Bicycles, hot-water taps and changing your point of view

[Image courtesy of Mark Nicolson at Flickr Creative Commons]

Close your eyes and remember the last time you had a difference of opinion with somebody. Or a full-blown argument, for that matter.

Were you convinced you were right? Probably. And was the other person similarly convinced that they’d seen the light but you were stubbornly hanging onto an indefensible position?

Again, probably. And all of this hinges on one thing – as does almost all marketing.

Point of view.

I quietly cursed a cyclist the other day for threading through cars and cutting in front of me – even though I was stationary. And then, I began to laugh. For I remembered that when I’m on two wheels, it’s exactly what I do, blissfully unaware of cursing motorists.

So it really depends which side of the glass you’re on. And if you can get to this realisation, it transforms everything.

It’s something I learned when I read in a self-help book (if you’re a regular, you’ll know I’m something of an addict) about ‘reframing’.

That person isn’t angry with you in particular; they’re just under a lot of pressure and you happened to be in the line of fire. Your friend didn’t mean to snub you; they were just so pulled in all directions they didn’t remember to put you on the To line of the email. The world hasn’t conspired against you and your emailshot; 2% really is the response rate, and even then, you’ll be lucky.

Reframing allows you to take the facts and see them in a new way. And usually from somebody else’s point of view. So you can move from cyclist to motorist just by flipping a simple mental switch. 

And if you can do that, you can write like a reader.

Technical tangles

Imagine you’ve created a software solution (I hesitate to call it app, and program doesn’t quite cover it, so the ubiquitous solution it is, though it raises some people’s hackles).

It’s built on cutting-edge technology, and is robust and reliable. You’re proud of your baby, and you can’t stop talking about it. It has lots of bells and whistles, and you want to ring and blow all of them. 

And the people who will ultimately use the software are quite technical too, so you think tech-speak is the way to go.

And maybe it is. But only after you’ve carefully positioned it. Why? 

Because the people who are using it won’t necessarily be the ones making the buying decision or signing the cheques. They’ll need to persuade those who do of the business value of your solution. They’ll need to convince them that the savings justify the initial outlay, and that the short-term disruption isn’t going to outweigh the long-term benefits.

So when you produce your marketing materials, they really do need to be marketing materials. Yes, the tech needs to be there, but it also has to convince non-technical decision makers. 

And there’s another consideration: techies may well be technical (the clue’s in the name) but they’re also ordinary people, just like you and me.

They’re influenced by the the same words and phrases as everybody else – even if they say they’re not. They’re hooked by headlines, and captivated by stories. They’re also busy, and pulled in all directions, so promising to make their lives easier is a surefire way to get the attention.

So thinking like a reader doesn’t mean making general assumptions (they’re technical! they want to see tick-boxes of technologies! they don’t want marketing fluff!). Thinking like a reader means picturing where they’re coming from, and trying to imagine what they’re looking for from somebody like you.

It’s like creating word-picture of what it’ll be like once they’ve bought from you. And word-pictures can be hugely powerful. 

Tapping into emotion

A friend told me a few months ago about his instant boiling-water tap. At first, I was sceptical and failed to see why he couldn’t wait a few minutes for the kettle to boil. The cost – close on £2,000 – seemed disproportionate to the benefit.

And then he did something wonderful.

He created the most vivid word-picture I’ve heard in a long time. (He’s not a copywriter, but maybe he should be.)

It was early in the morning, I was in my dressing gown, walking across the kitchen in my bare feet – with underfloor heating, of course. Birds chirping, sun rising. Only thing missing was a piping-hot cup of tea to ease me into the day.

You get the picture. And so did I. In fact, I felt as if I was actually there.

You see what my friend did?

Knowing my aversion to shelling out hard-earned cash on pointless gizmos, he went in under the radar and appealed to my senses. He knows that I don’t function without a cup of tea in the morning.

He also knows I like to understand how things work, so the technology might also interest me. But it was the sensory experience of a mug of English breakfast – accompanied by a good book – that he chose as a way to penetrate my defences.

And it worked: I was almost ready to fork out the two grand for the tap. Until I remembered that it was a tap, and we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

So here’s the takeaway: if you want to connect, stop being you. Be them. Forget about the technology and the price tag, and focus on the experience – whether it’s boiling water or a whizz-bang CRM.

If you want to be in the driving seat, get out of the car and start pedalling.

It’ll get you where you want to be a whole lot faster.