This year’s Spark.me line-up impressed even the most veteran attendees who have come to expect only excellence from the annual conference. Having attended this year for the for the first time, I must say that from the moment I arrived for the opening ceremony I could feel the excitement and anticipation in the air, and I knew I wouldn’t leave disappointed.
Though all the speakers were fantastic, it was Mark Schaefer’s one-liners that challenged me the most and filled me with gumption and drive as I considered the impact these truths could have on my own work.
#1. “People will believe a review from a stranger over advertising from your company every time.”
As any good presentation would, Schaefer’s talk began with the problem explaining that the days of pushing advertisements and seeing results are over. People have grown tired of constantly being bombarded with commercials of companies all claiming to be the best, and this constant exposure has led to repulsion and distrust. People now prefer to make their purchasing decisions based on a complete stranger’s input rather than that of your promotion, which no doubt boasts the obviously superb qualities of your product, because experience has told them that they simply cannot trust you. You sell the product; of course, you are going to say it’s great. But, in the eyes of today’s consumer, the more influential and valuable input comes from the average reviewer who’s seen as a neutral party and fills the role of trusted advisor.
#2. “If loyalty isn’t enough, what do you do?”
As Schaefer drove home the concept, he made the problem personal as he asked, “if loyalty isn’t enough, what do you do?”, and it felt as if the entire room gasped at the thought. What do we do now? If this isn’t a question you’re already asking in your workplace, it should be. Advertising is expensive, and in the world of start-ups, we know well that money doesn’t grow on trees. So, how do we make the most of our marketing resources and convince our audience to choose our product over any other?
#3. “I don’t know that I love the brand, but I love the people who made it.”
At the center of it all, Schaefer proposed love as the answer. Right about now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking “love – I thought this was a presentation on marketing; how can love be the answer?!” But, think about it. The days of being loyal to a company or a brand are over, but one thing remains – we still love people. In fact, Schaefer shared the story of a friend who had chosen a local soap manufacturer over a popular household name (Ivory). To his surprise as he inquired about her choice, his friend shared the entire story of the company’s start, the people who work there, and the way they support and improve the local community. When asked about the quality of the product and the brand, she answered with, “I don’t know that I love the brand, but I love the people who make it.”
#4. “The most human company will win.”
So, how do we illicit that sort of response from our audience? How do we make them love us? In essence, our humanness builds the connection between our company and our potential customers. People don’t want to buy from a huge conglomerate; they want to buy from someone they know and trust. It has become less about the product one buys and more about the people who produced it. In a sense, consumers want more for their money; not only do they want a superior product, they also want the feeling of pride as they become part of something greater by investing in people who inspire them.
#5. “Consistency is more important than genius.”
Sometimes we can become paralyzed by the search for the perfect idea, but Schaefer argues that in the world of humanness, it’s consistency more than genius that matters. As distrust continues to plague the consumer’s outlook on the commercial world, consistency from a plethora of people is the answer. As a marketer, you want to create natural avenues through which you can share honest stories. Some of our greatest influencers now are our employees – people who have connections with the average consumer. Have you given them a platform to share their stories? What about your consumers? Are you giving them opportunities to share why they love “the people who made it”?
#6. “Passion without a plan is just a hobby.”
As entrepreneurs, we want our businesses to be successful and many of us have built our businesses based on an idea that drives us, wakes us up in the morning, and propels us forward. But, without a plan and without concentrated action, our passion will remain a hobby and will leave us with an empty bank account and ideas of what could have been. To avoid that bleak outlook becoming a reality, we need a plan. How can you share honest stories of everyday people who propel your brand forward because of their love for your people? How are you going to drive consistency in these stories and their release? Ultimately, you want people to be filled with expectation and anticipation as they wait for the next story to be released. And, they won’t expect that which they aren’t exposed to on a regular basis, so get your team together and plan!
Now it’s your turn. How will you put these concepts into action?