One of the funniest pieces of advice I’ve ever been given was this gem, by a friend from the North of England: “Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you’ve got their shoes.”
But Northern humor (and criticism) aside, getting your marketing strategy right really is about walking a mile in your client’s shoes. You just can’t hope to win them over if you can’t see things clearly from their point of view.
But first, let’s recap
Last time, I talked you through the idea of buyer personas. Remember Mike, the airport maintenance manager who needed to sort out his flooding problem? That’s right — Buyer Persona Mike.
We also learned how to get into campaign mode... or in other words, why you need to establish your goal and figure which tools help you achieve it, instead of starting with “Which tool should I use for my marketing drive?”
That’s because the marketing game is about strategy, not tactics. As Paul Jarvis recently wrote in HuffPost, tactics are just “surface level. And this is why most people think marketing doesn’t work.”
For example, suppose you place an advertisement in the local paper, or send out a flurry of Tweets, or cold call a few potential clients. Without a proper strategy behind these things, they’re not targeted — they’re really just a wild shot in the dark. The best case scenario is that they have no effect; the worst is that they ricochet right back at you and wind up hurting your brand.
Put yourself in their shoes
“But how the hell am I supposed to know what works?” you cry. Well here’s a crazy idea: imagine what you’d think if you were one of your clients, coming into contact with whatever marketing message you’ve just sent out. See it through their eyes.
Today, I’d like you to put yourself in Mike’s shoes. That’s right, Buyer Persona Mike, airport maintenance manager of a low lying airport at risk of flooding.
Right now, I want to give you his perspective — to get you to look at marketing from a different point of view, not just your own.
Hi there, Mike!
The next step is to figure out where Mike is likely to come into contact with your brand, so that you can see how you come across at each stage.
As Tom Pisello of the Content Marketing Institute explains, there are three key phases in the buyer’s journey:
- Discovery Phase: This is when you let go of how you’ve always done things around here and start committing to change.
- Consideration: This is where you explore possible solutions that could fix or at least reduce your problem (in this case, flooding), and commit to a solution.
- Decision: Now you’re looking to justify your decision and make your final selection.
Let me walk you through it…from your perspective.
- Mike knows he has an issue and understands his company wants to change; to improve.
- He starts researching new ways to reduce the risk of flooding. The one that jumps out at him is “green infrastructure”. Based on what he’s read, he believes this to be the best solution.
- The airport management committee are on board and they task Mike to look for potential options. Now he asks himself: where do I find the right company? What type of company should I work with? Who will give me the best solution?
- Mike draws up a list of companies he perceives as right for the job — and your name is on the list. Now he needs to justify his thoughts to the stakeholders, considering factors like costs, efficiency, and risk.
This can be a huge job, with a whole bunch of voices all throwing their opinion into the ring. According to the Harvard Business Review, the average number of people involved in making B2B purchase decisions has risen from 5.4 in 2015 to 6.8 today. Considering that they also represent a growing range of job roles, functions and locations, that can mean a lot of different viewpoints to convince.
Oh boy, have you got your work cut out… but if it was easy, everyone would do it!
- Mike has settled on a shortlist, and now he has to justify his thinking. Cost is a big consideration, but trusting that the company he chooses will genuinely fix his problem is even bigger. It’s up to you to communicate that you bring more value overall, even if your initial purchase cost is higher. What’s the bigger picture here? How will you save him money and peace of mind in the long run?
- Mike’s now preparing to settle on his final choice, so you need to make sure you’ve put through your value proposition just right.
Right, now let’s walk through the process… as Mike
You — Mike — are looking to make improvements to your airport grounds, in order to reduce flooding. This in turn will lead to fewer delays, more planes taking off, and more passengers coming through — resulting in more money, more investment and better prospects overall. Here’s how that journey pans out.
“Okay team, we have a big issue on our hands. If we don’t change, it’s going to cost us millions. We need to figure out how to stop this flooding. Downtime alone is costing us a fortune! We will lose customers because planes aren’t taking off… if we don’t fix this, passengers will give up and defect to other transport routes, and everything will spiral out of control!”
Taking the First Step
“Ok, we’re all in agreement: let’s go ahead and find a fix. We’ll start by getting a survey done on our airport grounds to figure out what we need to do, or at least to pick the right company to figure it out for us. How do we do this, though? Who do we call? Do we contact an engineering consultancy firm? A surveyor? A survey company? Who? What? How?! Better do some research!”
Where Do We Look? Who Are We Looking For?
“I’ve posted on the local city group on LinkedIn asking for recommendations of firms who deal with this stuff. I’ve also spoken to the Flood Control Council and they have given me some names. I’ve heard of two of them — I get the impression that one’s a bit dodgy from comments I found online [perceived brand awareness alert #1!] but I’ve seen the other advertising in trade magazines and they seem legit [perceived brand awareness alert #2!]. Maybe one to consider?”
Identifying the Options
- “I searched “Flood Management Company Louisiana” in Google to see what came up. Top result is Louisiana DOTD… I can see on their site that they’ve done a couple of similar projects. I’ll get in touch and ask if they have any recommendations, too.”
- “According to Construction Market Data, there is a list called “Flood Control Contractors in Louisiana” — I’ve added it to our list.”
- “I found a company in Metairie that does construction and flood insurance elevation surveys… and another which does land surveys and has connections to engineering firms specializing in flood control for airports. Sounds good!”
- “Okay, I’ve written up a list of options, but it covers a bunch of different types of companies, from land surveyors to engineering consultancies that get involved with the whole project. I’m still not sure which is the best method.”
- “I was hoping to find some more detailed information to help me decide, but I can’t track down any detailed case studies, or white papers, or pretty much any other content on the subject. Guess I’ll organize a whole bunch of meetings with everyone on the list and hope they’re a bit more forthcoming with the details in person. I still don’t understand exactly what they can and can’t do.”
- “Aargh! What a long and painful process!”
Does this help you to understand what it’s like to be in Mike’s shoes for this process? Are you starting to get his pain points now? With a little more information that actually addressed his problem, this could have been straightforward… but instead, he’s found it incredibly hard work!
Now imagine the edge you could have had on the competition if you’d been the one company in that list who had exactly the information Mike needed. If you’d had a video talking through what you do and how that works. If you’d had a white paper entitled “Best Practices for Dealing with Flood Management” he could have downloaded from your website. If you’d had a case study and testimonial from other airports you’d helped to tackle this exact same thing.
Think how easily you would have breezed ahead… and how grateful Mike would have been to have his questions cleared up at last.
All it takes to get your head around this is a little bit of empathy for your client’s point of view. So write down all the places they might hear about you, and what you can do at every one of those touch points to make it easier for them to get the info they need. To develop your market presence. Go for a walk in their shoes… and don’t stop until you get exactly where they’re coming from!