In the past I’ve talked a fair bit about marketing, and, more specifically, social media marketing. This time, rather than focus on a specific platform, I thought it would be a good time to back out and do a 10,000-ft. overview of what works, and what doesn’t, in your marketing strategy.
Before we begin, I’d like to ask you three questions:
- What do you do/sell?
- How do you do it?
- Why do you do it?
Think about the answers to these questions and then read on.
HOW THE BIG GUYS DO IT
To analyze good marketing, I like to look at companies that have tons of money and resources, and broad consumer reach. Let’s take two that we all likely know very well: Apple and Microsoft. Back in the early 2000s, they were competing head-to-head in the very competitive personal music player market. We all remember the iPod, the must-have personal music player. It was iconic. It had hip white headphones and a design that was recognizable from a mile away.
Did you know that Microsoft made a portable music player at the same time? It was called the Zune. It failed miserably. It wasn’t a bad gadget though. It had excellent design, great software and was backed by a huge company that is a household name. On paper, the devices were nearly identical. In fact, there were several ways the Zune was better. The Zune didn’t fail because of a technical shortcoming, or even lack of marketing. It failed because it didn’t tug at consumers emotionally.
So how did Apple pull this off? It’s quite simple, actually. They just reversed the order that people typically communicate when they try to market themselves. A typical Apple marketing message usually goes something like this: “We’re the coolest, most forward thinking and innovative group of thinkers around. We challenge the status quo and we think differently. By the way, want to buy an MP3 player from us?” Hop on to YouTube and search for “Apple Think Different” and you’ll see exactly what I mean. So instead of selling us on “what” they do, or “how” they do it, they sold us on why they do it. By showing how passionate and innovative they are, they tugged at a deep emotional center within us.
Now a typical Microsoft ad would have gone something along the lines of: “Our MP3 player has 64 gigabytes of storage, it comes in a variety of colors and we have a great subscription music service with all the latest artists. Want to buy our MP3 player?” The answer to that question by consumers was overwhelmingly “eh, no, not really.” While Microsoft sold us on what they sell and how they sell it, they never told us why.
So that’s how two immense companies form their marketing. How can you change yours?
As I’ve traveled around this year, I always like to talk to designers about their marketing strategy. I ask them what they do and a typical answer is, “We have several cabinet lines and we use well-trained designers to work with our customers to bring their dream kitchens to reality.” I’m obviously paraphrasing, but most of the answers go something like that.
Other answers I’ve heard are, “We have the most door styles and we can get our cabinets fast.” Or even, “Our cabinetry is handmade by our skilled craftspeople and designed by our talented designers just the way you want it.”
Those answers spill over into their marketing as well. I’ve seen newspaper, TV and social media ads that read exactly like that. They heavily focus on the what and how of what they do – but almost never on the why.
FOCUS ON THE WHY
To create truly powerful marketing, you have to tap into that part of your brain that controls emotion. The part that makes you go, “That just feels right” or “Love at first sight.” You have to stir up those feelings that are hard to describe with words.
One designer had a great answer:
“We do things that are different. It’s not ordinary; it’s all about the extraordinary.”
–Peter Ross Salerno, CMKBD
As a potential client, that quote gets me curious and excited – it stirs my imagination. I don’t know much about the “what” or the “how” but I know “why” Peter does what he does, and I like it.
“Design trends come and go, but I get my cues from listening to how people want to live.”
–Mick De Giulo
Like Peter, Mick does all kinds of incredible work and could certainly have talked about all of his accolades and wonderful projects. Those are all “how” and “what” statements. Instead, he went for the intangible thing that customers really want: “…how people want to live.” Think about the emotion that evokes…that brings you to a place in your imagination where you’re picturing a romantic dinner with your spouse in the kitchen, or the satisfaction of having family enjoying time together in your new space for the holidays. By contrast, if Mick talked about how many door styles he offered, in your mind, you might just be picturing a cabinet door.
Here are some ideas to start you up. Maybe you specialize in aging-in-place design. Your message could be something like this: “We create timeless designs that will make generations feel safe, healthy, nurtured and beautiful.”
Perhaps you specialize in ultra modern design; maybe your message could go something like this: “We challenge ourselves to go beyond today and design for tomorrow. Our forward-thinking design talent can bring you tomorrow’s trends today.”
Maybe you’re not a designer who does something extreme. Your message could go something like this: “We don’t just create kitchens, we create memories. Whether your memory is a birthday party, holiday meal or just a gathering of friends, let us create the kitchen for your most treasured memories.”
So here’s the challenge: Figure out your answer to why you do what you do. We all sell cabinets, countertops, sinks and faucets. That’s easy to talk about. Talk about your passion. Talk about the experience that you want to give. Stir your clients emotionally. When you can do that, you’ll never think about marketing the same way again.