Are you here because you want to increase revenue for your organization through content marketing? You’re in the right place!
But fair warning: I’m about to tell you why you shouldn’t want that. Not at first.
First, you should buy coffee.
Allow me to explain with a little story about when I began to learn about sales and empathy.
DR. G SAYS THE MAGIC WORDS
It was in a talk therapy session. I was meeting with Dr. G (I won’t drag his name into this) because I had been in outside sales for a few months and was completely freaking out.
I felt panicked because I had left a retail sales job with AT&T with good pay but bad hours to work a radio sales gig that was 8 to 5 but had terrible pay.
It was sink or swim, and I felt like I was drowning.
My second child was on the way. I couldn’t sell a 13-week schedule of spots if my life depended on it (and it sorta did). My manager was busy selling most of the time, but even when she was around I didn’t know what to ask her.
That’s how Dr. G became my unofficial sales manager.
I told him how much I hated walking into businesses offering nothing but air. Literally. AT&T had trained me to ask questions, listen, offer solutions and ask for the sale. I knew how to do that.
I did not yet know how to convince someone to buy something intangible, on their turf, without feeling like an intruder.
Dr. G’s suggestion was brilliant.
He said I should try bringing my prospects a cup of coffee.
I must have scoffed, which prompted him to say the words that would change my professional life.
“They don’t want to talk about advertising,” he said. “They want a cup of coffee.”
WHAT DOES A CUP OF COFFEE MEAN?
At first, this was incredibly discouraging. It would be great news if I were a coffee salesman. Alas, I was not.
It took me a while to realize how incredibly empowering those words were.
Now I look back at that as the moment I began to understand what it means to bring a cup of coffee to someone when you’re not selling coffee.
A few months later, I went to work for the NPR station at Ball State University. Even though it was another radio sales role, I thought it would be different. It was public radio. My clients would feel good about supporting it.
I quickly learned that while that was the case for some advertisers (we say “underwriters” in pubmedia, but whatever), most of the time the dynamic was the same. I may be offering air with purpose, but it’s still air nonetheless.
They didn’t want what I was selling, not primarily. They wanted “coffee.”
What I mean is, the people I was approaching always, without exception, had other wants and needs that took priority for them over what I was offering.
Somewhere along the way, an epiphany took shape.
What if I tried meeting those needs first?
What if … (and this was a biggie) … doing anything less was just an effort to manipulate people?
DON’T WATCH WHAT YOU DO AND SAY, BUT WHY
I exceeded my sales goal every year after that for one simple reason: I started approaching everybody with the intent to solve whatever problems I could, regardless of whether my product was part of the solution.
I served on boards for causes I cared about with no idea whether there would be a professional benefit.
I connected people with other marketing resources, knowing they might not throw any dollars my way.
I even bought literal coffee for people. (Yeah, two or even THREE whole dollars. I’m a frickin’ saint.)
Here’s the key: I let go of trying to do it with a transaction in mind. The transactional mindset is why I wasn’t able to execute Dr. G’s advice at first.
On some level, I knew offering to fulfill needs while having a transactional mindset was really just manipulating people into thinking I was good guy so they would do business with me.
Over time, people would have seen through that and dismissed me as a fraud.
And they would have been right.
Instead, I became a problem solver by developing an empathetic mindset. I began to care more about the real value I could offer rather than the dollar value of my actions.
To put it another way:
Practicing empathy builds character. People want do business with people of character.
I thought I needed to increase revenue for my organization. What I really needed was to practice empathy.
I just needed to bring people coffee.
FROM TRANSACTION TO EMPATHY TO CONNECTION
Since then, I have been incorporating the exact same mindset into content I write for clients. What do your customers actually want and need?
They don’t want or need to know how awesome you are. They want their problems solved.
How can you help them do that, regardless of the immediate dollar value for you? If we approach content that way, it has meaning beyond just getting attention and making money in the short term.
It becomes a means of genuine connection.
In your sales and marketing activities, in your blogs, in your emails and all other marketing content, you will have more success in the long run if you stop trying to manipulate people into purchasing your product or service and start trying to solve their problems instead.
See? Increasing revenue is not really what we’re talking about here. Your primary concern has to be getting your audience what they really need. It’s all about the coffee.
Of course, making money will come as a lovely side effect. You can count on that.