July 23, 2008

The 1st Job of Every Marketer Is…

The first job that any marketer must accomplish is simple–GET ATTENTION.

Until you have someone's attention, nothing else matters. Your products don't matter. Your services don't matter either. Nothing else matters until you have someone's attention.

It today's information overwhelmed economy, this is no easy feat. A recent article, "The Digital Age is Destroying Us by Ruining Our Ability to Concentrate," explains that as technology has advanced, we now have more ways of being distracted than ever before.

Twenty years ago, the only distraction your customers had was a ringing telephone or a colleague stopping by to say hi. Today, your prospect has to deal with the cell phone ringing, the text message, the email inbox, the fax machine, the land line phone, instant messager, digital alerts, the PDA buzzing, and more.

We're now so distracted that even our distractions are being distracted by other distractions. Did you follow that?

So more than ever, job #1 is to get attention. In Seth Godin's book Permission Marketing he talks about the value of getting a prospect's attention initially and then asking for permission to continue to the conversation. He speaks to the idea that it's easier to communicate with someone who invites your communications than someone who is trying to tune you out. It's a solid concept that I certainly agree with, use in my own business and encourage others to use.

But how exactly do you get someone's attention in the first place so you can ask for permission ? There are two methods that have worked extremely well for me. Both of these methods come from two underlying rules of thumb. Let me start with the rules first and then the specific techniques.

Rule #1: Be relevant

I recently bought a pair of shoes from Endless.com. What a great online shoe store! I can finally find shoes that fit me (I have wide feet), and if they don't fit, I can send them back and they pay the shipping. So I like the store and have had good experiences with them.

But they keep sending me promotional emails for these 5 inch high heels. Umm… I don't exactly wear high heals. You would think they would know this considering my orders have male shoe sizes associated with them, yet they keep sending me the promotions anyway.

I tolerated it once or twice, but now I've marked their emails as spam and I'm officially ignoring them.

Rule #2: Be Different

If your marketing looks just like your competitor's marketing, it's bad marketing. The best marketing is stuff that is different. It doesn't matter so much how it's different, so long as it's really, really, really different.

The psychology behind this is fairly simple. To function in a world with massive information overload, we have to take mental shortcuts. If you're walking down the street and you see some furry creature with four legs on a leash that goes "woof" "woof", you take the mental shortcut that the animal is a dog–even if you've never seen that particular breed of dog before.

That animal fits a certain pattern in your head of what constitutes a dog. If you love dogs, you'll probably say, "Oh, how cute." If you hate dogs, you'll probably start walking to avoid crossing paths with it. Either way, you're using a mental shortcut to facilitate your decision making.

Not only do you do this, but your prospects do too.  When they see something that looks similar to all the sales, marketing and advertising they've seen previously, they automatically categorize it as sales, marketing or advertising.

What do people in the information overwhelmed economy do when they see sales materials?  That's right; they ignore it. This is why we have caller ID, spam filters, administrative assistants, Tivo devices, do not call lists, and do not fax laws. If it looks likes marketing, it must be marketing.  And we all know what to do with that. We throw it in the trash.

So these are the basic rules of thumb. Now let me share with you two specific marketing techniques I use to get attention.

Method #1: Be Exceptionally Authoritative

All else being equal, an idea communicated by an authority figure carries more weight than an idea communicated by someone who's not.  When your doctor says to lose 10 pounds or you're going to drop dead from a heart attack, it carries more weight than if your mother-in-law tells you to do the same thing.

Same message, different delivery method, different results.

This is why marketing messages carry more weight when they are delivered in the context of an article published in a major magazine, a recording of a speech given at some notable industry event, or covered in a book or Bookmercial you've published.

The source and packaging of the message matter.

Method #2: Be Outrageous

The technique at the total other end of the attention-getting spectrum is to be totally outrageous. For example, when I send direct mail to prospective clients, I will often include bizzare objects within the envelope. I've mailed direct mail pieces with megaphones, toy cars, stethoscopes, silver platters, Tylenol tablets, $2 bills, toy marraccas, and more.

Sure it's a gimmick. If that's all you do, does it work? No. But if you combine the attention-getting gimmick with a message that's very relevant, it works quite well.  The sole purpose of the outrageous gimmick is to force the prospect to turn off his or her mental autopilot and actually consider the information you've sent.

Whether I send marketing that's highly authoritative, like a copy of one of my books, or something that's outrageous (I usually alternative between the two), I always offer something for free to kick off our relationship in a way that favors the prospect–something that's valuable and also relevant to what I'm selling. Then we're off to continuing the dialog, steadily escalating the communication and the prospect's commitment until a certain percent  of them proceed to the sale. While sale is the result of the process, it all starts first with getting the prospect's attention.

This post is based on the ideas outlined in my book Bookmercial Marketing: Why Books Replace Brochures in the Credibility Age available from Amazon.com or for free from our website while supplies last..

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Filed under Blog, Marketing Fundamentals by Victor Cheng

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