Over the past months I wrote about how to find your customers in order to improve your customer segmentation and gain better understanding of your niche market. Everything goes back to connecting with your audience so you can craft campaigns utilizing tactics such as email marketing, SEO and social media.
Then as more businesses learned the tools of the trade, I brought up the point of adding value on my last post because ultimately knowledge will be commoditized similar to most disruptive technologies.
The trick is maximizing the use of your knowledge (when it’s still valuable) to help you grow your business and become an authority in your domain expertise.
If there is one thing that technology won’t be able to replace (at least not easily) it would be the content of your communication.
Every business and individual are elevating the concept of the freemium model, publishing free valuable content on the social web, competing for clicks, eyeballs and engagement opportunities.
It’s what Seth Godin calls “permission marketing”, what Hubspot calls “inbound marketing” and what Joe Pulizzi of Junta42 calls “content marketing.”
However you like to label it, it’s basically creating content that communicates the value in which your target audience values then leveraging it as the bait to attract those in need of your solution (products or services).
This is a highly targeted approach like design thinking, social design and service design that truly serves up what’s going to solve a problem rather than just bunch of trivia concepts or random thoughts.
It’s also a validation on how your content is really worth on the internet where content is the new currency.
And to stay competitive and survive the ongoing challenges marketers and business owners are presently facing, they need to reassess the way they build and maintain relationships with customers.
A product or service is merely a means to an outcome. The real core value lies in the story attached and that is where marketing truly shines.
I don’t want to use a microwave – I want the ability to quickly eat hot food so I can get on with my life. I didn’t go to Home Depot to buy paint – I want a painted wall for my new living room. I don’t want to use Google – I want answers to my questions now.
You see, you may be very good at what you do but your communication may not do you justice and as a result you end up with lame content that just sounds like everyone else.
And to make matters worse, if you don’t know how to market your content, your content will just sit on the web with little to no traffic.
Unfortunately this is not going to help you in translating how great your product is or how much value you can bring to the table.
In this article, I will explain what to listen for and how to take quantitative measures from listening so you can drill down to the minds of your customers. Then I will show you how to communicate effectively so your solution sounds exactly like what’s going to solve your prospects’ problem.
Step 1: Gather Information by Listening
Many people know the concept of listening and yet few are able to do it well (everyday I continue to practice listening). Listening is a form of information gathering which allows you to take in the data, process and abstract meaning out of the dialogue.
In a typical conversation people tend to wait for their turn to talk rather than actually absorbing the meaning of the words.
We all have some sort of attention deficit as the by product of all the distractions around us from cell phones to emails, from writing a blog article to meeting with your team, from preparing dinner to picking up your kids, we live in a fast pace society.
The trick is to unlearn your habits of making assumptions and let go of as much preconceived thoughts as possible and simply focus on what’s been said at the moment of the conversation.
Think of it as taking a training course and preparing your mind to get into the learning mode so you can pay 100% attention during the interaction.
Listen for key emotional phrases that are connected to a person’s problem. Typically it will sound like this: “my business is xxx” or “I want to xxx but xxx is xxx”, try to dig deeper and get the frustration and emotions out of the conversation.
This helps you to identity what that person values and where the connection points can be made. Take notes if you have to but avoid memorizing what you want to say (I know you want to help) because you will be interrupting the other person and stop listening altogether.
When you try to do anything but listen, you also break the flow of the other person’s thought and the energy of the dialogue making it harder to identify the key emotional points. Take notes and wait until the other person finishes.
Easy right? It takes practice.
Plus if you’re good at what you do, you should be able to provide instant feedback by looking at your notes.
Remember, people don’t care what you have to say unless you show how much you care about what they have to say and how they feel. Yes, how they feel is where the connection point can be made.
This is why great sales people always listen first and ask questions later allowing their prospects to fully emerge into an emotional output session.
This is a skill that takes practice so try it with your friends, colleagues or family as often as possible.
You may find that this will help you discover more about them and can also help them to understand you better. It all starts with listening.
Step 2: Pinpoint Signals Avoid The Noise
The key to forging a powerful connection with your audience is to first understand that people simply want to be heard and understood.
If you can describe your prospect or customer’s problem better than they can, they will automatically assume that you may have the solution to their problem (most of the time).
Even if you don’t have the exactly solution, it’s a great way to establish a common ground for the relationship you’re forging.
And why do we want to connect with others? It’s just how we build trust, the “wow, this person gets me…” or the “OMG, you know exactly what I’m going through!…” emotional connection.
Not everyone is good at communicating their problems, thus when someone perceives that you sound and looks like an expert, you may just become the expert that’s going to solve their problem (or maybe you are an expert? But are you just an expert in your own mind?).
Keep in mind that the focus is on validating your assumptions. Ask questions that helps to confirm their pain points, their vision of success or their desired outcome.
This requires a lot of critical thinking and again do not formulate conclusions from your assumptions unless you have enough information. Otherwise go back to step 1 and ask more open-ended questions so you can listen again.
This of course, applies to all form of conversations including blogging, social media and email exchanges.
The idea is to abstract the emotional triggers from the depth and tonality of the conversation so you can fully understand the opportunities to build meaningful connects.
If you ask the wrong questions, it just shows you don’t get it and you’re eager to sell yourself, your story and your products. You will get your turn but you must be able to distinguish the signals from the noises.
At this stage, you should still be more reactive allowing your customer to freely express themselves.
The most valuable information are those that are freely expressed without boundaries from your prospects. This is also the core value of surveying your customers so you can apply what you’ve learned to improve your product and services.
Step 3: Build Connections That Create Convictions
Once you’ve got solid understanding of the problems your customers want to solve, you then must learn to get into the minds of your prospects so you can turn them into customers.
This is the “I heard, I know, I understand, I believe and I do,” steps that lead to actions through the use communication.
Most people are good at passing through “I know and I understand” stage, but it’s the “I believe” stage that communication often fails to connect resulting in no action. You buy a product or change an unhealthy habit because you would only take the action after you become convinced of your decision.
Most people don’t realize that a desired action is often brought out through the use of specific communications tools from advertising to word-of-mouth testimonial, or via social proof endorsements. Simply put, people don’t just do what we want them to do because we want them to do it; they need to convince themselves first by having the right information.
And how do they know that it’s right for them? Well it’s by moving through each of these communications steps that people will take action.
So if the “I heard” part doesn’t resonate, it won’t move into the next step and in most cases it’s your professional jargon or the inability to identify what it is that your customer really values.
So your job as someone with the solution should be to help by facilitating them through that discovery process and not forcing your ideas upon them.
Again, it’s not trying to convince them, but helping them to convince themselves.
A great marketer knows how to unleash the power of communications and seeks to understand their target market needs, perceptions and how they like to receive information.
Is it how expensive (monetary value) your products are? Or how much time you’ve invested creating your solution? Perhaps it’s the work and labor you’ve put into your services.
Whatever it is, they must do the job of translating why they should take action to contact your or buy your product.
Step 4: Convert The Sale With Meaningful Communication
Once your prospect is convinced of their decision, there usually is no turning back as the human brain will attempt to rationalize that decision from the emotions of wanting to feel good about moving forward and the urgent need to solve their problem.
It’s indicative that most “modern” businesses realize that customers respond more to an emotional connection, thus it’s not about selling but educating.
And educating requires providing how you are going to make their lives easier from a more personal perspective.
This is the part where traditional business owners have a hard time letting go of what they perceive as high value in their knowledge.
It’s true that giving away your knowledge can feel like doing something for free that you usually get paid for, the key is figuring out where to draw the “free line.”
However; I’ve found in many instances, people simply won’t do it even if you provide detail step-by-steps.
For example, recently I wrote a detailed article on “how to use Goolge and Twitter to find your customers,” and have received many emails from people telling me that I’m stupid for giving out such high value content.
As a result not only have I gotten more leads and referrals but I was able to sign up clients while using it to make a case for content marketing, sort of proofing that this stuff works!
You must be able to paint the picture and hit home with what your solution looks like to your prospects, communicate the results they will achieve and the steps they will need to take in order to achieve those results.
Sounds simple but all too often I came across marketing messages full of features and benefits (especially for technology companies or specialty industries) that typically starts with “our innovative products are designed for xxxx,” “our company has xxxx technology that’s xxxx” or the ever popular “xyz company is the leader in xxxx and have xx years of experience…”
So what does it all sound like to the prospect?
It’s all about YOU, not them and that’s not going to take you far.
Businesses are quick to tell people what they have but forget that their prospects are in different stage of the buying cycle. It’s important to speak the language that they understand and values which is why you need to focus on their needs.
So what if you’re an innovative company or a leader in your space? Who isn’t innovative and a leader in their space these days?
The Take Away: The meaning of your communication is the response you get from your audience. If you don’t like the responses you get, you’re not doing a good job of translating your value.
If you can do step 1-3 well, you should have good amount of data to start writing great sales copies and headlines that gets inside the heads of your customers.
And by using what Robert Cialdini’s six “weapons of influence” (reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity), you will end up with powerful communications that gets you phone calls and inbound traffics.
The worse that can happen is you actually don’t have a solution but you marketed as a solution, or your product sucks and it doesn’t solve any problem. In that case great marketing can only help you fish for a day because the fish will learn that your bait isn’t a real one.
What do you think? Are you communicating the right way?
Leave me a comment below or share your most effective marketing copy.