As mentioned recently here on Copyblogger, Narcissus is alive and well, even as his marketing campaigns die of thirst. It’s too common a problem.
One of my all-time favorite quotes came from Dennis Miller: “You see… I run everything through this narcissistic little prism and ask ‘how does this affect ME?’” While this approach is self-satisfying, it tends to leave your audience less than fulfilled.
Such a centrist view of one’s place in the universe is perhaps the greatest downfall of any marketer or writer. It leads to an abject failure to connect with your audience and, more importantly, ensures you completely miss any chance you had of driving them to action.
The paradox here lies in the fact that, as Hobbes posited, man is inherently selfish. That selfishness is the strongest tool available to a marketer yet it is also the greatest source of failure. People care about what they get out of something (marketers included) yet writing with that selfish lens on can prevent you from giving them exactly that. Taking the three following steps will deepen your connection with your audience and lead them to the purchasing decisions you desire.
1. WIFM is Dead. Long Live WIFY!
We’re taught early on to be clear on the WIFM. That approach is self-defeating from the outset. It puts you in a frame of mind of starting with yourself and moving from that position toward connecting with your audience. Instead, start with WIFY (what’s in it for YOU, the audience) and move backward. As difficult as it might be, set your interests and goals aside for a moment and BE your audience. What do THEY want? Why are THEY reading? What are THEY trying to accomplish?
The first two steps of the Consumer Purchase Decision Process are Problem Recognition and Information Search. WIFY enables you to recognize and articulate the problem from the audience’s perspective which, in turn, leads them to seek more information about a solution (note: I said “a solution” – not “your solution”).
Allow me to illustrate. I worked with a company that markets to the under-banked African-American market. Our goal was to sell financial services. THE AUDIENCE’S goal was to find solutions to their financial challenges and achieve financial freedom. Once we moved away from explaining how compelling the features of the product were and instead spoke to the financial challenges the audience faced, we connected with them. By articulating THEIR challenges, we moved them to say “I want to learn more about this product because this organization understands ME.”
2. Present ALL Possible Solutions (And A Way To Think About Them)
Now that you have connected with your audience’s problem, the marketer’s urge to promote their product kicks in. Resist it. Instead, present possible criteria by which to evaluate all products (of course, using criteria that favor yours). People want to retain control of their decision making and be self-deterministic. Understanding step three of the Purchase Decision Process, Evaluation of Alternatives, helps you avoid the pitfall of “push” selling versus “pull” selling.
You’ve demonstrated you understand the audience’s desires in step one above. If your writing comes across as objective and fair in the presentation of alternatives, you eliminate negative biases that can develop in their minds. Pushing your solution can feel manipulative because your audience feels like you’re removing their control over the decision making process. This leads them to resist your Jedi mind tricks and instead choose another solution.
Look how well Progressive Insurance has executed this strategy. They enable their audience to evaluate all competitive offerings via a clear and simple interface. That evaluation ability sets them apart from competition and builds trust with their audience, translating to sales and loyalty to Progressive’s brand.
If you have a great solution, it will win in the end. Simply be sure the audience knows on what basis they should be evaluating their choices. Help them understand how to think about what the right answer is and they’ll arrive (on their own) at the right answer (which is, incidentally, YOUR answer).
3. Pushing The Button – Give Them What THEY Want
The almighty Purchase Decision (step four of the Purchase Decision Process) hinges on the results of your audience’s evaluation of its alternatives. If your writing begins with their problem and ends with the value your product conveys and how it solves their challenges, it’s a done deal.
To do so, articulate the problem, explain the features of your product and, most importantly, make the linkage between those features and how they solve the problem. People want solutions. They want their problems to go away. While it may be obvious to you how the feature solves the problem, it might not be so apparent to the audience.
Lastly, reaffirm that solving their problem creates value for them and helps them achieve their goals (their “button”). Push the button by translating why the problem goes away when they choose your solution and how much more successful they’ll be without that problem in their lives.
It’s Not Me, It’s You
Warning: the above statement IS NOT the preferred manner for breaking up with a significant other. It is, however, a great way to connect with your audience. It demonstrates you understand their wants and needs. It shows you care about solving their problems. And yes, it helps you drive them to making decisions that are in YOUR best interests.