Stop Trying to Close and Do This Instead

If the first sentence of this article saw me immediately trying to sell my app/product/service, the vast majority of readers would close this page, and rightfully leave with a bad taste in their mouths. Yet every day, entrepreneurs around the world try to sell, pitch and promote their business right out the gate, all in the name of “hustle.” – They want to be the person that hustles 24/7. But, does anyone really like ‘that guy’? Would you introduce him to your friend? In general, no. Which begs the question – why do so many entrepreneurs behave this way in business?

Before exploring this in more detail, take two minutes to watch this video by legendary business person Gary Vaynerchuck — this is what it looks like in real life. If you can identify this action in your behavior towards customers, prospects, journalists or investors, take a step back and ask yourself why this is your tactic for success. Those who believe they don’t behave this way and yet still have an auto-DM set up on Twitter should consider that though the tools are different, behaving differently online from offline still leads companies and individuals to act like the guy in the video. Don’t be “that guy.”

Israel’s top tech and marketing guru Hillel Fuld puts this beautifully in his blog:

“1. Would I respond to this message if I was on the receiving end?

2. Would I behave this way offline?

If the answer to either one of those questions is ‘No’, then do what you gotta do to make the answer yes.”

Good sales and marketing practice comes from one single underlying root — deploying empathy wherever possible. Though this emotion is very difficult to quantify with data points, it is fundamental for people working in sales and marketing to understand and internalize before every interaction. To start off by thinking, “How can I add value to this person?” rather than “How can I sell to this person?” is a shift in mindset, but one that will always pay off. This value may not (and probably isn’t) an instant sale of your product, and may even be the recommendation of a competitor — but the individual will remember the value for decades to come, long after the product or service is rendered obsolete. It is this shift in thinking to macro-marketing and away from target-driven objective marketing that has created some of the biggest companies in the world today.

Before starting to work at an Apple Store, employees are trained to make sure that they only sell to a customer that will get what they want from the product. If you were to go in and ask for a phone that absolutely must be red, they won’t try to sell you a rose gold iPhone 7, because that isn’t what you want. The thought process is as relevant to small businesses as it is for billion-dollar companies. Offer what the customer in front of you wants — regardless of demographic slicing, platform or situation — and the long-term benefit will pay out in spades.

This adjustment in mindset may be extreme for some, but when we consider the awesome power consumers now have via the reach of social media, and the swing of attention away from conventional advertising and towards influencers and peer let decision making, the customer is satisfaction sacrosanct before, during and after every interaction. Play the long game, be patient and succeed.

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This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.com on 10th March 2017.

The Key Factor Missing from Your Marketing Strategy

Brands are increasingly putting their marketing efforts under a microscope – scrutinizing them for predictable ROI and concrete business result.  This focus and detail oriented approach is something to be praised, it ensures high quality campaigns and instills an onus of accountability within the marketing department or agency.  It does however, leave the door open for one major factor to be missed when new campaigns are created.

The underlying factor in good marketing is empathy.  The dividing factor between good and great campaigns is the ability for a marketer to put themselves in the shoes of their audience and think ‘What would interest me?’, ‘How could this provide value to my life?’ and ‘Why is this relevant to me?’.  It is relevant across the board, from automotive to financial, healthcare to SaaS, advertising to PR and beyond.  Tony Zambito puts this beautifully ‘We cannot communicate well if we do not know who our customers and buyers are, what things are important to them, and why what they hope to accomplish is important to them.’  Unfortunately, this factor seems to be an element being given less and less credence in an increasingly data-driven world.

Not to downplay the importance of data, but I am often reminded of the quote by Andrew Lang ‘He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts – for support rather than for illumination.’  It is crucial that data informs rather than justifies decisions.

Empathy is an aspect that, in its very nature, is unquantifiable.  It has no data points, and has no unit of measurement – it just is.  To be empathetic, a brand must use human innate judgement based off research, experience, and a deep understanding of the target market.  It requires a level of trust that comes from a recognition that marketing itself is not a set of skills, but a philosophy – one which stems from an understanding of people, rather than tools.  This tends to be easier for small companies and startups than larger more developed businesses – this is because as a company grows, their departments become increasingly specialized and siloed, with more partners and a heavier reliance on pure data to prove their effectiveness.  This specialization can be very useful for productivity, but run the risk of creating an ‘Us and Them’ mentality, which can create isolation and rifts.

If you are reading this and realize that this is something missing from your external marketing, understanding why it is missing in the first place can reveal a huge amount about the current Modus Operandi of an organization.  A great example is Zappos.com – a company that built its entire business model on the idea of empathizing with its customers.  Their answer to buyer hesitancy was to offer a no questions asked returns policy that directly addressed the needs of their customers – every piece of marketing underlines this, and every action is anchored to the need for understanding how customers react.

Empathy should filter throughout all departments and all communications, from TV adverts to internal communications, website copy to journalist interactions, down to the hiring process and office layout.  Empathy should be a standard factor used in all aspects of company growth and marketing, but unfortunately, until it is measurable, many companies will continue to downplay and ignore this hugely valuable parameter.

For those not currently doing so, choosing to actively champion empathy as a core element to the construction of marketing campaigns may seem like a gamble at first – not relying solely on data, or behaving like a company in the classical sense.  Kevin McKeon from the agency Olson puts it beautifully – Think like people, not marketers.