Why You Should Stop Talking of Yourself and Start Discussing Buyers’ Needs

Written by Irakli Beselidze - March 31, 2015

When it comes to holidays, I constantly feel myself to be Cinderella.  First it seems you’ve got plenty of time for joy, happiness, friends and tangerines, but then you suddenly hear the alarm-clock ringing and understand that Christmas holidays are over and a new year has started: you see colleagues instead of your friends, and piles of work to be done.

Coming back to your office, you realize that the most unpleasant present you’ve got for Christmas is that your director still hasn’t understood anything (changed her mind, forgotten, decided to change the strategy), and instead of attracting site visitors with cool and powerful content you have to look at some horrible text entitled ‘The Gutten  Comany. Achievements in 2014’ and placed on the main page of our site for 2 months already.

Well, our site has never been too user friendly. If we had created software for ATM, the main menu would have looked like this: “About us”, “How we keep money”, “Our ATMs safety”, “Why you feel comfortable with us”, and only somewhere in the corner there would have been a small phrase “Get my cash”. Though the button was small, it still existed. Buy now this button has disappeared. Instead of useful information about roofing materials selection, visitors were offered to read content about Gutten’s achievements.

I took a deep breath, looked at the ceiling, then peeked into Yandex Metrics, and then looked at the ceiling once again. It’s an open secret that the majority of companies adore talking only about themselves: each site starts with “we do this and we do that” and finishes with the same “we, we, we”. Even though there’s plenty of copywriting and advertising books saying that companies should stop talking about themselves and start thinking about their clients, the number of companies doing this right still doesn’t grow.

“Ann,” muttered I melancholically once Ann entered the room. “Do you know that Olga has taken the biscuit!  The pronoun “we” is repeated 27 times in her text! I’ve counted them all – 27 times, and I don’t even count the word “our” and its derivatives which are used uncountable number of times.”

“Well, it seems Olga has understood Seth Godin’s words in her own way,” said Ann shrugging her shoulders. “By the way, Michael, she wants to see you.”

Olga is our director. The director who understood nothing (changed her mind, forgot, changed the strategy). This is the reason why I didn’t want to see Olga. I wanted to kill her.

“Hi!” said I knocking at her door.

“Hi. Sit down, please. Listen,” Olga looked at me through her glasses, and I felt like Cinderella whose stepmother was going to do her head in. “Mary has made a draft report, and it looks our business is on the down-grade. Costs are increasing, sales are falling off but our marketing department is doing nothing. Are you going to act, I wonder?”

Well, usually I am a very quiet man. Very quiet. That’s why instead of flinging petrol at her, I just asked:

“Does it really matter what I’m going to do if you always do as you choose?”

No turning back was possible. This conversation had to take place long ago. We just accumulated reciprocal claims and misunderstanding. Before Christmas I made my last attempt to explain Olga that our site was read by people who wanted to find an ideal roofing material and didn’t care about our achievements. I thought my arguments were convincing, but today I understood I was wrong. Olga uploaded her version of the site on December, 25. Is it a sane director who updates the site content on December, 25?

This update became the final mail in the coffin of my patience. Suddenly I realized I was ready to quit. I was bad Cinderella because instead of a wicked stepmother I needed an adequate director. I was sitting in front of shocked Olga telling her everything I thought of her actions and her management style.

I reminded her about all advertising campaigns that failed only because Olga too often interfered in them and too rarely used her common sense. I told her about our chaotic marketing strategy based on Olga’s assumptions, ambitions, friends’ advice and unprofessional imitation of market leaders’ activities. I also reminded her how she assured everyone from the beginning that marketing was the core of our business, and then sacrificed it to any unimportant things. And I didn’t forget to mention all our agreements that were broken and that made me become a whipping boy.

“If you don’t like the figures, just fire me because you’re killing your business,” I showed her two sheets of paper. “See how the bounce rate has increased after you published this stupid panegyric on the site.” I rubbed Olga’s nose to Yandex Metrics statistics. “See? And look at the average visit duration. 6 seconds. No one wants to read this. People are bored with this stuff and nonsense, and leave the site.”

I was still talking and waiting for Olga to get annoyed with my speech and fire me. But surprisingly she listened to me attentively. At last, I finished. There was a silence in the room.

“Michael, I’ve pestered you to death, haven’t I?” she suddenly asked.

It was my turn to stop in my tracks. I expected any reaction except this one. Olga was silent for a while and then went on. It was clear that it was really hard for her to speak.

“I really didn’t consider marketing to be something important and serious. Our business always got on well, and sales were growing. Then they stopped. Of course that wasn’t inspiring but it was ok. But now sales are falling,” she said pointing at Mary’s report. “If we don’t find the way out, my panegyric (as you named the text I created) will serve as a perfect epitaph of our company.”

Olga took her glasses off. Suddenly I realized that in front of me there was neither a wicked stepmother, nor a she-Fuehrer, but just a tired woman who was completely at a loss. Such a state lasted for just a moment after which Olga pulled herself together and took her glasses on again.

“I’ve realized you hit the mark in many situations. And it’s definitely true that you know marketing much better than me,” she smiled looking at the sheets of paper with statistical data. “What do you think if I give you the power to go right ahead? And I won’t interfere with your activities.”

She looked at me asking:

“Do you want to become a director of marketing?”

“What?” stupidly asked I. A wicked stepmother suddenly became a fairy godmother.

“A director of marketing,” she repeated clearly and slowly.

“Yes,” said I. My willingness to quit vanished right away.

I dreamily came back to my work-room. Ann was away, but she left me a comical picture of Olga. I took a good look at this picture, doubled this sheet of paper up and put it into my pocket.

My new year started unexpectedly: just half an hour ago I was thinking about quitting, and now everything changed. Cinderella became a director of marketing. The fairy tale had a happy ending.

“If the year starts like this, what will be next?” thought I. “Let’s see.”

….

“Just a moment,” exclaims an attentive reader, “but where’s the answer to the question why all companies talk only of themselves? Is it just a copywriting trick that has nothing to do with the text itself?”

A fair remark. Well, there are 3 reasons why companies act like this.

1. Absence of knowledge how to do it right.

Many companies don’t simply know how to communicate with buyers differently. They think they can only talk about themselves and their product. This happens because many executives and marketers look around and imitate others’ marketing activities. And what do they see? Such “masterpieces” as “We’re open”, “We’ve got low prices”, “Our young and dynamic company”, “We’re 10 years at the market”. It’s not surprising that marketers are creating similar messages. But is it possible to change the rules of the game? Surely, read the right books, communicate with experts, see what successful companies do and try new things.

2. Informative reason.

If we shouldn’t speak of ourselves and our product, then what should we speak about? Right you are – we should speak about our buyers and their needs. But to start doing this, we need to know something about this. And here the difficulties arise.

You know, a similar situation happens between men and women. A man is absolutely sure he has stolen a way to the girl’s heart thanks to his perfect body and sporting wins. But in fact, the girlfriend is absolutely indifferent to his perfect abdominals and sports achievements, but she likes his reliability and good temper.

The same situation concerns high-consideration products. The company is sure a buyer pays for the design while in fact he pays for product’s durability. The company cries up the car’s eight-cylinder engine while a buyer enthusiastically exclaims, “It’s red!”

Having no idea what the product is valued for by buyers, the company just dictates its own vision to customers.  As self-absorption in personal relations leads to constant mania of speaking of yourself and ignorance of partner’s needs, brand-centricity leads to talking of the company and ignoring buyers’ needs. Can this be changed? Surely. Research your buyers and their needs.

3. Psychological reason.

Marketers and advertisers are ordinary people, and it’s quite simple for them to speak of their product and the company. Brands easily attract their attention, and it takes more conscious efforts to focus on buyers but not on the company. Can it be changed? Yes. You need to practice.

Do you see any other reasons why companies adore talking just of themselves? And have you happened to come across companies that take care of their buyers' needs? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Thousands of marketers are looking for answers to their numerous questions and fighting  their corner even when colleagues consider them to be madmen. Michael Fox is on of these madmen. He works for Gutten  as a CMO and tries to find best solutions to challenging tasks even if he has to question the authority of Philip Kotler and executives' vision for that.

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