Good Marketing is About the Buyer

So much of marketing and advertising is asking for a handout. The message is focused on the virtues, features or benefits of the product, and it’s asking you to care. The trouble is, people instinctively care about one thing first and foremost – themselves.

In a recent lecture and article, Simon Sinek told the story of how he made a change to the message of a homeless woman’s donation sign – and it doubled her collections in a quarter of the time. His approach is a truth that should be taught to every single marketer looking to engage an audience: always make it about the customer. Not the product. Not the cause. And especially not the features. Sinek explains:

Good, effective marketing is that which talks about the buyer not the seller. We don’t care about the seller, we care what we can get from the seller, and I don’t mean the product attributes. We want things that reflect our own values and beliefs, things that fit into how we live our lives.

So what can companies learn from the homeless? Stop talking about yourselves and start talking about why anyone should care. Talk about our lives and simply place yourself and your products comfortably into our lives. That’s exactly what we did with that homeless person’s billboard.

And what about that sign? What did the new sign say that was able to double revenues in a quarter of the time?

It said simply: “If you only give once a month, please think of me next time.”

This is such a subtle yet powerful shift to the typical “give to me I’m broke, hungry, unemployed” call for help. Think about it.

  • The new sign is about you. It insinuates that you care, and empathizes with the feeling that you’d like to give to everyone you see, but you can’t.
  • The new sign says that this person will still be around and in need in a month’s time. They are a worthy cause, not just needing a quick buck.
  • The new sign isn’t pushy. It’s not asking for anything right now. It’s polite and respectful of you.
  • The new sign makes you stop to think. Or at least skip a step. That’s what great ads do.

Here’s another, remarkably similar example to drive the point home. Same approach, different angle – great video.