Start With Why to Reach Customers

Reach customers with benefits

Do you want to reach customers in a more effective way, to help them understand why they need what you do? To help them see how your products and services fit their needs? To help you talk in customer-centric, benefits-focused terms? Here’s a powerful device to reach customers: Start With Why.

To reach customers, start with why

Why do we need “why?”

It may seem simple to talk about products and services in a way that connects with customers. Most of us naturally start talking about what the product is and what it does, how it works. We love to talk about features! But what we may not realize is that while those are important points to cover, it’s not how humans make buying decisions. We decide using a deeper portion of our brains, one that is powered not by words, but by feelings. This is why sometimes we make decisions that defy logic, or why we spend weeks agonizing over a decision despite the fact that we already have every bit of information we need.

How do we come up with marketing messaging that speaks to the feelings-powered portion of the brain, a portion that doesn’t use language?

Watch the video, Start With Why. Simon Sinek does the best job I have seen of explaining not just what kind of communication works, but why it works.

Simon Sinek, Start With Why

Most of us talk about what we’re offering; how it works; and finally, maybe, why we make it and why you would want it. Powerful marketing flips that around and talks first about why. Solution marketing is the example best known in the business world — it talks first about the customer’s problem.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

In a hurry? There’s an edited, five-minute version. I suggest that my clients watch the full version and then watch the short one to lock the ideas in. Here are links to both versions.

Optimizing Search for Blog Posts

Congratulations: You’re doing a blog. You’re thinking about search engine optimization (SEO). You have the machinery in place to consistently produce a couple of posts per week on topics that will interest customers and prospects. Now: How will they find you?

Blogs are great search engine bait

One of the reasons I favor blog posts and other content is that it is search engine bait. When someone is searching on a problem they have that you can solve, your content is the most likely way they will find you and see you as the solution to their problems.

Here’s a video from Rand Fishkin of MOZ on how to make it a practice (key concept!) to make your blogs (and other content) appeal.

Some key ideas for optimizing search for blogs:

  • Make your content unique and valuable. Are you solving a customer problem?
  • Think about who you want to reach (executives? coders? bakers? managers?); what you want them to gain; what you want them to do as a result.
  • Pick 3-5 search terms as your target for this article. All should have same searcher intent and be juicy terms that people actually search on, are reasonably unique, and have great click potential.
  • Look at who else appears for those terms and readjust of you realize you can’t compete.
  • Now: Make your posting, armed with knowledge about what will work.
  • Do the appropriate technical tasks and keywording.
  • Watch your results so you can learn and adjust.

Empathy: Once you can fake that, you have it made!

A little rant, if I may?

Empathy is all the rage in business circles. So let’s apply it everywhere! And since we can’t trust employees to do it right, we’ll use automation and brainless procedures to emulate empathy. Do those who write and approve these scripts think we can’t hear fake empathy? The backfire is worse than no empathy at all.

Here, AT&T emailed after a support call, summarizing the discussion.

AT_T_Post_Call_Notification_Summary_of_Change_s__to_Your_Account_—_Inbox

Apparently we talked about a mysterious “issue” they are “investigating.” Then they added/changed a feature/plan.

But at least I know it’s not totally automated: The agent misspelled his own name.

“Thank you for calling, we value your business!”

 

This advertising man makes us sound like dumb animals. I think he’s right.

don-draper

The first commercial ad I ever ran was about 30 years ago. I was working for Hewlett-Packard and was happy that I was working with teams of advertising and marketing professionals, people who knew how ads worked and would be able to guide me to proven marketing practices.

Except that they didn’t, and they really couldn’t, because dammit, they didn’t know. Over the course of my marketing career, I have been party to millions of dollars of advertising. Sometimes we knew what worked. Often, not so much.

Coca-Cola_FamilyAd

So, are advertisers and marketing execs stupid? Driven by ego? Faking it? Sometimes. But there are things we learned from experience and testing. Want to know what they are? I think you would do very well to follow these ten conclusions from Tom Cunniff. A few favorites:

2) Most purchases are habitual. Human beings buy the same brand of toothpaste (or CRM software, or supply chain SaaS solutions, or anything else) over and over again not so much out of hard-won loyalty as pure sloth.

3) Decision-making has never happened in a “marketing funnel.” In most cases, it happens in something like a pinball machine.

5) Most of the time as consumers don’t know what we want, and when we do know what we want we don’t generally know why we wanted it.

8) Most of the effort expended on advertising is like primitive people doing a rain dance. There is a ludicrous emphasis on diagnosing what went wrong when it failed … and an equally ludicrous round of naive self-congratulation when it goes right.

Follow the link for the rest.

Micro-targeted advertising strategies

facebook

The history of marketing has been a steady march toward smaller targets: More and more products, services, and messages aimed at smaller and smaller targets.

What if you could target a market of one? We’re getting there. You can already target one company. Here’s a provocative example: Companies are targeting one publication to reach their journalists. Facebook knows where you work (because you tell them). Imagine placing your company in front of everyone who works at the Wall Street Journal or Wired or Popular Photography.

If you travel much, notice the billboards. I noticed a tendency for billboards to be near company headquarters and suspect the target is the company’s own employees and executives. It quiets some internal conversations about marketing effectiveness if the execs see their own ads every day. What if you could advertise into your own CEO’s Facebook, Twitter, and Google streams? 

Marketing messaging: 10 phrases great speakers never say

This might be the best article ever on public speaking. While explaining the “don’ts,” Jeff Haden (@jeff_haden) nicely tosses in a lot of “do’s.” He hits all my pet peeves plus a couple (numbers 6 and 8) I still do (gulp!).

10 Phrases Great Speakers Never Say
Want to ruin a presentation in seconds? Just drop in one of these sentences.

Strategy 101

In my presentation, What Startups Need to Know About Marketing, I list four things small companies often overlook in their marketing plans. Number one is “strategy.” As in, have one! Even if it’s just a couple of pages, a written strategy tells everyone in the company that marketing matters and we have a plan.

packard-marketing-quote

David Packard said, “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”

written-strategy-means-everyone-knows-what-to-do

Indeed, an understanding of the marketing strategy informs all decisions an employee makes on your behalf, from product design to logistics, to how we answer the phone.

Today, I stumbled on 5 Keys to a Great Small Business Marketing Strategy, from Greg Head, CMO of marketing automation vendor InfusionSoft. Greg says, “All successful businesses have a clear marketing strategy that makes everything they do more effective. Unfortunately, many busy small business owners get so caught up in tactical daily marketing execution like building a website, sending email, tweeting, advertising, optimizing a landing page, blogging and so on, that they are not taking the time to work on the decisions that’ll improve the performance of their tactics.”

It’s a good read. Even if your list of strategy elements differs from Greg’s or mine, the key is to have a strategy. You can improve it as you go, but please do start with something. It’s one of those things a small business owner never seems to have time to do but once it’s in place, it saves time and amplifies the efficiency and effectiveness of everyone in the company, every day.

Mobilegeddon?!? Don’t panic.

If you are involved in marketing or have a website, here’s something new to worry (a little) about. 

Does your website pass muster on mobile devices? Starting Tuesday, Google is going to reduce the ranking of sites that fail their test.

moerubenzahl-mobile

Don’t panic. See Searchengineland’s well-reasoned advice.  And realize that it affects only phones and not tablets, non-brand traffic, and there is no permanent penalty — the effect goes away as soon as you fix it to Google’s satisfaction. 

It’s a good thing to address anyway and to be honest, it got me to stop procrastinating. This page didn’t meet the criteria until last Friday.

For a WordPress site fixing the issue generally means one of two things: Change themes or contact the theme producer to see if they have an update in the works. It took me just five minutes by updating the theme and turning on a mobile-friendly feature in “Jetpack.”

More: 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2015/03/31/is-your-website-optimized-for-mobile-you-have-until-april-21-to-get-it-done

You are not your customer

Apple Watch Edition

I love this article by Amy Hoy on why logic fails to predict what people will buy. Here’s why she’s right, and a way you can model and predict behavior.

Here in the land of high-tech, I see it again and again: Logical, sensible people using logical, sensible arguments to predict what will sell — despite repeated evidence that logic and sense are not why people buy.

I have to confess. This was me:

ipodgen1_jpg_300×346_pixels“You probably didn’t believe anyone would pay $399 for an MP3 player that couldn’t even hold half as much as the Creative Jukebox. You probably knew the iPhone would flop because it didn’t have third party apps, 3G, GPS, multi-tasking or even friggin’ copy and paste.

“You probably thought the iPad was ugh, just a big iPhone, who cares.”

Almost. I was wrong about the iPod and the iPhone, for exactly the reasons she cites here. But when the iPad came along, I had learned my lesson and redeemed myself, winning a bet with an engineer friend who knew, absolutely knew, it would fail.

There is something I do know about who will buy the Apple Watch: it won’t be me, at least not for this year’s product (just as I did not buy the 1.0 versions of the iPod, iPhone, or iPad). That’s the point: I can predict success of a product, but only if my customer happens to be me.

David Packard called it “the next bench syndrome.” In HP’s early days, the company’s engineers could design by asking the guy at the next lab bench what he wanted, because they were designing products that electrical engineers would be using. When they began developing business computers, that model began to fail.

So how do we know what customers will buy? Well, there are some expensive methodologies that work well for established markets but most of my clients have something more like Apple’s market — new markets for new services and products that won’t predict well. And they don’t have Unilever-sized budgets for research. High-tech firms tend to rely on intuition and some sense that they know the customers. Risky business.

You can only know your customers by their actions

Amy Hoy says, “You can only know your customers by their actions.” Between how do you know them all if they’re not you? A methodology that works for many of my clients is persona development.

personas

I define a persona as a customer type based solely on desires and behaviors. We use the company’s inside knowledge to discover a very small set of personas (typically 3-5). The goal is to define them so clearly and concisely that everyone in the company can know them by heart. This is not the same as customer segmentation, which can be complex and detailed. Segments are for automation and procedures; personas are for people. We refine the personas through a series of processes and do small research projects to verify anything that’s uncertain. We create a chart showing each persona’s problems, emotional drivers, what products we have for them, benefits and unique value propositions, competitors, etc. The chart is detailed enough to capture the customer base’s desires but simple enough that everyone can know them.

With carefully designed and researched personas, a company has a fighting chance to know what they will want and make decisions based not on what people in the company would want, but what their real customers and prospects would want.