Marketing Is a Conversation, Not a Soapbox

The temptation can be to show off.

To go for the hard sell.

To share what you know and how much you can do for people.

It’s the right instinct to have, so long as you channel it correctly. After all, writing an email or a sales letter is a lot like having a chat with someone. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s a handy guide. Why? Because a lot of the mistakes that happen face-to-face are still mistakes, even behind a screen of text.


What do you feel towards the folks who talk at you, not with you?

The ones who swoop in and, before you even describe your problem, insist they know the answers?

They might even be right, but you’ll never know. This smug attitude is weapons-grade anti-persuasion. It’s one of the reasons people don’t listen to experts. Insisting you know what’s best, even when you do, makes no friends.

And whatever doesn’t make friends, tends not to make sales.

This can be so frustrating. You don’t want to sound like some sleazy carnival barker… but you also need to make a living. If you find yourself leaning too hard on hype, dodgy marketing, impulsive buyers and unfavourable lock-in contracts, it can make you question why you even got into this business.

Having what feels like a conversation, not you yelling towards them, is better for you and for them.

Now, you might think I’m advocating for social media here, since it’s an easy way to have conversations with your prospects.

I’m not.

It might be right for you or it might not be.

What I’m focusing on is more fundamental – a principle that transcends a tool, technique or platform.

You can use this in emails, sales letters, videos, chatbot dialogues and, yes, if it suits your business, tweets.

The principle is to think how good advice givers think.

Do what they do.

Here are some examples. By all means, use them, but don’t think this is a complete list. Think about everything charismatic people do and see if you can adapt into marketing.

All those ‘body language hacks’, like make eye contact, won’t translate here.

This takes thinking about the broader approach to effective and persuasive conversations.

Which of the 7 Habits is this one again?

If you’ve read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this will sound familiar:

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Let’s say you have a solution for a major problem.

What do you do? You can’t say “hey, I have a solution for your problem!”

That rarely works in real life, and it’s even less effective online.

The better approach?

Hear what they have to say.

But how do you translate that into, say, a sales letter? You write it, then they read it maybe months later. How do you ‘listen’ to them when you’ve already written it?

I invite you to think on this one. Remember, the goal isn’t to literally listen to them. The goal is to make them feel understood.

The best way to do that is to let them speak.

If you can’t do that – because it’s an email or sales letter – how make them feel understood by describing their problem.

A person who wants to quit smoking doesn’t just want to quit. They have a deeper motivation driving them – one associated with pain.

It might be literal, physical pain they feel when they climb a flight of stairs.

It might be emotional pain, when they think about how their kids will have to spend their time and money supporting them through lung cancer.

Show you understand this by talking about it in your marketing.

And, just like how it is when giving advice, once they know you get it, then they’ll listen to what you have to say.

This means knowing your market well. You can’t fake understanding. The only way to sound like you know what it’s like to be them is to know what it’s like to be them.

So do your research.

This does mean dipping your toes into negativity.

It means talking through the pains, punishments and pitfalls of their lives.

It can feel like a downward emotional slide.

But it doesn’t have to be much.

And then you get to do the sweetest thing of all:

Build hope.

Then, you can talk about your solution.

Who it’s helped, how it works… and how they can get their hands on it.

Describe the problem, describe your solution, let them have it.

It’s a simple formula, but it turns your marketing from a tone-deaf diatribe into a rich, engaging conversation.

One that solves a problem they’ve had for a long time.

They’re welcome.

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