It’s Not About Us!

Don’t promote your business—communicate it. It’s not about your product. It’s about your consumer.


Too often we get caught up in how awesome we think our product or service is, and we forget to analyze our customer’s needs. We are taught to promote, promote, promote our businesses. However, in promoting we can easily forget to communicate.


The definition of promote in the business sense is “to encourage the sales, acceptance, etc., of (a product), especially through advertising or other publicity.” Sounds good right? That’s what we all want. But, why is it that a company can constantly promote but never achieve sales or acceptance? The answer is usually a lack of communication.


To communicate means “to express thoughts, feelings, or information easily or effectively; to be joined or connected.” You may be wondering, what’s the difference between promotion and communication? Isn’t promotion just another form of communication? Not exactly.


Notice that there is no mention of connection in the definition of promotion. That’s because promotion is a one-way activity. When you promote, the focus is all on you and why your product is great. You shout from the rooftops to the masses and hope it sticks somewhere. In order to truly connect with your audience, communication—a reciprocal dialogue—is key.


So, is there really anything wrong with promotion? After all, we need sales in order to stay in business, and we have to promote to sell, right? The answer is no, promotion is not evil! The focus of promotion is simply to increase reach and sales. Consumers are used to it. Their inboxes, mailboxes, and televisions are bombarded with it. As a result, they are practically numb to it, and educated consumers are often quite skeptical of it. For this reason, the focus of marketing has shifted towards engagement and experience instead of just product benefits. This translates to a focus on them and not you!


Contrary to popular misconception, the most notable brands did not grow their audiences through promotion. Instead of pushing a sales message, they foster dialogue with their audiences. They learn what matters to their customers and why, and focus on delivering it. They create wonderful experiences and encourage their customers to share those experiences. This is what makes brands memorable.


Successful brands don’t sell products. They sell experiences based on the product’s characteristics. Toyota doesn’t sell cars—they sell reliability. Nordstrom doesn’t sell apparel—they sell exceptional customer service. Amazon’s selling proposition is not in its full stock of low-priced products and quick shipping. It’s that these elements combined save you time. These are the customer perceptions that create longevity (repeat sales) for brands.


So, in order to encourage our customers to accept and purchase our products (promote), we must first communicate (express information) effectively and make sure our communication is two-way (dialogue) with a focus on the customer. Do your prospects really understand what you do and how it can help them? Is your messaging clear? Do they see the value in what you offer? Can they engage with your brand and become your evangelists?


Key questions to ask yourself when evaluating your communication mix:

  • Are we meeting the need and satisfying the desire of the customer?
  • Have we designed an experience that enhances the purchasing process?
  • Is our message clear? Do customers know what to expect from our brand?
  • Does our reputation make us the “go-to” in our customer’s mind?
  • Is our marketing all about us, or all about them?
  • Do our marketing pieces work together to reinforce our brand and clearly convey our message?


If you focus on these things, you become memorable. Your customers “get it” instead of just getting “hit” with it. If you allow them to participate, they become more invested and more trusting of you and your brand. Give it a try.


What are you doing to communicate with your customers? Has it been successful? Have you ever been bombarded with promotion for a product or service that you didn’t need, wishing someone would communicate with you instead? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Robyn Short

Robyn is a Creative Problem Solver who lives at the intersection of design and business. Her company, All Things Creative, provides branding, design, and marketing assistance to businesses who are serious about growing to the next level. Follow Robyn on Twitter.

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