It's fascinating to me how easily conventional wisdom gets a grip on people and won't let go. I wonder if it comes down to an unwillingness to think. I know it's true for me—it's much easier to follow the crowd and copy what other people are doing than to think for myself.
Nowhere is this more evident than the way folks conduct their marketing. One of the most entrenched approaches to marketing is a focus on the company and its products. Afterall, isn't Product the first "P" in the 7 Ps of Marketing?
To be fair, there are many important considerations related to product. Getting clear about the product – the need it addresses and the benefits it provides – is vitally important. But is product-focused marketing appropriate in the current environment?
It’s often helpful to think back to "first principles" when you're considering an appropriate course of action. What is it, exactly, that we're trying to accomplish? Fundamentally, we're trying to influence people. What do we know about what it takes to influence people?
Dr. Robert Cialdini (Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion) is one of the foremost thinkers on this subject and has expounded on the 6 basic principles of influence. MindTools has put together a really useful summary of these principles (including some tips on how to resist influence). The thing I want to point out is that "abundant product information" is nowhere in the list.
The reason for this is quite simple—information about your product is (or should be) easily obtained and has very little to do with influencing someone to make a purchase decision. Again, product information is important and making it easily accessible is clearly a priority. What I'm saying is that its role in a marketing message is diminishing. It's highly unlikely that your prospects will make a purchase decision based on who provides them with the most or best product information. And yet, this is the conventional wisdom. Everywhere you look, marketers are preoccupied with getting their product information in front of the consumer.
So what's the answer? If product information is not what influences the buying decision, what does? The short answer is 'utility'. Your marketing will take a huge leap forward if all you do is turn your attention to the customer or prospect and set your mind to determining what their needs are and engineering your business to deliver on those requirements. Will that necessitate weaving product information into your message? Of course it will–but changing your focus to what constitutes utility for the customer will change your fortunes dramatically.
In his book “Youtility”, Jay Baer provides many good examples of companies that have taken this approach and reaped the benefits. The three pillars of youtility are 1) self-service information 2) radical transparency and 3) real-time relevancy.
Give some thought “Youtility” — to what extent can your business be characterized by these elements? Do customers and prospects have easy access to an abundance of information that is relevant and timely (from their perspective)? Have you compiled a list of frequently asked questions and have you answered them? Are you holding back on information that could benefit your customers? Tip: give some thought as to whether you're underestimating the value of the insight you have. Are your offers relevant to what your prospects are thinking about right now?