The Most Important Marketing Strategy
Yes, your social media strategy is important. So are your direct marketing, advertising and web marketing strategies.
But, for most of the companies represented by readers of this article, the importance of these marketing efforts is dwarfed by the importance of human conversations between people in your company and its customers.
To understand this, think of your own experience. Consider a company that you love doing business with; it may be a local business or national company. What communications with that company most powerfully influence your opinions of them? I’ll bet that interactions with living, breathing human beings who work for that company have influenced you more than their website, advertising or social media posts. (Of course, large web companies like Amazon.com may be exceptions. But these types of companies make up a minority of the number of businesses you make purchases from.)
Now, think about your own company. What communications are most likely to persuade your customers, or make them more loyal? Imagine a customer engaged in a rich, two-way dialogue with someone from your company, maybe a salesperson, someone from customer service, or any other job role from your company that has direct customer contact. Imagine that the customer feels listened to, is very engaged in the conversation, and that the customer is actually enjoying the conversation. Imagine that the customer feels closer to your company after the conversation.
Imagine that this is a conversation that matters to your customer.
The most powerful marketing or sales medium your company can employ is the conversation that matters. When customers are engaged in conversations that matter to them, they become more loyal; they are more likely to be persuaded, and they are also more likely to fall in love with your company.
What is a conversation that matters?
The first step to creating a conversation that matters is to earn your customer’s full attention. As a conversation starts, make sure the customer is doing most of the talking. Not only will get this give you important information about the customer’s interests, it will help the customer devote their attention to the conversation. And, one of the best ways to earn your customer’s attention is by giving your customer your full attention. Your focused attention acts like a strong gravitational force, bringing your customer’s attention into the conversation, and keeping it there.
Next, recognize that customers are much more interested in participating in a dialogue than they are in hearing a monologue about your company. Hearing a presentation about your company never matters to your customer. Always seek to turn presentations into conversations.
Importantly, a conversation that matters is a conversation about your customer, not about your company. Your customers care much more about themselves than they care about you, so they will be much more engaged in conversations that are about them compared to conversations about your company. Keep the subject matter of a conversation focused on your customer, and then look for opportunities to weave parts of your company’s story into this conversation, without taking the focus of the conversation away from the customer.
Finally, the conversation that matters is never pre-scripted. A conversation that matters to your customer must be improvised, because it is impossible to know what your customer will care about before the conversation starts. I believe it is possible to teach anyone in your company how to improvise fresh, spontaneous conversations with customers, as long as you help them learn the right habits. Check out my book Ditch the Pitch to learn six habits for consistently engaging in persuasive conversations that matter.
So, next time you see a list of all the marketing activities your company conducts, insert a new line at the top of this list labeled “Conversations That Matter.” Then, consider the relative amount of resources dedicated to the marking activities and to conversations that matter. Are you focused enough on conversations that matter? Your customers are.