I get it. Telling people to buy your thing is the quickest way to make a buck. But here’s a little tough love because I want what’s best for you: It’s kinda like standing on the street corner shouting at people to buy from you. Jumping in front of them, and waving your arms to get their attention.
It’s called interruption marketing because you’re interrupting people as they try to go about their daily lives, and generally the communication goes in one direction. It’s a little gross (you feel gross doing it, don’t you?) and you’re actually leaving more money on the table in the long run.
A few will be interested. Maybe even enough people will buy from you to justify standing there all day wearing out your vocal cords. But guess what? There will be a lot of people who might have been interested in what you have to offer that will now steer clear of your intersection and avert their eyes when they must walk by.
Most people don’t like to be sold to.
And when you go home at night, or if it’s raining out, or if you’re busy or sick and can’t be there to push-push-push… the sales dry up.
I’m not trying to shame you if your main form of communication is spamming your offers on every media channel. I know you mean well. You’re just trying to keep your head above water by doing what you’ve been taught to do, either by sales ‘experts’ or by watching what all the other businesses around you are doing.
When you stand outside your storefront and look left and right, as far as the eye can see there are other business owners and marketers trying to out-scream each other to get a bigger piece of the attention pie.
And as a result, customers have learned to tune out the noise and pretend you don’t exist.
Would you believe me if I told you that there is another way to market your business?
A way that makes people WANT to come over and talk to you about their problems. Where they are so grateful to have your help that they tell their friends how wonderful you are? A way that when you don’t show up, people notice and miss you and check to see if you’re ok?
I’m talking about building relationships with your potential, current, and past clients. About showing up with the intention of serving them. Of treating them like humans rather than targets.
I hear you now: “But Jessica, I need to make thousands of sales. There is NO WAY that I can build a personal relationship with every single customer! I don’t have the time!”
Did I say ‘personal’ relationship?
I mean, it’s great to build personal relationships when you can and you probably will with a number of customers, but what makes you think that the way that you speak to an individual client wouldn’t work at scale?
When the first thing a potential customer sees or hears from you is an ad or post telling them to buy your product or service, it’s like a bigger version of dialing random numbers with a cold sales pitch. Is that something you make a habit of? Most likely not.
So, how DO you usually build a relationship with potential clients?
When you meet someone, you probably tell them about what you do (without asking them to buy – because that’s awkward) and why you’re passionate about it. You might tell them some stories about the people you’ve helped, how you helped them, and how it benefited them. You might tell them that you started the business in the first place because you saw a need and knew that you could help some people have stronger businesses or happier lives.
You probably ALSO ask them about themselves and try to find some way to relate (You just got back from a trip to Toronto? I grew up about an hour north of there!). You might tell them about a great book you read or suggest a restaurant based on what they said to you, even if it’s not directly related to what you sell.
You feel out if this is the type of person you would want to spend time with, work with, or become friends with by listening to what they say and the way they say it to see if you have shared values or core beliefs.
When you meet someone for the first time, you probably don’t ask them to buy from you right away but eventually they might tell you that they have a problem that you know your product or service can solve.
Here’s a tip:
Don’t ‘ask for the sale’. Instead, offer to help or invite them to buy.
The reason ‘ask for the sale’ became popularized is because it’s a power game. It puts the customer in the awkward position of refusing – kind of like when a neighbour asks you to do something you don’t want to, but feel weird saying no because you want to stay on good terms. If they ask often enough, you’ll start avoiding them. I know that if you’re reading this, you don’t want your customers to feel that way about you.
And if they don’t have a problem that you can help them with? You’ll continue to build your relationship with them anyway because you like them. As a bonus, they probably know other people who do need your help or that can help you in some other way that they can refer to you later on.
Based on the above one-on-one sales scenario, here is what you would include in your marketing messages:
- What you offer and how it helps people
- How passionate you are about what you do
- Stories of people you’ve helped
- The reason why you do what you do – and the way you do it
- Questions about themselves, where you respond like a human to their answers
- Content related to your common interests or values (even if slightly unrelated to your offer)
- Providing value in the form of advice or recommendations
- Acknowledgment of the things they are struggling with and how hard that can be
- An invitation to work with you if and when they are ready
But don’t just follow my template. Think about how you’ve built deep and meaningful relationships with individual clients in the past and list out some content ideas of your own.
Want to know another positive side effect of this type of marketing? You don’t need to continually offer discounts and sales to get people interested. Sure, the process takes more time – but the rewards long outlast the effort.
When building any relationships, including customer relationships, trust isn’t instantaneous. It’s built up over time with repetition, so don’t just post these things once and expect people to believe you.
These messages can be shared at any touchpoint that you have with your potential, current, and past customers, including:
- Email marketing
- Social media posts
- Sales pages
- Blog posts
- Print advertisements and advertorials
- Media (print, audio, video) interviews
- Radio and podcast ad scripts
- Video content
- Live events
- Customer service content
…and so much more.
If you remember just one thing when communicating with your clients, please make it that you are not the hero in your relationship.
The customer is on a great and daring journey to create a beautiful home for their family or to strike out on their own to build a business or to learn a new skill to get a better job or whatever problem it is they are trying to solve in their lives. You are only a small part of their story.
As with everything, there is a time and a place to sell more directly, but it should be the exception rather than the rule. Relationship-building should be your ongoing MO with the occasional launch or campaign to encourage action. This way, when you head back outside to ask for the sale, people who you’ve built a relationship with excitedly flock to you, and strangers stop in to see what’s drawn such a crowd.