If You Want To Be A Better Marketer, Study The Homeless

I wrote this post originally for LinkedIn’s marketing and advertising section

The skill set it takes to be a successful marketer is a completely different skill set than the one you needed to be successful a decade ago. If you’re a marketer today, you have to understand that in order to get people to do something for you, whether it’s buy your product, share your post, or click a link to your website, you have to provide people value.

When your marketing is aimed at giving value first, instead of just constantly trying to bombard and interrupt consumers with ads asking people to buy your product, then people will feel more inclined to buy from you. This is because marketing works best when it’s not intrusive and when it aims to bring value to the consumer. Marketing that interrupts will tend to always be ignored.

What does your business marketing strategy have to do with the homeless?

The problem with most businesses today is that marketers are looking for 100% of the relationship from the consumer while giving no value or effort in return. It’s either “Buy this” or “Click this link,” and no one is asking themselves, “What can I do to help our audience?” “How can I make their life better?”

This focus on personal interest is the reason why it’s so difficult for homeless people to receive help from strangers. The reason most people hate being approached by homeless people or why more people don’t give more dollars to homeless people is because homeless people have no interest for the people who can potentially better their lives. When you look at a homeless person’s sign, it’s always something about who they are and why we should help them out: “I’m a homeless vet, I lost my job, I have four kids, give me money please.”

This is how they choose to market themselves, but this doesn’t make anyone want to help them out, it only makes us pity them. Instead if their sign said something like, “YOUR contribution, YOUR help, YOUR little act of generosity can make such a huge difference in my life” and then explain what that contribution means to them, people would be happier and therefore more inclined to help them out because they placed the importance on us instead of on themselves.

This is how businesses today are choosing to market themselves, but this is the wrong method of marketing anything nowadays.

How can your business learn to give value?

In order for someone to feel compelled to click on your ad, to share your video, or to buy your product, it comes down to how much value you’ve given them. And providing value simply means putting out content that is relevant and interesting to your audience.

This means that if you’re an airline company for example, you can’t just put out another picture of a plane with a boring description talking about how great you are and expect it to convert into sales. Instead, you have to put out content that adds value to your audience: Talk about secret tips that people don’t know about that will make traveling easier for them, teach them about how to get better deals, or tell an emotional story about someone who’s using your airline to visit his girlfriend who he’s planning on proposing to.

Putting out content that your audience actually wants to see will result in more sales than if you just put out another boring ad trying to convince people why they should use you.

If your business is hotels, differentiate yourself by providing value through other means other than through unoriginal ads of nice rooms and low prices. Bill Marriott, who founded and grew the Marriott hotel chain into one of the largest in the world, does this extremely well through his blog, which is considered to be one of the best blogs around. The company chairman actually writes all of his own posts, and it’s this personal involvement that has won his site many loyal fans.

Interestingly, Bill isn’t trying to sell anything on his blog. He isn’t trying to convince people why they should stay at his hotels. He’s just trying to add value to his audience by telling stories of what it’s like to run a hotel. Marriott doesn’t always write about the hotel business, but his content is interesting and engaging enough that it raises brand awareness by building value with his audience. As a result, the company has reported selling millions of dollars worth of bookings in direct sales through this blog.

When you give your audience value, a funny thing happens, you actually make them want to give value back to you.

Parting thoughts

Businesses and marketers would be way more successful if the first interaction between business and consumer wasn’t an ad telling them why they should buy their product. They would be way more successful if they provided value first and actually cared about me as a customer and our relationship. As a result, if I felt like I was special to them, I would be less hesitant to say no and would feel happier about giving them my money.

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14 thoughts on “If You Want To Be A Better Marketer, Study The Homeless

  1. Interesting post… “They would be way more successful if they provided value first and actually cared about me as a customer and our relationship.”- simple logic yet many failed to recognize! I hope many marketers would get to read your post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. oh wow thank you Nina! I’m honored:) I do have over 200 followers though:/ I don’t normally do these so don’t be mad if I don’t:/ I really do appreciate your kind words, it really means a lot to me:))

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No problem at all! I was actually thinking that perhaps you do have more than 200 followers (given the quality of your blog)…anyways, I couldn’t see so… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Vincent, Interesting post – Initially with the title I was like have I not read this before. But, I realised it was different. Really good stuff and things to think about, and 100% useful and implementable . Thanks for the guidance.

    Loved this line ” In order for someone to feel compelled to click on your ad, to share your video, or to buy your product, it comes down to how much value you’ve given them. And providing value simply means putting out content that is relevant and interesting to your audience. ”

    Thanks for this and the hotel example
    Thanks again. Bella

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have read something similar to this. I wrote a post titled “give value first: what entrepreneurs, charities and homeless people do wrong.” Where I use the homeless people analogy, but that post was in WordPress format and so I changed things and added stuff to it to make it LinkedIn format. I actually liked that it sounded familiar to you though, it means you didn’t completely forget my post:)

      Liked by 1 person

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