We all know that famous line from the Wolf Of Wall Street – “Sell me this pen” – where a salesperson ability to sell is determined based on how they approach the scenario of selling a pen to a customer. The usual response is to rattle off the features and benefits that this particular pen provides. However, the supposed ideal response from the movie occurs when a man takes the pen away from Leonardo (playing Jordan) and asks him to write down his contact details on a napkin. In which, Leonardo replies “I don’t have a pen”. In which the man smirks and responds “Exactly”. The lesson here being that creating urgency and supply/demand is enough to facilitate a sale of the pen. It’s a valid point, and one that works well in a movie. But something about it doesn’t sit right with me. (Aside from the ethical considerations of profiting via manipulating a user’s immediate environment).

If someone asked me to sell a pen to them – my response would be an emphatic ‘No’. Even if the pen is a metaphor, it’s fundamentally pushing a product onto a customer you know little about. Interruption marketing is in a state of decline. You only need to look as far as the rise of ad-blocking to understand consumers are sick of products and services being pushed onto them. Even as the ROI continues to diminish from traditional forms of advertising, the same mindset is still being adopted by many online.

Selling and marketing must be based on personalised and contextually-relevant targeting that consumers will find useful. If a user finds your content useful, it will NOT be viewed as an advertisement. However to provide this level of targeting you need to know who your user is and why your product will solve their problem(s).

By gaining permission from your consumer you can break through the clutter and clearly understand the pain points for a particular segment of the market. Then the following will no longer require guesswork:

  • Which channel(s) to target?
  • What does our consumer journey looks like?
  • Where are each of his/her touch-points?
  • What are his/her beliefs and world-view?
  • How should I position my product?

Here are just a few tools I use to help understand my user:

But most importantly – nothing beats getting in the trenches and physically talking to your users. Even if you are already profitable, how well do you truly know your customer-base? There are always ways to optimise and further improve profitability by understanding your users on a more granular level.

Stop persuading and selling – throw the pen away and start understanding your consumer.

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