At one point in our history, we as consumers weren’t so easy for brands to connect with. They had limited options when it came to how they communicated with us, and the outcome was left completely to chance. Other than directly in the store, the advertising options were things like magazines, newspapers, billboards, radio, and television.
As a result, most brands resorted to cramming their limited time and space with as many features and discounts as possible with the intention of wow-ing the listener or reader. Take a look at those mediums, though, those types of advertising. In the store, people are in buying mode, so they’re ready to hear about features and discounts. The other mediums were very isolated in that they existed largely for advertising’s sake, so the recipient of those messages expected, maybe even pursued that kind of product information when interacting with those mediums.
Today, the spaces of advertising and non-advertising aren’t so black and white. Actually, they may not exist at all. No longer do we have relatively small periods in which we expect to experience advertising; now we are being communicated to by brands in a constant stream. The more we rely on technology and the great things it offers us, the more we invite an open dialogue with brands that are battling for our attention.
You might say, “great, we’re never going to get away from these brands smacking us in the face with their products,” but that would be a reaction to the features-and-benefits approach that, unfortunately, is still prevalent today. But notice how I said we’re inviting an open dialogue with these brands. Because of how our lives are intertwined with technology, we’re speaking to these brands. We speak to them with our social media usage, our buying habits, and our search history.
Now put on your small business owner hat again. All of that information gives you an immense opportunity, but you can use it wisely or haphazardly, and it will have opposite effects. If you treat constant line of communication with people as a way to endlessly chant your features and benefits, you’re not going to invite conversation. It’s the equivalent of interrupting someone in mid-sentence about an unrelated topic, and you’ll be met with neutrality or disfavor.
Instead, listen to those people, then listen more. It won’t be a conversation worth having unless you’re responding appropriately to what the people are telling you. And when you do respond, make sure it’s inline with the lifestyle of your consumer. Be thoughtful, polite, and supportive. Give them what you know they need, not what you assume they need. If you want people to think you are trying to help them solve their problems, you must do nothing but actively help them to solve their problems. Anything else is just rude.