Marketing is more competitive than ever, and that genie is not going back in the bottle no matter how hard you push. The real reason most marketing fails is that most marketing is not relevant enough. Relevancy is a value exchange. Customers and prospects are trading their attention for your information. If they refuse to do so, it’s because your information does not matter to them enough sufficiently for them to trade attention for that information.
The key to being more relevant isn’t hard—it just takes time. The key to being more relevant is to understand your customers better.
I’ve been in marketing a very long while and when I started, we spent a lot of time around customers, learning about them and their pains. Today, we don’t do that much. Instead, we run reports. We look at spreadsheets. We examine analytics. The truth is that most modern marketers don’t actually interact with customers very much anymore, and that robs us of a really important success ingredient: insights.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Smart marketers take the time to get out from behind their desks and actually interact with customers in person, or via phone, or even via email. In most companies, marketers don’t really understand customers because they almost never see customers.
The people in your company who understand customers are in sales and customer service, period. Let’s change that. Marketers have to know customers better to create marketing that is relevant enough to succeed.
My friend Sterling Ball is a master at this. He’s a modern marketer that acts like an old-school marketer. Sterling owns two companies: the Ernie Ball guitar company, and Big Poppa Smokers, which is a purveyor of barbecue equipment and supplies.
Sterling has a saying that he wants to “be so close to his customers that he can smell them.”
That sounds a little gross, but it’s a fantastic metaphorical standard to try to meet. Sterling does it through forums and communities. He has tremendously detailed and rich online communities for all of his businesses, and he uses these platforms to spend time interacting with his customers to better understand who they really are, and what they really need.
He invests the time to know them. Every marketer can benefit from greater customer understanding, if they choose to do so.
Almost no great marketing happens behind your desk. Great marketing occurs when you actually take the time to spend time with your customers and learn what they really need and what they’re really all about.
The outstanding training firm Pragmatic Marketing lives this principle. Their marketing team is required to routinely leave the office and spend time with customers offsite. It’s called the NIHITO program (Nothing Important Happens In the Office). The result of these interactions? Greater relevancy.
If you want your marketing to succeed more than it succeeds today, you must know your customers better, and that’s not going to happen looking at a laptop in your office.