We only care about you if it’s really about us

I Love MeWe recently bought an ad for a client and the ad rep suggested we make a big deal out of the fact that our client has been in business for 130 years. I politely told her that we definitely were not going to do that.

Instead, we were going to talk about something their readers and our prospects might actually care about.

My conversation with her is what prompted this blog post. We’ve all seen the ads or sales that are somehow tied to a businesses 25th anniversary or the “we’ve been in business for a century” sale announcements.

The reality is – no one cares. While that may be a laudable accomplishment – to have hung in there that long, from your consumer’s point of view – it’s fluff or a gimmick (we’ve been around for 50 years so everything is 50% off!).

Is a business going to offer me a better product after they’ve been around for 100 years? Was the stuff they sold in their ninety-fifth year just junk? Of course not. Is someone who just turned 60 a better advisor than when she was 59? Nope.

You make that the focus of your ad or your sale when you don’t have anything better to say. And if you can’t come up with something more customer-centric than that to say – you’re lucky to still be in business.

It’s actually a symptom of an age-old marketing problem. Businesses talk about themselves rather than talking about what the customer cares about.

Here’s how to fix two of the most common “it’s all about me” types of marketing statements and make them customer centric and customer valued communications instead.

#1 — We’re old and you should care

All about us: We’re 100 years old. Come enjoy some birthday cake and celebrate with us as we cross the century mark.

All about them: Over the many years we’ve been in business, we’ve learned that our customers value three things. They value incredible customer service (click here to speak live with one of our teammates), fair pricing (click here to read about our fair price every time program) and they want quality they can count on (watch a short video about our factory’s 100% right or 100% wrong policy).

You’re saying the same thing – we’ve been in business long enough to be stable, to have earned our customer’s trust and no one has to worry about you being a fly by night operation. But when you push beyond focusing on yourself, you can outline exactly why your longevity is of value to the prospect that is considering doing business with you.

#2 – The difference is our people (perhaps the most trite sentence uttered in marketing today)

All about us: Our people really care. You’re not just a number to us.

All about them: Hi Mr. McLellan – we see that you’re going to be staying at our hotel XYZ in Big City. We’re glad to have you staying with us and want to make sure we do everything in our power to make your stay an awesome one. As the manager of the hotel, I want you to have my direct line (123-456-7890) and email (manager@BigHotel.com) so you can get a hold of me if there’s anything you need.

Don’t tell me that your people care. Show me. It sounds like hype when you brag about it. It feels remarkable when I experience it for myself. The truth is…most businesses say it but few actually deliver on it. Why not just shut up and show it?

If you’re going to expend the effort to talk to your customers and prospects, stop talking about yourself and talk about what they care about — what’s in it for me.

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The Extreme Small Business Marketing Summit starts Monday, November 3rd.  Here’s the speaking line up:

Even if only one or two of the topics appeal to you — the price is definitely right.  Check it out and let me know what you learned!

Storytelling, storytelling, and more storytelling

storytellingSeems like every marketing book, blog and study is talking about how we should be using storytelling as a marketing technique. I couldn’t agree more.  Unfortunately, I think most attempts fall short.

Marketers clearly believe that storytelling is a critical component of their marketing efforts.  It’s one of the most talked about topics in marketing circles today.

So — no argument that marketing’s version of storytelling is critical to a business’ communications success. The question is — why are so many companies doing it badly and not experiencing the results they want?

The stories don’t evoke an emotion: There’s not a memorable story around that isn’t seeded in emotions.  For some businesses, especially those in the B2B sector, it’s hard to imagine what emotions their products or services might trigger.  That’s because the marketers are staying at the features level of sales, not delving into the benefits that lie beneath.

It might be as simple as your prospect is afraid if they make a bad decision, it will cost them their job.  Or it could be that what you sell is helping your clients fulfill their reason for existing — which to them is very emotionally motivated.  If you dig deep enough, you’ll find the emotions behind your stories.  Be sure you expose those in your storytelling so that your audience can relate to and empathize with the people in the tale.

The stories don’t use data to lend credibility: What makes true stories so dramatic and grabbing are the facts that are dotted throughout the telling.

Data can be used in a variety of ways to tell your story.  Think visual data like an infographic or let the data suggest a new angle or insight for both you and your audience.

The story doesn’t take us on a journey: In marketing’s version of storytelling, we often take shortcuts to get to the big reveal.  But in taking the shortcut, we rob the audience of story’s arc. Every story is, in essence, a journey that chronicles the problem, the fight to solve the problem and how things are better once the challenge is resolved.

But a great story lets the journey also help the audience see the motivations, frustrations and worries of the characters while they try to face the problem. The outcomes are also wrapped in more than just the tangible results.  When the story is rich with details – we also learn more about the intangible results and ultimate value of delivering the right solution.

The story doesn’t include a next step/call to action: Here’s where most marketers really miss the boat.  A well-crafted story draws the audience in, helps them connect with the main character and feel their common pain.  As the story evolves, the prospect is pulling for the character — because in reality, the character bears a striking resemblance to them.  They experience the ups and downs within the story and as the story delivers the happy ending — the prospective customer is thinking and feeling relief and a desire to share in that sort of outcome.

So marketing’s version of storytelling is all too often, a big tease.  You led them right to the edge — get them hungry for what you’re selling but don’t give them a clear and defined next step.  Ask yourself — what do I want them to do next and be sure you make it easy and quick to take that next action.

What do you think? Can you tweak the way you’re telling your company’s story so that it actually drives leads and generates sales?

Plant some marketing seeds

plant some marketing seedsBy the time a farmer is harvesting his crop, he’s already well into the planning of his upcoming planting season. We marketing types could learn a lot from those farmers.

The fourth quarter is a very busy time for most businesses for several reasons:

  • Lots of clients are spending the remainder of their budgets
  • Customers are motivated to wrap things up before the year’s end
  • Many companies are working short staffed and lose a lot of productivity around Thanksgiving and throughout December because of holidays and vacations
  • Internal planning for 2015 budgets and work plans is typically done during this time

That’s why it’s not all that surprising that you aren’t thinking about the sales/activity dry spell that often comes in January and February. You may be the exception to this rule, but for many organizations, the first few months of the year are often the slowest in terms of leads, sales and revenue.  That’s why you need to plant some marketing seeds right now.

It’s usually around the end of January that someone inside the company says, “Wow, our sales are really slow. We’d better do something.” They go into a brainstorming session and come up with some sort of promotion, marketing tactics or special to generate some sales activity.

Odds are, the ideas that get generated at the end of January usually start producing results 30-90 days after they’re deployed.

So if that’s the case…wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to begin those promos, specials, and increased efforts now, sixty days before your inevitable dry spell?

Let’s call it your planting seeds effort. You want to generate interest now but deliver the services/goods in January and February. How might you plant some marketing seeds now?

Offer a 2014 budget/2015 delivery deal: You know that many of your clients have a fiscal year that ends in December. They have “use it or lose it” budgets. So why not help them wisely spend those budget dollars? Create an opportunity for them to make a smart purchase in 2014 for things they’ll need in the first few months of 2015.

Put together a package: Why not bundle some of your products/services in a way that guarantees usage over the first few months of the year? Set the end date to purchase the bundle sometime in the middle of January. Begin talking about the bundles now and you’ll either sell some in December or you’ll plant the seeds now and make the sale in January.

Kick off a PR campaign: Maybe it’s time to create some buzz? That kind of buzz usually takes some time to build up so starting now means you’ll have some momentum in a few months. Be smart – concentrate on a few key publications that will position you in the right way with the right audience.

Reach out to former clients: Now might be the perfect time to re-connect with some of your former customers. Keep in mind that they’re (hopefully) doing their 2015 planning right now which might result in their realizing that they are going to need what you sell.

Develop and distribute helpful content: Depending on your industry and your customers, this might be an e-book, a white paper, a podcast, or even an in person seminar. Use this opportunity to demonstrate just how smart you are and how you can help them by sharing that expertise. Use the content to reach back out to potential customers you’ve already courted, prospects and even current customers.

Mine your referral network: Your best customers are typically more than happy to boast about your work. Now is the perfect time to ask them who else they think might benefit from your expertise/products. Set up those initial meet and greets for the first week of January.

Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of your slow season to worry about shortening it. If you plant some marketing seeds right now, the slow season may be a thing of the past.