Marketing essentially boils down to demonstrating how the audience wants and needs are met by our employer's or clients’ products and services.
I’m not talking about putting a square peg in a round hole. I’m talking about demonstrating a set of needs to the marketplace and showing how our employer or clients meets those needs.
This is a concept made popular during the 1970's called consultative selling. Selling, no matter what you call it, is part of the broader definition of marketing. And, no matter how you define marketing, marketing and selling definitely go hand in hand.
Consultative selling – consultative marketing, that is – is related the user-centered philosophy of Website design: Whereas the needs, wants and limitations of a Website’s users are given extensive attention at each stage of the design process. That philosophy is espoused by many, such as Jakob Nielsen, who’s been called the “guru of Web page usability,” and is the philosophy behind my employer’s Web development and design work.
Need more proof about the value of considering your audience’s viewpoint? Look at what Amazon.com calls, "The grandfather of all people-skills books," Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends and Influence People. The core concepts of that book include:
- Become genuinely interested in other people: People are most interested in themselves.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interests: Find the interests of others and talk about those things.
- Make the other person feel important: People yearn to feel important and appreciated.
This article focuses on the marketing communication aspects of marketing. Therefore, if you follow the consultative marketing or user-centered philosophy, then all communication must be made with the recipients’ needs and wants in mind.
Let’s have a look at just a few marketing communication activities and see how we can follow this philosophy.
- Direct mail: If you use a customer list, see what customers previously purchased and tailor the campaign to general tendencies based on past purchases. If purchasing a mailing list, the vendor can help define the list by geography, industry, job title, etc., – all things that you can tailor your message around. Granted, direct mail is often a mass-marketing activity, so really getting to a recipients’ viewpoint is not easy, but trying is better than essentially cold-call mailing. The same philosophy can be applied to direct email campaigns.
- Media Relations: In media relations, the ultimate audience members are customers and prospects who read the targeted media. However, before you can get your message to your audience, you need to work with reporters and editors. There are many ways to do this. First, know the media’s audience, and who on staff is the beat writer who covers what you offer. Another way is to write news releases in the style media outlets use – typically AP Style. You also need to know how the media prefer to receive news: via email with story attached or in the body of the email, or via mail or even fax. If you need to call reporters, know when they are on deadline – this is a must for the media you regularly work with. Ultimately, you want to provide information the media wants so it can better serve its audiences. For more ideas, see an article I wrote a few years ago about media relations.
- Behavioral marketing/behavioral targeting (online advertising): Behavioral targeting uses information collected on individuals’ web-browsing behavior, such as the pages they have visited or the searches they have made, to select which advertisements to display to those individuals. The ads are shown to people who, through their browsing, have indicated they have an interest in those topics, products or services. For more about behavioral marketing, read here, or here.
- Blogger outreach (social media): Very similar to traditional media relations, before contacting a blogger to review products or offer information about your company or clients, you need to know about him or her. You need to know who the person is, what he or she generally writes about, how popular is the blog, etc. Only contact a blogger about your company or client if you think what you can offer will be of interest to the blogger – and his/her readers.
These are just a few examples. As I noted in last month’s column, there are various ways to research the opinions and viewpoints of the marketplace. To effectively communicate with – and ultimately sell to -the marketplace, you need to know what they want and need.
Only then, you can see how your company or clients meet those wants and needs.