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Successful Marketing. The Secret That Isn’t a Secret At All

Question: If the secret to successful marketing isn’t a secret, then what is it?

Answer: It’s blindingly obvious, is what it is, yet so many businesses either don’t understand it or worse, get it badly wrong.

The ‘secret’ is knowing what your customer is buying from you.

When you created and posted your most recent piece of marketing magic, I’d wager you were unconsciously thinking about the AIDA acronym because it’s the fundamental rule behind all advertising and marketing content. Everybody understands the principle of AIDA, even if they don’t actually know what it is. Invented by St Elmo Lewis over 120 years ago, AIDA is a framework that helps marketers think about the customers’ journey, whether in a single advert or a full campaign.

AIDA stands for; Attention (or Awareness), Interest, Desire, and Action:

  • Let them know you or your products exist (Attention/Awareness)
  • Tell them something about it that intrigues and captivates them (Interest)
  • Make them feel as though they cannot possibly live without it (Desire)
  • Tell them what to do next so they can get it/have it (Action)

Keith Grover, Copywriter extraordinaire and LinkedIn consultant, has a simplified way of expressing ‘know what your customer is buying from you.’ He says, “WTF”. No, no, not that! WTF as-in, Who’s This For?

So, whilst you may be expecting a deluge of enquiries from your post or advert, before you pushed the submit button did you stop to ask yourself, “Who’s This For?” I mean, really, who is this for? Why would they be interested in what you have to say or sell (need)? What do they look like (demographics)? Why would owning it/using it make a difference to them (fit)? Who are they, exactly (persona)?

You see, the answer to all these questions can be found only by knowing your customer, or more specifically, knowing what your customer buys from you.

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits them and sells itself.” ~ Peter F. Drucker

What is meant by ‘buying’?

Buying doesn’t always involve handing over hard-earned cash in return for a product or service. Buying is also believing or accepting something is true and real. It’s a feeling. It’s patronage. It’s having confidence, and when we don’t believe, accept or have confidence in something, we may say, “I don’t buy that”, where “buying it” means that what you’re saying sounds reasonable to me. It may be an American idiom from the 1920s or perhaps has its roots in TV advertising or films of the 50s and 60s, but its concept is deeply ingrained in our need to feel comfortable and trusting.

How many people do you think have not been ‘buying’ what the UK’s Government has been ‘selling’ during the past couple of years?

Plenty of would-be devotees have decided they’re “not buying it” now and have chosen to leave the Government, but why? Politics aside, it’s because the truth behind the messages is difficult to comprehend, and the messenger has little or no credibility. What we’re hearing doesn’t match our preconceived ideas of what we want to hear, and we simply don’t believe it/him/them. And this has happened not once but multiple times.

Just stop and think about that for a moment in the context of your own business, and then consider the following important questions:

How do you want to leave your customers feeling during and after their interaction with you or your business?

What would you like your customers to believe about the products and services that you’d like them to purchase from you?

What impact do you think your messaging has on their feelings and beliefs about your business?

Do yourself a favour and set some time aside to think hard about the three questions above, and write your answers down. It’s a more difficult challenge than you may first think, but it will give you incredible clarity.

Right now, if the Government were a high street shop, it would be the one that’s empty and run down at the far end of the high street, with whitewashed windows, graffiti on the walls, a battered sign and months of post piled up inside the door – it’s the desolate eyesore that people barely pay any attention to now.

Yet, when that shop first opened, things were very different. The sign told us they sold dreams and possibilities that would transform everyone’s lives, but they repeatedly broke their promises and lied. People quickly stopped believing the messaging and then stopped buying altogether, in both senses of the word.

That’s the position any business could find itself in once they lose the trust of their customers.

Crossing the trust line

There’s no way back for a business that continually crosses the trust line because you can only try to redeem yourself so many times before people simply give up trusting that you’ll ever be able to do what you say you’re going to do.

“I’m not upset that you lied to me; I’m upset that from now on, I can’t believe you.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

In your own business, how far over the line do you think you’d have to go before your customers and prospects stop believing you’re capable of delivering on your promises?

Taking a huge step over the line just once can have the same effect as putting just your toes over the line multiple times, as both will eventually result in failure. And it’s precisely because you understand the importance of maintaining your customers’ trust that you instinctively try to stay inside that imaginary line.

But how easy would it be to betray your customers’ trust?

  • A restaurant uses low cost, poor quality food too many times.
  • A photographer takes too many poor quality photos or fails to capture the uniqueness of the wedding day.
  • A chauffeur continually arrives late.
  • An email marketer uses spammy techniques causing the client’s domain name to be blacklisted.
  • A service engineer charges a small fortune but doesn’t fix the problem.
  • A website developer fails to get your website listed in search engines.

The list of possibilities is endless, and all of the above are everyday examples that would eventually result in a business failing once people simply stop believing, trusting, having confidence – in other words, they stop buying.

“That’s ok; I’ll just figure out what my customers are buying and give them exactly that. Simples.”

If that’s not what you’re doing already, then yes, that’s a great place to start. However, there’s another important element that’ll need to take into consideration; adapting to your customers’ changing needs.

Customers’ changing needs

How well do you know what your customers need? Are you up to date with relevant current trends in your sector?

Some businesses don’t need to worry too much about current trends, and they survive because their offering is fundamentally simple. The local launderette doesn’t have to dig deep into its customers’ needs in order to survive; it simply needs to stay open and ensure the washers and dryers continue working. 

Equally, the needs of people who want their windows cleaned change very little from month to month, so all the window cleaner has to do is turn up and do a great job, this time, next time, every time. That’s not to say launderettes and window cleaners can’t grow their businesses and be hugely successful; it simply means there’s less pressure on understanding their customers’ needs to ensure the future success of the business.

However, for most businesses, understanding how customers’ needs change, and being able to continually adapt in order to meet those needs is crucial to survival and growth.

  • Hairdressers constantly need to stay on-trend. Who knew a short back and sides would evolve into a blended fade?
  • Car manufacturers have always tried to stay one step ahead with the style and design of cars, but now they’re all clamouring to offer electric or hybrid vehicles, neither of which is likely to save the planet anytime soon, but they’re what customers want, so that’s what they give them.
  • Accountants need to remain on top of current tax laws, fully understanding how the changes impact their clients, both personally and in business.
  • SEO specialists are beholden to the whims of constantly changing search engine algorithms; where SEO techniques that produced fantastic results before, suddenly no longer do.

Being current/on-trend/up to date in your business is important because it’s what we’ve come to trust and rely upon in a world of Photoshopped images, misquotes, fake news and unexpected declarations of millions owed to us by the US Federal Bank.

The more you can distance yourself and your business from anything that might be misconstrued as not completely genuine, and that absolutely includes being out of date/behind the times with your business offering, the better chance you’ll have of maintaining customers’ trust and belief in you. That way, they’ll buy you, and buy from you.

Building trust

There are many ways you can plan and deliver your marketing activity, whether it’s simply posting for free on social media or investing in launching a full campaign, but there’s must be a common thread running through everything you do through on every medium and across all channels: be honest and deliver on your promises.

It’s amazing how quickly it focuses the mind if you assume every customer will give you only one chance before moving on to another business. You’ve almost certainly experienced this yourself with restaurants; when was the last time you experienced a very unsatisfactory meal in a restaurant to the point where you complained – but went back again? You didn’t go back? No, I thought not. So use this way of thinking to balance your offering and manage your prospective customers’ expectations.

Work hard on understanding what your customers are really buying from you. When you buy a holiday, you’re not buying the hustle and bustle of the airport, the long, uncomfortable flight, the transfer to the hotel, checking in and unpacking, are you? When you buy a car, you’re not buying a complicated metal box with doors, seats and wheels, that needs regular cleaning and refuelling, are you? (read a fascinating article about this concept here)

“You can have everything you want in life if you just help enough people get what they want.” ~ Zig Ziglar

Once you’ve figured out that your customers are buying joy, pride, experience, ownership, convenience, etc., use this to shape everything you do, from the wording in your adverts to the way your staff speak to callers on the phone or visitors to your shop/offices, constantly thinking about what they’re buying not what you’re selling.

The advantages cannot be overemphasised, both directly to your business and to outwitting the competition.

With more than 30 years experience in business and marketing, Clive is the visionary behind The Marketing Alliance, launched in 2018. Clive leads a curated tribe of accomplished marketing and business support professionals who consistently delight clients through their creativity, innovation, strategy and an unwavering commitment to excellence.
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