I am a firm believer that deep down inside, people want to do the right thing. Perhaps it is my Economics training – a key foundation for this field of study is that consumers will typically make a decision that improves their well-being. Of course, if that decision is good for you, but not good for society, then the theories of Economics don’t always explain how decisions are made, or necessarily lead to decisions being made for the greatest common good. In these cases we need a trusted advisor.
Quite often it can be difficult to say the “right” thing with family or friends. Most of us want to see our family and friends achieve success, meet their goals, and feel good about what they are contributing to society. The reality, however, doesn’t always work out as smoothly. The truth can be hurtful or damaging, or at least appear to be at the time.
Adding further complexity to our decision-making capacity, everyone is more busy today than ever before. More activities must be tended to, more distractions exist, and every day we are being bombarded with thousands of product suggestions, outfit options or other shopping needs we are told we simply must have from the advertising and social community.
Given the world of accelerated confusion and complexity, it is no wonder that people are struggling with how to make good decisions, and do so quickly. No longer is it possible to do the level of research and investigation – including personal contact and discussion – before making every decision. We are all looking for shortcuts to get the task at hand done, so we can get on to the next one.
The Need for a Trusted Advisor in Marketing Communications
The aforementioned environment has created an enormous service economy to help us make better decisions, and to do so with greater speed, less effort and with accountability. If you shop at Nordstrom, you have access to a personal shopper who can accompany you throughout the store, suggesting what clothes look good on you, and would fit well with your style or other purchases.
The same process exists online. I won’t consider an online purchase now unless I can read reviews, such as those on Yelp or other sites. The same can be said for our personal brands. We all track how many followers or friends we have in our social circles, as well as how many mentions we get on our anniversaries or birthdays. The higher the count, the more we feel validated and take more seriously what is said. We want to be validated, we want to know we are doing the right thing, and we want help in making all the decisions now part of our everyday lives.
As a marketer, are you taking advantage of this social, cultural transformation? Have you adapted your marketing campaigns, messaging and public relations strategies to play the role of trusted advisor, or subject matter expert? Are you helping to ease the decision process being made by your customers? Are you helping to overcome the complexity or lack of time / resources / effort your customers might have for your product? If not, what can be done to address this challenge?
The Role of Awareness in Marketing Strategy
The organizations that understand this social transformation have invested considerable time and effort to position themselves as the thought leader that understands their customer’s challenges – and the company that has the best solutions to address it.
This strategy can be easier said than done. The world is not black and white. Considerable areas of ambiguity exist where decisions must be made. Here is where hiring the right team to execute upon your vision is critical. One bad decision can explode into a real Public Relations nightmare. Just look at what happened with United Airlines, and the decision that was made to limit the amount of vouchers offered on overbooked flights. We all know of Dr. David Dao’s situation, and his recent retirement based on receiving a nice big check from United, after he was forcibly removed from his flight. Now we know that the price of being bumped off your flight just went up – it could now be as high as $10,000 on a future United flight.
One area that can be particularly challenging is when a friend asks you for a recommendation or to help with making a decision. You may not be in agreement with their choice. They might have already made up their mind, and are just looking for you to support their decision. This may be the right move with a friend or spouse. But, in the world of business, this type of situation becomes potentially quite risky. Those who have worked at a startup know that it is better to raise an issue early and be upfront with a customer or prospect if what they are asking for doesn’t yet exist. The risk of staying quiet today could come back tomorrow and cost much more, potentially killing the company (in some scenarios). The upside of being honest: earned trust as an advisor.
Properly executed, a marketing awareness strategy that conveys how a company understands its market, can make problems go away and can help customers to simplify their lives goes a long way. This type of strategy can gain a life of its own, becoming an integral part of brand equity – a very valuable asset that can have a lot of staying power, through good times and bad.
Gordon Benzie is a marketing and sales communications professional that specializes in creating and executing marketing communications strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.