Putting Customers First In Marketing

“In a world of abundance, the only scarcity is human attention.”

That sentiment is attributed to social scientist Herbert Simon, who made the pronouncement in 1971, years before we had the Internet, iPhones, Twitter, funny cat videos and Donald Trump to consume every waking moment of our attention.

But even in his less noisy and cluttered time, Simon understood that a “wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” One wonders what he would think of 2017.

And you know what makes that poverty of attention worse? Brands that talk only about themselves.

It’s creating a tsunami of meaningless noise, particularly in content marketing, where we are becoming overwhelmed with irrelevant posts, videos and infographics.

That’s because consumers want to know one thing when it comes to a brand: what’s in it for me?

What do I get by buying or using your product? Does it make my life easier? Will it make me more successful? Will I become more popular or attractive? How will it make me appear to others?

How do I benefit?

Yet most brands approach it from the other direction – it’s all me, me, me marketing: we are so great, this product is so amazing, it slices, it dices, it does it all.

But for who? Where is the customer in all this?

It’s like a date – would you want to spend an evening with someone who only talked about themselves, never pausing to ask a question or learn more about you? Probably not.

By orienting themselves toward their customer, brands become much more relevant. That orientation should drive all their marketing and communications.

Sure, a handful of companies, like Steve Jobs-era Apple, can lead the consumer with ineffable coolness, but that represents a very small minority of companies.

Most can’t, and shouldn’t.

Rather, they should approach their marketing and communications with the customer in mind. How does our product or service make their life better? Make the customer and how they benefit, not the brand, the center of the story.

That will force your marketing messages to become much more crisp. You will need to hone in on the real benefits of your offering, not the process by which you arrived at them.

It will also allow you to focus on truly understanding your customer: what they want, what they need, and the difference between the two.

Most brands avoid this, preferring the safety of mediocrity and “control” over their narcissistic messaging.  But at what cost?

Humans put themselves first, not the brands they deal with. By addressing the needs of customers directly, smart brands manage to capture scarce attention.

Allan Gates

Allan Gates is the president of Bonfire.