Your customers care a whole lot more about themselves than they care about your products or your messages.  That’s why your marketing and sales communications shouldn’t focus on your products.  They should focus on your customers.

I recently conducted a Ditch the Pitch training session at the new Michael Jordan’s Restaurant in Oak Brook, Illinois. Michael Jordan’s Restaurant  One of the servers, Brianna Boykin, gave a very compelling example of how to do this.

“If someone compliments our special bacon,” Brianna said, “the natural thing to say would be, ‘”That’s one of Michael’s favorites,” which is like saying ‘You like what Michael likes.’ Instead, I think it’s better to say, ‘Michael likes the same bacon you like.”

How simple. And how perfect. Brianna’s subtle twist not only changes the focus from Michael Jordan to the customer, it puts the customer at the center of a story about herself and Michael Jordan.

Although this shift is simple, it is powerful. Every person you come in contact with greets you with a rich personal narrative going on in their mind, not a blank slate. If you want to get their attention and have them value the encounter, you need to enter their personal story, not force them into your story.

What Brianna did was hold up her customer as the standard to which one of the most famous, respected and awe-inspiring people in the world was compared, not the other way around. She brought Michael into the customer’s personal narrative, as opposed to just holding him out as an unreachable icon.

How can you do this?

In face-to-face communications, such as one Brianna would have with a restaurant guest, you have the opportunity to be alert to details about your customer and frame your story in terms of them. For example, if you are a financial advisor, don’t talk about the mutual funds you sell, talk about how particular mutual funds can help your clients meet their retirement goals. If you are a real estate agent, don’t talk about the features of a house; instead, create a conversation with your client about what it will be like for her family to live in the house.

It gets trickier with other communications, such as ads, brochures, websites and social media posts for two reasons. First, you are communicating the same message to lots of people, who have different needs. Second, you don’t have feedback from individual customers, except to the extent that you can personalize responses to actions they take, for example when they click on a link. However, even with these less personal communications, you can make your messages more about your customer than about your product.

The most obvious thing to do is use the age-old tool of focusing on benefits instead of features. But you can aim higher than this. Write copy that transcends the obvious benefits of your product (“Our drill bits make perfect holes”) and focuses on the higher-level impact your product has on your customer (Our drill bits make perfect holes so your jobs get done quickly and you can go back to doing more interesting things than drilling holes.”).

I believe this: You can always shift the focus of a conversation from your product to your customer. Do it. Always. For one simple reason: Your customer doesn’t care about your product, even if your product is Michael Jordan. She cares about herself.

Hey, if you are ever in the Chicago area, check out the new Michael Jordan’s Restaurant  at 1225 22nd Street in Oak Brook.

I like the 23 Ingredient Chopped Salad.  And Michael likes the same salad I like!

 

 

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