I made two new friends last week at a christmas party. One of them, Brenda, is a self employed life coach, and the other, Sandra, makes bespoke luxury kitchens. Both are passionate about what they do, so naturally the conversation eventually ended up about business.
Like many of their peers, they have joined and regularly attended networking events and business networking groups. Their main lead generation tactic was inviting anyone remotely interested for a free consultation session or product demo and then hope that they buy afterwards. Sadly few of them ever did, because “they couldn’t afford it”. They had been running their “businesses” at a loss for the last 8+ months.
They have both tried “everything” – yellow pages, promotions, press releases, print ads, brochures/leaflets, cold calling, open house, door knocking, and even turning their cars into advertising tools. Still, they weren’t getting enough leads or paying customers.
They both didn’t know what to do anymore.
“Well, have you tried marketing online?”I asked them.
They just stared at me as if I just said something gibberish – in Urdu.
More and more businesses and solo professionals are now experiencing first hand that what used to be very effective lead generating tactics do not work very well anymore. Brenda and Sandra are not alone.
Consumers now do all sorts of measures to block out all the noise that barrage them day in and day out. We mute the radio or TV or switch between channels when the advertisements come on. We’re rude to cold callers and door knocking salespeople. We ignore print ads, and even if we do, few of us really believe what they say anyway. We accept leaflets and brochures when they are being handed out just to be polite, only to stash them in the nearest bin we see.
Marketing as we know it is as good as dead.
Marketing (as in old marketing) – no longer works, not because the media themselves are no longer effective, but because consumers have changed.
Consumers Are Changing
Consumers are a lot busier and more impatient so their attention span is extremely short (and expensive!).
They’re so jaded that they no longer believe us (salesmen or marketers) – they’d rather ask their next door neighbor, friends or pets what they think about our products (how dare they!).
They’re getting more and more savvy. They know that someone, somewhere has got what they want at a price they are happy to pay for. More and more of them know where and how to get the information they want at the exact time that they need them. Thus they are quick to dismiss messages that are irrelevant to their current train of thought (dammit).
They are spoilt for choice so more and more of them are refusing to settle for mass-produced, mass-marketed, average goods. No – in fact, they demand remarkable products specifically tailored with their unique needs in mind that truly work for their specific situation, and they expect a fast, reliable impeccable service.
They even demand to know how you made your product, who made them, what materials were used, what your carbon footprint is like, who you do businss with and how, how you train your staff, where you came from, why you do what you do…
And if you piss them off, they make damn sure they tell everybody. And by everybody I mean their friends, ex girfriends, ex-boyfriends, family, neighbours, colleagues, pets, grandparents, the folks that used to bully them in kindergarten, the folks who they used to bully in high school, their old high school teachers - and these people in turn do the same and so on.
All that at one push of a button. One single click.
So What Now for Businesses?
Clearly, interrupting people and shouting our generic messages to as many people as possible and hope that enough of them buy our generic products no longer works.
What are marketers supposed to do?
Well, there is a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is:
- Target a specific group of people whose problems you can solve well. Join or build a community of these people. Listen to what they have to say. Engage, enthuse, empower and add value to them.
- Deliver messages for them that are compelling, relevant, valuable, useful, amazing, and if you dare, mind-blowingly cool. The trick is to give them what they want to become happier, better, richer, sexier, or whatever it is they want to be.
- Make it super easy, fun, and even rewarding for people to interact with you and ultimately to want to pass your message on to others.
- Rinse and repeat.
The long answer is well, basically the same answer, just err… longer. The long answer deals with the tactics and tools and details. And the long answer depends on who you ask and who exactly is asking and when and where the question was asked.
It’s so easy to get lost in the details and get all so fancy. It’s so easy to forget that at the end of the day the media you use per se doesn’t really matter – it’s the value of your message that matters, and how that message is changing the very people who hears it, not necessarily just the ones you crafted the message for.
Your Challenge as a Business Owner
The challenge we face today as marketers is not, “how do we get the most people to buy my product?” but “how do I really listen enough to people so that I am able to serve their needs?”
The challenge we face today is not, “how do we invent a story that will make more people buy?” but “how do we muster enough courage to tell our true story and still be able to create something of real value?”
Our real challenge is listening more to people, not shouting at people.
Our real challenge is creating something truly worthy to the people we hope to serve.
Our real challenge is about being authentic enough and being willing to connect and share as much value as we can with those we have chosen to serve.
If you can do all that and use the right tools in the appropriate and timely manner then you need not worry about making enough sales, because the market will find you.
And buy from you they will.