Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Telling and selling is dead.

"The old model was informing, persuading and reminding... the new model is demonstrating, involving and empowering." -- Mitch Matthews, Head of Marketing, Microsoft
Have you ever seen the ancient Anacin TV spot where headache pain is represented by a hammer banging away inside a man's head? The copy, too, was pounded home as forcefully as hammer blows. Anacin quells headaches three ways! It gives you "Fast, fast, FAST relief from headaches, neuralgia, and neuritis." Over and over and over again. Loudly. If the CIA had played this commercial to Gitmo detainees for an hour or so, there would have been no need for other "enhanced interrogation techniques."

I'm sorry to say that one of my early heroes in advertising, Rosser Reeves, was the mind behind the hammer. Well, TV advertising was in its infancy, so he can be forgiven, I suppose, for using its superpowers wrongly.

But today, we're all modern and sophisticated. It's not cool to "tell, sell and yell" at potential customers. You have to seduce them. Pique their interest. Invite them in, rather than bashing them over the head and dragging them in the door. Give them value, not sales pitches. That's why social media marketing is such a hot new thing.

On Twitter, for example, with an intriguing 140-character message, you can entice a reader to follow a link to an interesting article that relates to your field -- or a new post on your blog.

Websites of companies offering SM or other marketing advice give away amazing amounts of useful information in the form of free webinars, book downloads and educational videos. The idea is that if you chomped on the lure they threw you for free, they might then hook you into paying for a monthly newsletter, an eight-week online course, or a seminar. Once you've savored that tasty lure, you're more likely to, aren't you?

"Give? What is this word, 'give?'" My biology teacher, Mr. Webster, used that line on students asking that he give them a point on a test. It's counterintuitive, perhaps, but these days, giving is the way to receive. And the thing you must give is value. Why? In order to build a relationship with the recipient. You want to do that so your prospect or customer stays around. It's easier to ditch a stranger than a friend, isn't it?

In building relationships, trust is everything. Honesty and integrity are vital. You can give someone free stuff to get them interested in paying you for some more valuable stuff, but you have to make sure the stuff they pay for really is valuable. No bait-and-switch moves. And no popups for questionable or totally unrelated sites on your site.

The ancient money-grubbing instinct must now be tamed in service to kinder, gentler methods of commerce. Thinking back to the old Anacin head-pounder, what value did it offer the viewer? The information that there was such a thing as neuritis or neuralgia? And what kind of relationship did it build? Assailant and victim? Was it honest? I don't know. That "three ways" thing rings kind of false to me. Not to mention the lightning bolts in the guy's head. I think even Rosser Reeves, were he alive today, would agree the old Anacin style is defunct.

So the point is, if you want to receive something of value, you have to give value. And if you want people to hang around with you, you have to build relationships with them. And if you want to keep those relationships, you have to be honest, so they know they can trust you.

Wait a minute. Aren't those the old-fashioned values our parents and grandparents grew up with? Wow. The new-fangled way of selling is just old-fashioned decency. Makes it pretty simple after all, then, doesn't it?

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