Selling and marketing will be tougher next year. We are in a period of economic uncertainty unrivaled for more than 70 years, and your customers, no matter who they are and what you sell, will buy differently.
Here’s a very important question for you: What conversations do you want to have with your customers? What do you want to talk about?
To answer this question, ask yourself this: What do your customers want to talk about?
This is a healthy place to start, because you quickly realize that your customers don’t want to talk about you. They are much more interested in talking about themselves than they are in talking about you.
So, the first thing we know about your 2009 customer conversations is that they need to be about your customer, not about you. (Yes, that means that the features and benefits of your product are only indirectly important in this conversation.)
If your customers are businesses, what they really care about is improving the state of their businesses, or of their personal jobs within those businesses. If your customers are consumers, they are interested in improving the state of their lives, whether those improvements are quotidian and mundane or profound and life-changing. The point is still the same: Don’t talk about yourself.
After recognizing this, you are now free of the constraints of feature-dumps, chest-beating, advertising promises and elevator pitches. You have enabled yourself to think about what your customer really wants to talk about, and center your conversation there.
Once your customer is engaged in a conversation with you, it will not be hard for the conversation to evolve and include elements of you, your products and services. (Unless, of course, your products and services can’t really help your customer.) Once the conversation is focused on what your customer cares about, you will find a natural way to migrate the conversation to where you want it to be. A flock of birds takes off in one direction as they assemble into formation. Once they are all flying together they can turn in the direction of their destination.
I’ll write more in the future about how to change the conversation you are having with your customer. For now, I encourage you to focus on this fundamental question: What do we want to talk about?