Sean McGinnis is VP Sales and Marketing at Dot CO Law Marketing. Additionally, Sean is a co-founder of 12 Most and blogs about SEO, Internet Marketing, Social Media, Leadership and a variety of other topics at his blog 312 Digital. Sean is based in Chicago and has been involved in Internet Marketing since 1999.
I’m a huge movie buff. In fact, the first web site I ever created was a DVD movie review site (http://dvdverdict.com) that it is still going strong over 12 years later with over 22,000 original movie reviews. One of the byproducts of this fascination with film is I tend to have strong recall of movie dialogue and scenes and I often find myself thinking in movie terms.
Just ask my friend Sam Fiorella. Just this week, Sam and I were chatting via skype and he sparked an immediate movie recall in my mind and I shot him a couple movie clips. We both laughed. I did the same thing to my friends Gini Dietrich and Marcus Sheridan this past week, when I dropped a quick YouTube clip into the Spin Sucks comment stream. I do it because it’s funny and because it adds spice to the discussion.
And here’s the problem….
Every time I do that, I’m taking a shortcut.
I assume everyone knows what I know – that they think like I think – that everyone “gets it” – that they’re in on the joke because they too have seen the movie and understand what I’m trying to convey by dropping in a movie line out of nowhere.
But that’s rarely ever true!
Communication shortcuts can be useful when you have a shared community and you’re certain everyone “gets it,” but they can be death to your marketing efforts. In fact, a sense of community can be strengthened by using just these types of shortcuts. Again, I would cite Gini’s community over at Spin Sucks as an example. Every few weeks or so, I or someone else will call Gini Gumby or Gertrude. It’s funny to me. And it’s funny to Gini. But not every member of her community knows the backstory (click both the links above to get brought into the loop) and those that don’t, get very much left out of the shared experience of being part of that community during those short exchanges. BUT, those in the know have their bonds and allegiances to that community strengthened via this type of shorthand communication. Everyone that knows the Gumby story has a good laugh when it comes back out.
Here’s the rub… There’s a temptation to apply this type of thinking to your marketing effort as well. But, your market very rarely understands your product (or maybe even their need) as well as you do. And by creating shorthand things like branded product names or concepts and continually referring to them in your marketing materials without first explaining them to your prospects can lead to a lot of things – almost none of them good. Your prospects will walk away from your marketing efforts feeling confused and alienated.
Here’s the thing. It’s fairly easy to avoid this type of behavior. All you need to do is put yourself in your prospect’s shoes. It sounds pretty easy in theory, but it’s quite difficult to apply in the real world. Because we can’t unlearn what we already know. We are often blinded by our own self-interests – which is why sales people are often so incredibly bad – because they are focused on their own self-interests and not genuinely focused on the interests of their customers.
Nearly every time you try to take a shortcut you run the risk of alienating your market. Don’t talk down to them. Don’t talk over their heads. Don’t even talk TO them. Instead, talk WITH them. Discover the genuine questions they have about your product or service and answer those questions as completely and naturally as possible. Display a little empathy. It will go a long way in helping you put your market first.
So my advice is this. Beware the shortcut. It can be a VERY effective tactic, but it also has a tendency to limit your market – by creating those that are in the inner circle and those that are forever relegated to being on the outside looking in. Both are viable tactics. Just know which one makes the most sense for your business and when to use it.