Why your marketing should start a conversation

Does your marketing bludgeon customers with information or invite them into a conversation?

You know you want a small dose of normalcy right now, so I’ve decided not to write about the you-know-what.

When something fundamentally alters the way we go about our day-to-day lives, you clearly have to adjust at least some aspect of your marketing strategy. But to be effective at marketing we must maintain some focus on sharpening skills that transcend the times. Like my preceding columns, the insights I’m sharing today work just as well in good times, bad times, and weird times.

Invitations vs. Explanations

People quickly tire of having things explained to them. Effective marketing is about starting conversations. Whatever industry you’re in, you must show that you understand the problems and aspirations of your clients. Expertise without taking in perspectives is bunk.

Here are three simple tweaks you can make to your marketing to invite people into a conversation.

Use second-person pronouns

Wherever there’s a first-person pronoun on your website (“I,” “We” and “Our”), see if you can re-phrase it to include second-person pronouns (such as “You” and “Your”).

For instance, say you have an educational nonprofit that fights children’s illiteracy and hunger. Instead of saying, “We help children to overcome poverty-related illiteracy and malnutrition,” you could say, “Your contributions empower children to overcome poverty-related illiteracy and malnutrition.”

Now the story isn’t about you. It’s about your donors. It’s empowering. You’ve invited them into a story.

Replace statements with questions

Re-phrase your ads and other marketing collateral from statements into questions.

Whether you’re networking remotely or at an industry event, you’re in the company of smart, accomplished people. They have plenty of information and perspective. But you really don’t want to be “just another smart businessperson in an undifferentiated sea of smart people floating products and ideas.”

An effective, easy way to differentiate yourself is to invite people into a conversation with a question.  An informational flier that says, “The ROI of different home energy upgrades” will only interest people who are actively seeking an offering like yours in that moment. By contrast, a flier that says, “How do home energy upgrades pan out financially?” practically forces people to ask themselves, “Should I get a home energy audit?”

Establish common ground by answering two big questions

If you can answer two questions, you’ve got 50 percent of your branding figured out:

  • What inspires us that also inspires our customers?
  • What pisses us off that also pisses off our customers?

To demonstrate this, I made up an imaginary equity crowdfunding firm called Buoyancy Crowdfunding:

“At Buoyancy, we go to work every morning driven by two beliefs. First, visionary entrepreneurs can solve seemingly unsolvable problems. Second, investing in startups shouldn’t be the unique playing field of the ultra-rich.”


Engage, don’t explain.

Ronald Reagan famously said, “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.”

This article isn’t a political commentary, but good advice is good advice. Like him or not, President Reagan was an effective and persuasive communicator.

If you invite people into a conversation, they’ll ask for your insights. Neither you nor they will feel like you’re bludgeoning them with information.

Categories: Sales & Marketing