Do your customers invite you in?

by Steve Yastrow: Author, speaker, consultant and founder of Yastrow & Company, a Chicago-based consulting firm.
For years, people have seen marketing as the process of getting the word out. They launch marketing campaigns, hoping that enough of their messages come in contact with customers. The problem with “getting the word out” as a model for marketing is that 5000 other companies are trying to get the word out to your customers at the same moment you are.

It's time to flip this model on its head. Marketing has become much less about getting the word out and much more about letting the word in. Letting the word in is a process that matches the way customers want to buy. It puts the power in their hands, where they want it.

The clearest example of this is Internet search. Customers, who defensively shut out the advertising and spam that bombard them, selectively invite specific marketing messages into their lives. They let the word in.

The Internet has fueled this trend by putting power into the hands of customers, but this trend is not just limited to Internet search. There are many other examples where customers use this power to let the word in.

Letting the word in happens when a customer opens the door to her life and decides what marketing messages to let inside. Unlike traditional get the word outmarketing, where the customer is seen as a passive receiver of information, customers are active, purposeful and deliberate participants in let the word in marketing. They have power, and they use it.

When the customer opens the door to let information in, you need to be there. They may be searching on the Internet, or exploring at a trade show, or looking for something to buy at a mall. They may be asking friends for advice, or asking a professional for a referral. In any case, you want to be accessible and available when customers are actively and purposefully looking for something you can help them with, making it easy to let your message come into their minds.

You need to be where your customer wants you, when your customer wants you. You need to be approachable. You need to be incredibly responsive. You need to be easy to understand.

Ask yourself, “Is our marketing mostly about getting the word out, or letting the word in? How easy is it for customers to invite us into their lives? How compelling is our story once they do?”

We live in an age of savvy, skeptical, self-reliant customers, who are not likely to be motivated by traditional get the word out marketing. If you throw messages at them, they will put up a defensive shield and ignore you.

But if you focus more on making it easy, accessible and compelling to let the word in about your products and services, customers will be much more likely to notice you, become interested in you, and buy from you.

Useful resources:
Yastrow & Company
Steve Yastrow has acquired a singular reputation among business decision makers as an outside partner who challenges organizations to take a fresh look at themselves from the inside out. He offers clear action steps to improve business performance through Brand Harmony and ideal customer relationships.
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