I’m not really much of a country music fan, but I do like me some good Toby Keith.
Whether he’s saddlin’ up to go after the bad guys with Willie Nelson or just singing about how much he loves ‘Murica, he brings a powerful voice, an interesting story, and a fun atmosphere to everything he does.
But there’s one of his songs in particular that I find is very relevant to business owners and how they often tend to market themselves: I Wanna Talk About Me.
Now, if you can get past the video’s misogynistic stereotypes – “women talk too much,” “women spend too much money on clothing,” etc – and suspend your (very much justified) feminist rage for a minute, you’ll realize that the song actually has an important lesson to teach business owners about marketing and communicating messages to your audience.
Just like Toby Keith, your readers/clients/customers want to talk about themselves.
If you have something to sell me – whether it’s a product, a service, or simply an idea – you need to show me why whatever you’re selling me is important to me.
I always tell my clients: If I’m your target customer, I don’t give a crap about you or your business. If I’m your potential new client, I have too many of my own problems that I’m dealing with to worry about you.
And see, it’s a fact of life that if you give someone a reason to ignore you, they will. The average person sees 5000 different ads every day. We’ve got work stuff happening, we’ve got personal stuff happening, we’ve got random life stuff happening….our schedules are all full up, yo.
And psychologists now know, after decades of research, that the human attention span is limited. And even worse, the average attention span gets shorter every year. Back in May 2015, TIME Magazine announced that the average human now has a shorter attention span than a freaking GOLDFISH. (And now this is the part where we all collectively despair over the state of humanity.)
Psychologists also know that there’s really no such thing as multi-tasking. People very much prefer to focus on one thing at a time. What we call multi-tasking is actually task switching – rapidly switching attention between tasks so that it looks like we’re doing both things at the same time.
What does that mean for a business owner?
It means that if I have an excuse to ignore you – even a really crappy one – I will, without any hesitation, use it at my earliest available opportunity.
This is why the “me me me” approach to marketing doesn’t work. It’s also why marketing is so challenging nowadays. Back in the Golden Age of Advertising, the average business owner could rely on the Yellow Pages, customer referrals, and a few print ads here and there to generate more business than they’d ever need. But no more.
The challenge in the digital era isn’t getting found – getting found is easy. The challenge is making people care.
I’ve seen too many businesses fail because their marketing was inward-focused, because they couldn’t make people care.
Now, obviously you need to blow your own horn and talk up your offerings to your own people. Your people need to believe in what you sell, and your people need to have an emotional interest in your business’ success.
But when you’re trying to gain clients and customers, talking about your business is preaching to the dyed-in-the-wool true believer converted.
Why doesn’t this work? Because when you talk about your business, the only people who will listen to what you have to say are the people who are ALREADY interested in your business.
If you start talking to me about YOUR product, YOUR service, YOUR business, and YOUR problems, I’m going to give you one answer:
“Sorry, not interested. I guess I missed the part where I’m supposed to care.”
You’re doing the exact opposite of what you want to do. Instead of getting me interested, you turn me off. Why?
Because I don’t have the TIIIIIIIIIME to care about you. I have work that needs to get done, laundry that needs to be folded, dishes that need to be washed, friends that need to be visited, groceries that need to be picked up, meals that need to be cooked, classes that need to be attended, and a gigantic list of other crap I keep saying I’m going to get around to someday, when I have the time.
But if I don’t even have the time to do the things that I say are important to me, where the hell am I going to find the time for YOU, a business that I don’t care about?
People used to think that getting FOUND was the big marketing challenge of the Internet era. But we now know that this era’s big challenge…is getting a RESPONSE.
If you’re putting out blog articles, videos, press releases, columns, TV ads, and other marketing assets – in other words, if you’re doing everything that you should be doing with your marketing, if you’re actively promoting your business rather than sitting on your hands waiting for clients to magically appear on your doorstep (*glare*) – then you’ve already made it dead easy for people to find you.
That means if you’re not getting new clients and customers, if your marketing isn’t getting a response, then your problem isn’t that you aren’t getting found…it’s that people can and do find you and they simply don’t care about what you have to say.
So how do you make people care?
Quite simply, you stop talking about your business and you start talking about your customers.
You stop talking about your problems and your plans. You start talking about your customers’ problems and your customers’ wants and needs.
Here’s the deal: If I’m searching for a web design firm, there’s a good chance that I’m doing so because I don’t know enough about web design to build my site on my own. I don’t care about strategy. I don’t care about deployment. I don’t care about your craft or your passion. I don’t really understand it, anyway. And if I don’t understand the world of web design, then I’m not going to understand web design firms. All I know is that I need a website that isn’t crap. What I care about is getting a website that will generate revenue.
Good copy talks about the audience first, and then positions the service provider as the solution to the audience’s problems. Good copy explains the problem and creates a rapport with the audience before trying to sell something.
So if you’re in the process of re-vamping your website, you’ll want to ensure that it talks about your audience’s problems and your audience’s wants and needs – not your products and services. There’ll be plenty of time to advertise your business later. But the first thing you need to do is show your audience that you understand them. And that starts with talking to them about things they care about.
Because if you can manage to show clients that you understand them like no one else, you’ll put half your competitors out of business.
And then you’ll be saddling up your horses while your competitors are living out a sad little country song of their own making.
What’s your business doing to create audience-centric marketing assets? What changes do you need to make to your marketing plan in order to better appeal to buyers? And most importantly, what marketing lessons can people learn from your favourite Toby Keith song?