Sunday, March 20, 2011

Push me, Pull You - what kind of marketing do you do?

It seems we're all under more pressure these days. We're looking for results but it's tough out there - more sellers, fewer buyers. Our natural response is to push harder. More ads, door drops, cold calling, e-shots - push, push, push.

The problem is it's a broken system. There's too much noise out there, and we just end up ignoring stuff.

It's time for a different approach - a PULL approach. It's time to draw people in - the right people; ones who find something appealing in our message.

So the question now is "What are you saying that's worth listening to? What are you doing that's worth talking about?" This switches the focus away from the areas you're trying to target, to the quality of what you're doing. It's about getting back to the core, the 'story'.

The first problem is that many people don't fully understand what their story is.

Someone representing an accountancy firm would normally start off with, "Hi, my name's Cliff. I'm a tax accountant with *** and we're based in Manchester. We have a wide range of clients..." Dull and entirely forgettable.

Try this instead: "As accountants, we get really frustrated when we see owners who are essentially imprisoned in their own business, because they're getting drawn into work they shouldn't be doing. They're working incredibly hard but not getting the results they want. That's why we like to work closely with clients, not just looking after their tax returns but acting as a strategic partner. We encourage owners to focus their efforts on the right things, so they realise the true potential of their business and actually gain some personal benefit from all that blood, sweat and tears."

This is more of a 'why' approach and it's more likely to convey what kind of firm you are to deal with. It's more distinctive and is more likely to attract attention (see Simon Sinek's concept of The Golden Circle).

But again, they're only words - your words - and your audience might reasonably expect some proof. That's where your case studies come in.

You might claim to put customers as your no.1 priority but that's what everyone says! Far better to relate a story that's memorable and gets this across. A friend of mine who works for the John Lewis Partnership told me a wonderful story of when she was running the kitchen department at her store. A doctor and his wife were about to sign their lives away for the kitchen of their dreams when the husband threw a major spanner in the works. "Our house is inaccessible for delivery vehicles so I don't think we can go ahead," he explained.

My friend arranged a site visit and sure enough it was a complete nightmare - thick trees on one side of the house, a body of water on the other. Mission Impossible! Undaunted she came up with a novel solution - she hired a barge, parked it under a bridge, lowered the kitchen units one by one on to the boat and sailed the kitchen to the doctor's house!

The beauty of stories such as this is they allow the listener/reader to make their own mind up about the store's attitude to customer service. But more than that, it's memorable and gets passed on (as I'm doing now).

Many individuals and companies do great work, but they don't the recognize the true value of what they're doing. A receptionist who placates an irate customer and ultimately turns them into an advocate for the company is doing something remark-able (ie worth talking about). In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin describes this as 'art'. But for most people, it's simply lost in their job title. "That's just what I do."

It's vital to have a 'nose' for a good story. Try to capture these anecdotes (especially ones of before-and-after transformation) and make it easy for them to spread. Telling them well in the first place makes it easier for others to pass them on. But using social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook gives your stories greater (and immediate) reach.

To conclude, it's not just a matter of pushing an unremarkable message harder and wider. Focus on what's at the core. What it is about the things you do and say that are worth paying attention to? Spend time understanding your own story. Improve how you tell it and look to cement your reputation in your chosen field. Try these pull strategies:

Start conversations through LinkedIn
Do interviews on YouTube
Speak at events
Organise things
Be a connector
Capture great client stories
Leave behind a great footprint wherever you go

These things create chatter (and they mostly cost nothing). They go towards cementing your reputation. They form your story, your distinctive 'signature'. That's when you start attracting the right people to you.

Are you ready to go on the pull?

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