Seth Godin and Carl Richards are my two brilliant “digital mentors.”
If you are unfamiliar, Seth is considered to be a modern-day marketing God, but he is so much more. His daily blog provides insights that are invaluable in all areas of a business owner’s (and really anybody who enjoys thinking’s) life.
Carl is an former Financial Advisor turned financial advocate who writes articles for the New York Times, has authored several books and is generally a mentor to “Real Financial Advisors” who want to serve clients the right way in an industry where 95% of advisors don’t.
Seth and Carl recently appeared together on a webinar to discuss the ideas in Seth’s new book, “This is Marketing.” Carl requested that the Financial Advisors on the call read the book and provide some thoughts. Here are my big picture take away’s:
For many years marketing was synonymous with advertising. Advertising was effective when there were few avenues for people to receive information and in large part it was pushed to them. With the advent of the internet, digital communication and basically everyone from school-kids to their grandparents walking around with a pocket-sized computer more powerful than a desktop PC of a decade ago, the marketing game has changed.
The problem of information scarcity has become information overwhelm. Access to potential customers which was once very limited is now 24/7 with the mechanisms having expanded many fold (e-mail, various social media platforms, voice calls, TV, etc). At the same time with the additional information customers have access to, additional choices to solve their problems now abound.
“The shortcuts of using money to buy attention to sell average stuff to average people are an artifact of another time.” The relentless pursuit of a mass audience will water down your brand and make you little more than a commodity to those who would be true customers. Current marketing strategies should focus on the smallest viable market by delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages that people actually want to receive.
Marketing now should be seen as “the generous act of helping someone (who belongs to the specific group you have identified to serve) solve a problem; their problem.” Effective marketing now relies on empathy and service. It seeks volunteers to receive your message not victims who you assault with it.
I noticed a tie-in to a recent George Kinder Financial Life Planning Training I attended. Kinder’s philosophy to life planning is to help clients achieve the ultimate version of themselves. Seth similarly says, “marketing is the generous act of helping others become who they seek to become.” You can learn to see how human beings dream, decide and act. If you help them become better versions of themselves the ones they seek to be, you’re a marketer. I’m actually really into this, so maybe I’m not the world’s worst marketer.
Another tie in for me as my time is nearly full with client work and not having been able to impact nearly as many families as I would have hoped is the realization that I committed one of the biggest stumbles in marketing in “attempting to pick the grandiose, nearly impossible change” of bringing fee-only comprehensive financial planning to those outside of the high net worth environment.
"Whose it for" is the most important question in marketing and I am in the process of answering this question for my practice.
This may be the most powerful passage in the book for me at this time. It's Ok to say to people who aren't a fit, "this is not for you." It shows the ability to respect someone enough that you aren't going to waste their time, pander to them, or insist that they change their beliefs. At the same time it allows respect for those you seek to serve, to say to them "I made this for you. Not for the other folks, but for you."
It doesn't matter what people you're not seeking to serve think. What matters is whether you've changed the people who trust you, the people who have connected with you. The people you seek to serve.
Another great parallel in the book and what I have recently realized is facts matter less than ever. With the once mass audience now splintered into a million micro audiences (think the mass audience used to get their news from the three major network news channels to Democrats now only watching CNN while Republicans focus on Fox News).
Each person has a story in his or her own head, a narrative used to navigate the world. The extraordinary thing is every person's narrative is different. The safe assumption to make based on this understanding is; "when in doubt, assume that people will act according to their current irrational urges, ignoring information that runs counter to their beliefs, trading long-term for short-term benefits and most of all being influenced by the culture they identify with."
In short this says to me, people aren’t interested in the facts or the truth, but more an audience of people who believe what they believe. There are some great tie-in’s to the importance of status and how people make decisions around, “people like us do this” rather than looking at choices from their individual viewpoint.
There a many great themes, thoughts and suggested actions as is typical from Seth’s great work and I may write more if there is significant interest. In the end perhaps the most powerful theme for someone putting a product or service out to the public is they are not interested in a product or service, but an emotional state.
People don't want what you do or make, they want what it will do for them. They want the way it will make them feel. The thing you sell or do is simply a road to achieve that emotional state. This is similar to a quote I remember hearing Bert Whitehead, Founder of the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners and 40-year veteran of the fee-only financial planning model say many times, “We don’t sell financial planning services. We sell peace of mind around people’s finances. We sell sleep.” What could be truer than that?