We only care about you if it’s really about us

I Love MeWe recently bought an ad for a client and the ad rep suggested we make a big deal out of the fact that our client has been in business for 130 years. I politely told her that we definitely were not going to do that.

Instead, we were going to talk about something their readers and our prospects might actually care about.

My conversation with her is what prompted this blog post. We’ve all seen the ads or sales that are somehow tied to a businesses 25th anniversary or the “we’ve been in business for a century” sale announcements.

The reality is – no one cares. While that may be a laudable accomplishment – to have hung in there that long, from your consumer’s point of view – it’s fluff or a gimmick (we’ve been around for 50 years so everything is 50% off!).

Is a business going to offer me a better product after they’ve been around for 100 years? Was the stuff they sold in their ninety-fifth year just junk? Of course not. Is someone who just turned 60 a better advisor than when she was 59? Nope.

You make that the focus of your ad or your sale when you don’t have anything better to say. And if you can’t come up with something more customer-centric than that to say – you’re lucky to still be in business.

It’s actually a symptom of an age-old marketing problem. Businesses talk about themselves rather than talking about what the customer cares about.

Here’s how to fix two of the most common “it’s all about me” types of marketing statements and make them customer centric and customer valued communications instead.

#1 — We’re old and you should care

All about us: We’re 100 years old. Come enjoy some birthday cake and celebrate with us as we cross the century mark.

All about them: Over the many years we’ve been in business, we’ve learned that our customers value three things. They value incredible customer service (click here to speak live with one of our teammates), fair pricing (click here to read about our fair price every time program) and they want quality they can count on (watch a short video about our factory’s 100% right or 100% wrong policy).

You’re saying the same thing – we’ve been in business long enough to be stable, to have earned our customer’s trust and no one has to worry about you being a fly by night operation. But when you push beyond focusing on yourself, you can outline exactly why your longevity is of value to the prospect that is considering doing business with you.

#2 – The difference is our people (perhaps the most trite sentence uttered in marketing today)

All about us: Our people really care. You’re not just a number to us.

All about them: Hi Mr. McLellan – we see that you’re going to be staying at our hotel XYZ in Big City. We’re glad to have you staying with us and want to make sure we do everything in our power to make your stay an awesome one. As the manager of the hotel, I want you to have my direct line (123-456-7890) and email (manager@BigHotel.com) so you can get a hold of me if there’s anything you need.

Don’t tell me that your people care. Show me. It sounds like hype when you brag about it. It feels remarkable when I experience it for myself. The truth is…most businesses say it but few actually deliver on it. Why not just shut up and show it?

If you’re going to expend the effort to talk to your customers and prospects, stop talking about yourself and talk about what they care about — what’s in it for me.

10 comments on “We only care about you if it’s really about us

  1. Great post, as always. Usually I nod all the way through your posts but this time I found myself thinking, ‘But I like reading that a business has been around a long time — it shows that they must be doing something right’ or ‘A business adviser who has turned 60 has lots of experience and surely that’s worth mentioned’… but then I read again what you were saying and realised, as always, you’re right! No matter how tempting it is to justify our ego-focus in business, it has to be about our customers and what’s in for them.

    Anyway, enough about me, let’s talk about you…. what do *you* think of me? 😉
    (One of my favourite cartoons at http://tomfishburne.com/2010/09/how-brands-talk.html)

    1. Julie,

      I’m printing this out and highlighting “as always, you’re right” just because it makes me so happy!

      I do think you’re right that longevity can certainly be a benefit but that’s the trick — talking about it in a way that is through the consumer’s eyes, not our own ego.

      Drew

  2. I am sorry, but it’s not that straightforward. The fact that the company has been into this business since 19-th century increases the chance that the company has strict standards and offers product and services of a good value for the customer. For food companies and restaurants, for example, this also means that the recipes and techniques used by the company most likely were polished by generations of chief cooks and chief technologists.

    So the age of the company is a very important factor for a customer to consider and unlike different marketing BS slogans etc. the age speaks for itself. And yes, I personally consider this factor when choosing the service.

    1. Eugene,

      It’s only relevant in terms of what it means to the consumer. That’s my point. It’s usually offered as an ego play, not a benefit to the user.

      Drew

  3. The central point always comes back to the same thing – put your customer first. What can you do to help them? How can you solve their problems? Sure longevity is a tag line – people trust well established brands, but it can’t be the centre of your marketing plan! Great post Drew

  4. Scott Townsend says:

    Guilty as charged. Great advice as usual.

  5. By Baylis says:

    I was struck by your comments concerning the lack of importance of longevity in advertisements. That’s seems to be in direct opposition to what the higher education experts would say. If it hasn’t been around for 100 years, it probably isn’t worth looking at.

    I was also struck by your emphasis on the needs and desires of the customer, instead of the expertise and experience of the provider. Again, this is considered rubbish in traditional higher education circles. The higher education gurus constantly say that: “They know what’s best and what students need.” On more than occasion I’ve heard higher education experts say that “Students don’t know enough to know what they what they don’t know. We can tell them what they don’t know and what they should know.”

    Also, on many occasions, I’ve been chastised for using the word customer to describe students, potential students and the employers of our graduates. I was pummeled with the refrain, “Higher education is not a business. It should not be considered a business. Thus it can’t have any customers.”

    As I look around at higher education, I see a group of exclusive, traditional colleges that can get away with, and probably should use, longevity in their advertisements, because that’s what they are selling: tradition, history and the opportunity to make connections. A student can also get an excellent education in these institutions, if the student is well prepared when he or she enters the institution. If the student unfortunately is not well-prepared, the chances of success are very low. When such students fail, the explanation is usually that the student didn’t want to succeed or work hard enough to succeed. There is never a thought that there might be something amiss with the school. After all, look at the long history of successful graduates.

    As I also look around higher education, I see many non-traditional institutions following your suggestions right down the line by emphasizing what the institutions can provide and do for the student. These institutions are attracting a large number of new students to higher education. Unfortunately, some of these institutions are also failing their students. Giving the traditional colleges more ammunition to be able to say “We told you so.” If you make a promise in an advertisement, you must be able to fulfill that promise.

    One more comment, if I may: Your blog has caused me to rethink how I should approach the task of attracting customers to my consulting and coaching business. I admit I have over- emphasized my 40 years of successful experience in higher education. I will be going back and rewriting my material to emphasize what my clients can expect to achieve with my help. Thank you.

    By Baylis, Principal of Higher Ed By Baylis LLC

  6. Dee Waite says:

    So true that unless we are adding value to our customers lives they have no need for us. It’s so simple yet so quickly forgotten as we brag about our success. Instead we need to do exactly as you say and shut up about ourselves and make it all about them. Thank you for the insight!

  7. ejoni.com says:

    Great post, but where i can subscribe your blog?

  8. Ron Ford says:

    Very nice article very informative and I’ve learned a lot. Thanks for sharing.

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