As marketers we think we’re all grown up, and that business has nothing to do with being personal. Like the pat excuse we’ve all heard when a business decision affects other people’s lives, “This isn’t personal, it’s a business decision.”
It’s that kind of thinking that kills us as marketers and brands—when we take “personal” out of the equation we always lose. However, we can turn that around and win! And the quickest way I know to learning how to do this is to closely observe children in action. Think about it… when our kids are young we can talk to them, share with them and really relate on a kid level—and we can also control them to an extent. But when they’re teenagers, they’re not as open to what we tell them; pushing things on them just builds more resistance. And if they think you’re going to give them a speech, they shut you down in a hurry. If you want to get through to teens you have to look for moments when they’re receptive, tamp down the desire to push your opinions on them, and just listen. Be there for them. Help them when they ask for it, but don’t preach at them. It takes practice to learn to recognize those opportunities.
Just like parenting with teens, as a marketer you have to be watching for those “moments” with consumers—whether they’re customer service opportunities or in-store opportunities or just a discussion via social. Listen to your audience. Help them. Give guidance and provide information. Pay attention and when those moments occur… learn to recognize them, immerse yourself in them, and build that connection.
A good illustration I like to use is from the old movie, Miracle on 34th Street, where the Macy’s Santa sends people to another store because Macy’s doesn’t have what they’re looking for. The store manager was incensed, but R.H. Macy thought it was brilliant, because he saw the opportunity for Macy’s to become the “good guy.” Rather than trying to steer the customer to something she did not want, they listened to what the customers really wanted and helped them get it—even if they didn’t have it—and the result was relationship and advocacy building at scale… the story spread like wildfire because they put the customer FIRST. They didn’t preach to them, they didn’t give ultimatums—they listened. And like our teenagers, those customers were more likely to come back for help later and do business with them, simply because the store listened to them, held back from selling, and helped them out selflessly when they most needed it. To me that’s a “moment,” and we need to make it our business to be on the lookout for them, discover them, and figure out how to make them happen more often.
Another thing we can learn from Kids is being genuine. Kids are raw. They say what they think and they’re spontaneous in reaching out to help others when they see a need. And it’s from the heart—not for something they might get back in return.
This giving, empathetic nature is really at the core of who we are as humans—and I think it’s where we need to be all the time—especially in business. We’ve forgotten that to a certain extent with push-marketing, but social gives us the opportunity to get it back. Why? Because first, it’s the perfect “listening medium,” and second, it gives us a way to personally engage, interact, and connect. As marketers, we need to reach back to that level of personal caring we had as kids, and make seeking “moments of connection” our prime directive. Not products. Not services. Not nailing down the ROI on every single thing we do. Put those on the back burner, and practice looking for opportunities to connect, listen, help and serve. And just like building a strong relationship with your kids, the benefits of building relationship with customers will have far-reaching and long-lasting impact.
Humanity is contagious so put yours on display.