FOR vs TO
How different would our ideas, stores, websites, product development labs and customer service departments be if we thought about how we wanted customers to feel about our product before we drafted a single design or wrote one word of our business plan?
How could we change everything by creating products for, instead of finding ways to market to, our customers?
PERSUASION vs UNDERSTANDING
Will it really matter how much money Microsoft spends on marketing the Surface tablet? Will the Segway finally succeed when we have seen one more advert that tries to tell every person who walks why it should matter to them? Will Land Rover Discovery drivers become convinced to buy a Toyota Prius because marketing tells them it’s better for the planet? Is that $8,000 print campaign going to get more people who have never heard of you to trust you and to pick up the phone?
Persuasion once felt like a shortcut. We got very good at telling customers what we wanted them to know, and we forgot to consider what they wanted us to understand. We’re coming to realise that understanding our customer and his worldview is no longer the long way round.
LOOKING vs SEEING
A good haircut isn’t just technically good. It doesn’t happen just by paying close attention to each section of hair or the angle of every cut; it’s made possible by the stylist’s skill in translating what he sees into a style that is not only good but that works for this particular client. The best stylists in the world understand that the tools and the cut are only part of the story.
As marketers, we view our customers through various lenses. We segment them into groups based on their gender, age, income, education, race and occupation. But when we try to see beyond the bald facts of that data and really see them—their problems, pains and frustrations—when we empathise with our customers, understand their circumstances and worldviews and see their potential, we go beyond the need to create awareness of the commodity we made for any old someone and we become the brand that is built on affinity to the particular one. And this, not the number of features we can cram into our products, is how we start to form meaningful bonds with the people we serve.
KNOWING vs UNDERSTANDING
Clearly, watching what people do is not the same as paying attention to how they feel. Loyalty cards can’t replace genuine connection, and data analytics can’t always measure what matters most. ‘Meaningful’ has to cut both ways. How we interpret both hard and soft data matters (smiles and frowns are data, too). Sometimes we use it to confirm our assumptions rather than to question them.
ATTENTION vs TRUST
Everyone will tell you that in the age of distraction, it’s harder than ever to get attention. Actually, that’s not strictly true. It’s not difficult to interrupt the rock star to ask for a selfie as she checks into her hotel—just a quick tap on the shoulder, fake smiles and you’re done. It’s easier than ever to spam whomever you want to reach because most people are just an email address and a click away. And clickbait can work for a little while.
The kind of attention you’re after, though, isn’t this meaningless, fleeting interaction. The best way to get lasting attention is to give it unconditionally first. To really understand the worldview of your customers and colleagues. To start whispering ‘I see you’ instead of screeching ‘LOOK AT ME’.