Do you like to be hunted? How about targeted? Does that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Does it make you more trusting? Like you want to just give someone all your money?
No? Well, color me shocked.
How about if you knew that companies wanted to hear your concerns, understand your needs and meet them, help you, and educate you? Would you feel more trusting of someone who spoke the language of caring and demonstrated that care? Would you be more likely to do business with a person or company who cared?
I think it’s time we put away these outdated analogies. They’re not as helpful as the language of caring. It’s time to adopt a better mindset by introducing a powerful shift in our vocabulary: a shift away from the language of death and towards the language of caring.
Hunting & Targeting is for Dumb Animals
Yeah, thanks, as a consumer I really love the way this kind of language makes me feel. Just shoot me. After all, that’s how a successful hunt ends: something gets killed. I have nothing against hunting. If God didn’t want us to eat animals, He wouldn’t have made them out of meat (sorry, I just love that joke).
But I don’t appreciate being hunted or targeted. The thought of cold calculations at work to separate me from my money does not fill me up with warm fuzzy love for the companies who are “after me.” I’m not a dollar sign, I’m a person.
When You Think of Penetration, You Think of…
How many of you read the sub-head above and immediately thought of sex?
Dating, courting, marriage, or sex analogies for marketing efforts are particularly loathsome to me. I don’t want to think about my relationship with another business in sexual terms. AT ALL. You are not courting me. You are not dating me. There will be no orgasmic consummation of our relationship. And anyone who feels they were fucked by a marketer—well, I think we all know that’s not a good thing. At best, you’d be the marketing equivalent of being a pick-up artist. At worst, it’s analogous to rape.
Is that how you want to think about and talk about marketing your business?
Concern, Listening, Empathy, and Understanding for the Win
While I don’t appreciate being targeted and hunted (call me crazy), I do appreciate it when I’m listened to. I feel validated when others show concern for my problems. When I’m spoken to in my own language, I’m far more likely to trust. We know this is true when we’re in the role of consumer while we shop. Why do we so easily forget it when we try to market our business?
Why Marketing Makes You Feel Dirty
The words we use inform our thinking, and vice versa. Over the centuries, we’ve arrived at a marketing language that conflicts with how we feel about ourselves as decent human beings. When it seems we can’t talk about marketing without speaking the language of death and rape, we feel dirty. We feel ourselves slowly being pulled to become something we don’t want to be, something that we hate. That is the power of a language being spoken over time: you can’t keep your thoughts differentiated from the connotations and meanings of the words you use (in other words, semantics). The language that comes with marketing has evolved into something distasteful and corrupt.
No wonder we feel conflicted! We know we need to market our business, but we’d like to do it without feeling like we’ve betrayed our principles. There is a growing body of information about the outward or customer-facing activities that do away with the “language of death.” Check out the Third Tribe stuff over at Copyblogger for the best example I’ve seen.
It’s time to change the language we use to talk about marketing and selling with other marketers and with our fellow business owners.
It’s Time for a Language of Caring
The long-term differences between you hunting a target market vs. caring about the right people is far, far greater than the mere words would suggest. Our decisions have an effect on the words we use, but the reverse is also true. If you use the language of caring when you talk about marketing, the long term results will be far different than if you used the language of hunting/war/rape. In other words, this is not “just semantics.” If we discuss marketing principles, strategies, and tactics in the language of caring, it’s inevitable that our outward actions and customer-facing words will improve as a result.
The biggest benefit (aside from the bottom line) is that we will no longer feel conflicted about marketing. We will feel whole and at peace with ourselves, because there will be congruence between how we talk about marketing and how we carry out marketing.
What is the Language of Caring?
So, what exactly is this language of caring? Well, I don’t have all the answers (maybe you can help in the comments), but here’s what I’ve thought about so far:
- You’re not targeting a market or a demographic, you’re helping your people.
- You’re not penetrating a market, you’re earning a share of the market.
- You do not blast an email at your market, you keep in touch with your people.
- Selling is a technical term for the transaction–you do not sell. Selling is not what you do: you help and you educate.
What This Has to Do with Business Blogging
In a word, everything. Think about that last point I just made above: you do not sell. Selling is not what you do: you help and you educate.
That is what your blog is for. Blogs are fantastic tools to help your people and educate them. You may have heard the old saying: a well-educated customer is the best customer. You are a teacher and your blog is an ongoing classroom. What is the purpose of helping and educating? Is it to sell? Eventually, yes, but not at first. At first, the purpose of helping and educating is to earn trust. Trust is the real currency of the internet, because without trust, you will not get attention (so much for the “attention economy”) and without trust you sure as hell will not make any money.
- Where trust goes, attention (and money) follows.
- When we talk about caring instead of hunting and listening instead of penetrating, we’re speaking a language of trust, rather than a language of attack and defense.
- Money is merely a side effect of trust. Make trust the goal, not money.
- Don’t forget to ask for the sale. The work of marketing still has to be done, but we now can do it with a vocabulary that is congruent with how we see ourselves as good people.
The Work of Marketing Must be Done
Speaking the language of caring is something that we do when we talk to ourselves, our business partners, and fellow businesspeople/marketers (we’re all marketers, right?). It’s for talking about business and marketing. It’s not necessarily for direct communications with customers. The goal is to erase the conflict we have between how marketing makes us feel and our need to do it nevertheless. And make no mistake, the work of marketing must be done if your business is succeed.
Your vehicles for this are—for the most part—your blog, social media, email, and public events. The outcome of the language of caring will manifest through these channels. The language of caring not only repairs the dissonance we feel, it gives us a new framework for the work of marketing.
If what we’re doing is trying to help and educate people because we care about them and understand them better than anyone else, then we must do everything in our power to make this happen. This means we must:
- Do everything we can to understand who our people are and what they need.
- Write headlines that instantly get the attention of your people, so they can get the help they need.
- Constantly spell out the benefits of our education and help, to make it easier for our people to decide to stay with us, which give us the opportunity to earn their trust.
- Provide means for people to make it as easy as possible for them to receive our help, such as subscriptions and sharing tools.
- Create products and services your people want and need for an investment that leaves them feeling they received great value and would recommend you to anyone.
- Help your people get the most out of those products and services.
- Do everything we can to help as many of our people as possible—we can’t stand the thought of leaving one of our own behind.
As you read over the list above, do you notice the subtle but powerful difference in the connotations because they are written in the language of caring? These are really the same marketing activities anyone would do, but they come from a different place. They come from the heart as well as the mind.
Say What You Will
We’ve all seen these old-school analogies used in ways we felt were effective. I’m not suggesting you never use them. I’m suggesting that there are better analogies in terms of both denotation and connotation. I really believe that this stuff matters. It certainly matters to me, and there’s a chance it matters to you, too.
Using the power of your thoughts to change the words you use comes back around to further refine and change your thinking. When it comes to how you think about your blog marketing efforts, why speak the language of death when you can speak the language of caring?