We are THE people

24 August 2021

About 25 years ago, I met Sue for a coffee. Sue had just quit her job at the Thomson Local and was trying to sell me bus advertising.

She told me the story of how she’d joined the directory business, went on the internal sales course, and really got into the ethos of what the directory was about. “Why wouldn’t someone advertise? It’s a no-brainer.”

She had struggled to convince people, and her sales were slow. But, she kept believing.

Then one night, at home alone, a water pipe broke in her house. She scrambled around, got her directory out and called an emergency plumber.

It was only while she was waiting for the plumber to arrive that she realised she had gone straight to the Yellow Pages.

Don't Believe The Hype

When selling and marketing, it’s important to remember that no one will ever believe your hype more than you. You’ve spent so long convincing yourself about what you have to offer that no one could ever be as blinkered as you.

There are (of course) exceptions when it comes to hype, but they tend to be in the consumer space (Apple, Tesla). But, for us mere mortals selling blah, blah, blah; talking a good game and chucking up facts and figures about why someone should part with their hard-earned money; it simply ain’t enough.

Social media came along and was meant to help us cut-through. But, in truth, it’s actually just made things worse.

(M)empathy

I remember at the turn of the century, the fanfare around Web 2.0 (An American phrase, so don’t forget to say web-two-point-zero.)

The web was transforming from a single monologue broadcast medium to a place where people could write back. They could blog, comment and share content. A new dawn.

Twenty-odd years later, and they are doing it in spades. Every idiot you could imagine has a view about every idiotic topic you could imagine, which has led some people to once again believe the world is, in fact, flat. That’s progress right there.

Some people have done alright, building a Kardashian-style career on it by taking photos and videos and just posting ads. But it’s not genuine. It’s a filtered approach to life that makes most people feel bad about their own hum-drum existence. Narcissism with no obvious benefits unless you are one of the lucky ‘influencers’. And we’re all at it.

It must be a psychologist’s wet-dream, watching people telling their nearest-and-dearest about how much they love them online, even though they are sitting right next to them at home. Or, my personal favourite, telling a deceased loved-one how much we miss them as if Heaven has a Facebook Page.

And, it’s not just individuals; it’s businesses as well; companies trying to do their best (or what’s easiest) to create content. Young marketers getting out the marketing calendar and announcing, “Right guys, it’s National Beer Day on Friday, let’s show the world we like beer, ’cause we are ker-razy kids.”

It’s vanilla content that doesn’t create a connection that resonates. Partly because it’s not relevant and partly because a ton of other marketers are doing exactly the same thing.

Hey Everyone, Look At Me...
Except you, and you, and you.

Marketing has always been about attention and connection, and if there is one great thing the web has brought to the table, it’s the fact that we no longer need to mass-market. We don’t need to appeal to everybody. Why run an ad in a local newspaper when you can capture someone searching online for the exact thing you sell.

But with this option of easy access to business for all, what you do and what you sell is not enough. The way you do it is just as important.

My marketing hero, Seth Godin, puts it succinctly when he says, people like us, do things like this. It’s not about pleasing everyone; it’s about connecting with the right audience – the smaller, the better.

That thing you want, I have it. And I can deliver it in a way that you want.

From a money perspective, smaller doesn’t necessarily mean less lucrative either; it means you are spending your time with the people who recognise your value. Let’s face it; we’ve all had to put up with tyre kickers in our careers.

So, say goodbye to vanilla and grow some colour, some flounce – something that differentiates you. Say goodbye to people like them.

But Be Ruthless On Yourself

Hopes and dreams don’t pay the bills, nor do social media posts celebrating “national sausage week”. Audiences speak with clicks and likes, but customer-centric audiences speak with their wallets, so be sure to give them what they need. Yes, another quick reminder that we’ve all heard stories about innovators who stuck to their principles and ignored customers, but let’s be honest, are you really an innovator? Really? I know I’m not. This means we have to have a clear strategy:
  • Who are we in relation to the people we want to deal with?
  • Who do we work for (profitably), and why?
  • What are we really offering – from the customer’s point of view?
  • What can we talk about that is not about us but genuinely about them?
  • How do they need to hear from us to stay connected?
Get that right, and customers become fans. They are people like you, doing stuff the way you both do.

But remember. What works now needs to adapt continually, and so you do. After all, when was the last time you used the Thomson Local? Or The Yellow Pages, for that matter?