Gift or Burden? 3 Keys to Marketing Your Customers Actually Want

Are your marketing communications a gift to your prospects, or do they drop on them like the burden of an unwanted Peloton?

<!--iframe src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" class="redactor-keep-figure">
A Peloton?!...Yay?
Note the word “unwanted.” The backlash over this now-infamous ad is not about the product. Many people, though probably fewer now, would be delighted to receive this expensive, high-tech exercise bike for Christmas. The public reaction and dramatic stock drop came from the implied coercion of “Grace’s” partner giving her a self-improvement tool it wasn’t at all clear she wanted.
If you don’t think a few words matter, consider this. Following “A Peloton?!” with “just what I wanted!” could have saved the company $1.5 billion in value. It’s not just our products that we should aspire to have customers welcome, it’s also the communications we use to sell them.

Entering the giving season and coming out of the mind-numbing marketing blitz of Black Friday, it’s a great time to look at how to make 2020 the year of “wanted marketing.”

Because you know your business, you’ll have to fill in the specifics. However, three key principles can guide you to create communications, as well as products, that customers are pleased to get.

You have your marketing KPIs and sales goals. Your customers though have their own interests and they are not the same as yours. This is a great time of year to remind yourself that it’s your job as a marketer to address their concerns, not the other way around.

Providing a good product is part of how you do that, of course. You are solving a problem or providing an enhancement. Product management is essentially the process of turning empathy into a tangible solution. However, your marketing communications also need to come from a place of empathy.

Getting something that you don’t want, even something of value, is usually unwelcome. This is true whether the “gift” is unexpected/unwelcome (“A Peloton?!”) or expected/unwelcome (“Aunt Grace always gives me awful socks”). An unwelcome gift (or communication) indicates a lack of empathy by the giver.

Channeling your customer, ask yourself, “would I welcome this communication?” That question may lead you to adjust the content, tone, or even frequency of your marketing touches. After all, it’s not a great gift if the recipient’s response is, “oh no, not again!"

An old tech joke: What do you get if you combine a mafioso with an engineer? Someone who “makes you an offer you can’t understand.”

Nobody buys anything to make their life more complicated. Customers buy to make their lives simpler or their experiences richer. Is it possible that your marketing communications could also be simpler and clearer?

What your product does may be deep and complex. The reasons people buy it are not. The more complex your product, the more crucial it is to you communicate simply. Message clearly and cut as if your marketing automation vendor charged you by the word! Save detail for after interest is engaged. Break long, overloaded communications into a sequence of short ones that help prospects through their buyers’ journey. It’s called “buyers’ journey” rather than “buyers’ teleportation” because it doesn’t happen all at once.

As a marketer, it’s your job to compress, sequence and filter your communication – rather than forcing your customer to do it. What matters isn’t how much you put out but how much customers take in.

Your product is (I hope) meant to help people in some way. Shouldn’t your communications do that too? The platonic ideal would be that every marketing touch helps your current and potential customers, whether or not they are in an active buying cycle. At any point in time, only a small percentage of customers are actively buying. But you can still be helpful to those who already have and those who eventually might.

Help can take many forms. A bulletin on an important new feature can help current customers be more successful with your solution. But there are other forms of help. You can provide useful tips at the right time, based your knowledge of your customer’s world and schedule. “3 ways to make quarterly close easier.” You can even just provide a mental break and stress relief, based on your knowledge of your customer’s world. “End of quarter is hard; here’s a picture of a cute puppy."

In fact, I consider this genius Aviation Gin ad – a response to Peloton – a gift because it made me laugh to the point of bladder strain. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you watch the original Peloton holiday ad first.

Exercise bike not includedThe guiding principle of helpfulness will lead you to the specifics of communications that will be useful to your customers – whether or not those communications are directly tied to your product. In turn, you’ll strengthen relationships and improve your chances the next buying cycle comes around.

Marketing backlash on the scale of the infamous Peloton ad is thankfully rare. Still, every one of us can stand to tune up our empathy, simplicity and helpfulness to make marketing touches a gift not a burden

Happy Holidays, and here’s to more "wanted marketing” in the New Year!