monster.”
Don’t go around trying to stuff your shit down customers’ throats. You don’t like it when someone else is doing it to you, why would you subject your customers to the same thing? I hope you don’t hate your customers.
Photo by Johannes Dietschi / Theater der Künste (CC BY 2.0)
Great post Viktor and this really has me thinking what the hell does my customer really want from me ?? Can you help me figure this out ?