Kathy Klotz-Guest

Posts Tagged ‘keeping it human’

Great Marketing Answers the “Why”

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Leaders sell ideas and inspiration, not services.  They are adept at answering “the Why” – why they do what they do.  It is a fundamental human question. People often buy products and services based on a feeling of connection rather than on some objective, decision-making criteria. Yep. Humans are rarely completely rational, as Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, posits in his work.

Yet, that’s exactly how most marketing approaches work – by aiming at a “rational” consumer mindset with details on “how” and “what.” That’s why most marketing is forgettable and ineffective. Recently, I re-watched a great TED talk by Simon Sinek, author of “Start with the Why.”  His premise is that the “how” and the “what” in marketing are not as important as the “why.”  Great organizations answer the “why” – why they do what they do. That targets something “visceral” in people, bypassing the “logic” brain, and allowing for messages to connect at a more human level. This approach inspires action.

As Sinek jokes, Martin Luther King, Jr., inspired people with his “I have a dream” speech, not his “I have a plan” speech. Dr. King was driven by a dream for a better America, not by a technical, detailed-filled plan. He spoke to our common humanity and sense of shared values. And he wrapped up the “why” in a story – the most human of communications agents. He aimed his “sell” not at the audience’s “heads.” Rather, he targeted their hearts and their beliefs. Leaders tell stories bigger than themselves. We want to see people better themselves and achieve greatness because it inspires the achiever in us.

This is a critical point for marketers who focus too much on the “what” and “how.” Companies that lead sell a vision and inspire – they don’t sell technical and economic details. Sure profits matter, yet they are the result of “why” we do what we do.

To see the difference why makes, I will start with my own company. I sell marketing services including market research and strategy, product facilitation, content plans, and marketing communications. I do this by approaching marketing completely from the human needs of the customer. The results are increased profits.  Not altogether inspiring, is it? Sure, you know that I value customers; but shouldn’t every great marketer? This approach tells you nothing about why I do what I do.

A Better “Why” to Market

I started Keeping it Human because I knew that marketing could be so much better. It could be “human.” I came out of high-tech, and saw wonderful products being marketed in the most un-human ways. “Solutions, platforms, methodologies, disruptive technology…” It was all company-focused rather than focused on the human challenges customers face.  It was full of jargon that didn’t matter. No one talked in simple, honest, or funny stories that honored people. Who says marketing can’t at times be funny? What drives me is a deep belief that there is a better way for customers and companies.

Now let’s try my marketing statement again with a focus on the “why.”

Keeping it Human challenges the status quo of company-focused, jargon-laden marketing that treats customers like “targets” with dollar signs on their backs instead of like people. We inject a human element into everything we do from creating products that solve human challenges to speaking in powerful human stories and narratives that move people to action. As a result, we improve profits and customer relationships while improving interactions for customers, too.

Better, right? The important thing is why you do what you do. What inspires you? People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. You are selling to people who believe what you believe. And in that “why,” your audience sees themselves. It’s not about you – it’s about something much bigger.

Another great example is TOMS Shoes. TOMS’ entire model is about giving. They don’t just make shoes. What they do is fulfill a tremendous need by giving a pair of shoes to a child in a developing country for every pair of shoes sold.  Buy one, give one is their motto. Their shoes aren’t the cheapest or best made shoes on the market. That is irrelevant, because people buy TOMS because they believe in the mission of the company. It’s the “why” that matters.

Zappos is another powerful illustration of “why.” Zappos isn’t about the merchandise you can buy. You can likely find better deals elsewhere. That’s not the point. Tony Hsieh started Zappos because his mission was all about providing the best possible customer service and customer experience possible for online shopping. In fact, he started the company with this mission before he decided what merchandise to sell! There are great examples of “why” in every industry, including technology. “Think Different,” is Apple’s why. This drives Apple’s commitment to quality, user-friendly, and easy-to-use products.

Marketing is Evangelism…to the Converted

By leveraging the “why,” you are targeting enthusiasts, people who make decisions based on intuition – the leaders. This is especially true for technology companies when you consider how diffusion of innovation occurs within markets. It is the leaders – the enthusiast early adopters – that are willing to buy based on an idea, sometimes unproven. Then, they help you improve your product and help you “sell” to the larger majority by word of mouth. If you don’t have these people on board, well, so much for crossing the infamous “chasm” and capturing the market majority. Their endorsement is critical.

Finding Your “Why”

As you think about the human reasons behind your company, focus on telling the “why” in your larger company narrative. It’s far more important than your individual services. Rethink your traditional time-based company biography. It is irrelevant. Communicate why you get up every day and what motivates you. Great marketers and leaders communicate with heart, conviction and soul. By aiming at that most critical human level, your message has a greater chance of hitting exactly where it needs to connect most – viscerally.


“Yes, and!” Your Way from Human Potential to Human Capital

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2011 at 11:17 pm

The Center for Creative Leadership writes about four mindsets that inhibit positive organizational change. One of those mindsets that pervades and stops progress in its tracks is a “yes, but…” mentality.

You know the type of thinking that keeps us from moving forward. We hear it every day.  Yet, often times this insidious negative framing operates at a threshold below most peoples’ awareness. How important is language in the way we frame change? Language is everything. Positive change and innovative collaboration operate on a “yes, and!” openness.  “Yes, and!” is a recognition that each person in an organization plays an important part and yet no one person controls the final outcome.

“Yes, but…” by contrast is about control – trying to control outcomes. Does any one person have control over innovation? The answer is no – we influence to be sure, yet we never exert total control. Collaboration and change cannot happen with a “yes, but…” way of thinking at any level of the organization. In improvisation, we call this “denying an offer” and that can have a negative impact on the final outcome because one person is trying to “drive” the scene to his or her desired result.

The same is true in business when we co-create. Have you ever tried to collaborate with someone who used the “yes, but…” control device with you? Exactly how long would it take you to stop trying to generate fresh ideas when you are “stopped” at every turn with a “but?” That’s precisely what happens in many organizations. The “yes, but” stops innovative thinking and behavior long before most organizations are aware of its pervasiveness. Yet, change is an activity that requires collaboration in order to succeed.

We need to change our perspective and change our language by adopting a “yes, and!” orientation. Try “yes, and!” the next time during brainstorming, and see the effect on energy in the room. When we let go of the idea that we have control, we stop trying so hard to control a particular outcome. That frees us up to focus on our own contributions, and allows the best ideas to spring up as people co-create together. A “yes, and” approach to collaboration, innovation and change is the difference between untapped human potential and realized human capital.

Next time you’re in a meeting notice how many “yes, buts” occur. When you have the chance, “yes, and!’” see how that  one small difference can change the collaborative environment – and results! –  in your world.