Hello, do you speak Customer?

Product vs. Customer-oriented marketing
Product vs. Customer-oriented marketing

Marketing people, as much as they try to convince you otherwise, only speak two languages: (1) Product and (2) Customer.

Let’s see how plain English translates to these two languages:

In Product, “refrigerator” means “400-liter capacity.” In Customer, it means “Enough space to keep a week’s food for your family fresh and healthy. And the beers for tonight’s game with friends ice-cold.”

In Product, “eco engine” means “1.3-liter turbocharged Ecoboost technology.” In Customer, it means “Save money on fuel and get more fun out of every drop with our new 1.3-liter turbocharged engine.”

Customers speak native Customer, yet most marketers still try to speak to them in Product—a language they barely understand and have no intent to learn. But when you don’t speak someone’s language, does it really matter how much you try to get your message through to them?

Marketers already know how to speak Product and learning Customer is really hard, so they choose to speak the first and avoid the latter. That’s just what humans do (when faced with choice, we tend to choose the option we perceive the easiest), unless convinced otherwise.

So how are you trying to convince your organization’s marketers to stop speaking their native language for everyone’s good, even though that’s hard?

Clean your car

Carwash icon

Drive your car to the car wash and then take it out for a spin. Feel the comfort of having it clean as a whistle.

Get a flower pot or piece of decoration you’ve always wanted to have at the office and make your workspace more cozy.

Find a notebook with paper so good (Moleskine) that it makes you write or sketch with more precision than before.

Never underestimate the effect of neatness on your life.

Always question the obvious

How to fight mediocrity

In every organization, there’s the obvious that never gets questioned.

Why are you focusing on these features in your product? Is your value proposition clear enough for customers to get? Have you ever thought about user personas? Is there a better way to reach out to potential customers than the way you’re doing it right now? Does your team have all the know-how they need or do they need training from an expert?

‘That’s just how we do things,’ you’ll hear them say. But ask them why, and you’ll hear the likes of: ‘it’s simply better this way’ or ‘it’s just how it is in our business, industry, city, country, century…’

Mediocrity thrives in the obvious. The viable way to fight it is to question the very reason for its existence. So keep asking ‘why,’ until you’ve destroyed every last bit of it. Only then can you start to look for real, unbiased answers to your questions.

[Some readers asked me to elaborate on this post. There’s more than meets the eye behind the ‘That’s just obvious!’ mindset. Often, you’re dealing with conscious incompetence — when somebody doesn’t understand how to do their work, they know they need to change, but they knowingly ignore the fact. The reason might be somewhere in management, culture, or good ol’ employee stubbornness.

Conscious incompetence

Whatever the reason, this is a dangerous mindset to have. As a leader, you need to find the cause and uproot it before it’s grown out of control and started to hurt your business’ performance.

The only obvious thing that everyone in your organization needs to know is that they need to avoid the obvious.]

Focus on your customer

Focus on the customer

The biggest mistake you can make when talking about your product is wanting to say too much.

Of course your product has many great features that set it apart from its competition. It’s also great that you’re an experienced team that’s wants to make the world a better place.

That doesn’t tell me how you’re going to solve my problem; the same problem that brought me to your site, contact form, or sales rep in the first place.

It’s tempting to lose focus and start rambling about how great of a company you are and how innovative of a product you’ve made. In fact, marketers do it so often that they fool themselves it  really works. But it doesn’t.

Remember: Make it about the customer. It’s their pains and problems you’re trying to solve. That’s what you should focus on, and not on winning a beauty contest.

The secret to giving great customer support is…

Giving great customer support

To want to solve your customers’ problems in the first place. Today’s competition is tough. There are so many great products and services out there that saying ‘it’s not a bug, it’s a feature’ doesn’t cut it anymore. To differentiate, you must solve problems — especially the ones that customers are having with your own product or service.

To be authentic and honest. Whatever your support reps do, just make sure they don’t go ‘Thank you for taking the time to submit a feature request! We are actively working on making Product X better and will take your idea into consideration’ on your customers. Because they’ll find a company that actually looks into their message, figures out what they’re trying to do, and shows them exactly how to do it with their products (not yours).

To do support to discover problems instead of to deny them. Set up a weekly meeting where your support reps report customers’ pains and problems to the entire board. Make it a requirement to take action after every meeting. Give your support reps wings and they’ll help your customers fly.

The secret to great customer support is caring about your customers, product, and business. It’s about wanting to do what you do a little better than how you did it yesterday.

What’s the optimal elevator pitch formula?

[Company name] helps [target customers] do [customers' goal] with [unique advantage]
The optimal elevator pitch formula: [Company name] helps [target customers] do [customers’ goal] with [unique advantage]
Imagine you meet an important venture capitalist in an elevator. You have 60 seconds to persuade them to invest in your business. By the time your ride is over, you try to interest them to continue your conversation. Your ‘elevator pitch,’ or how you present your business in those critical 60 seconds, has to be clear enough to make the VC want to see you again.

Let’s use this formula to create our own elevator pitch for a fictional consulting business:

Do Better coaches seed-stage startup founders how to create products and services customers want with Value Proposition Design.

In other words, an elevator pitch is a one-or-two sentence statement that defines who you are, who your target customers are, what you’re trying to help them achieve, and who else is trying to do the same.

A good elevator pitch’s use isn’t limited to wooing VCs in elevators. You expose your business to customers, investors, partners, even friends and family every single day. What’s the link between all of these target audiences? They all have limited time and attention when getting introduced to new things. To stick in their minds, your pitch has to get to the point and sound interesting.

Do you suffer from marketing myopia?

Marketing Myopia

Many marketers pay more attention to their products or services than to the benefits and experiences that they create for their customers.

Are you one of them? Here’s a quick way to check:

If you know what your product does by heart, but find it hard to explain what your customers are trying to achieve with them…

If your website, banners, brochures, and other promotional materials talk about features instead of speaking to your customers…

If you don’t conduct customer interviews, analyze customer feedback, and spend time each month to understand usage data…

Then you’re suffering from marketing myopia.

“If an organization does not know or care where it is going, it does not need to advertise that fact with a ceremonial figurehead. Everybody will notice it soon enough.”

– Theodore Levitt

Thankfully, all it takes to cure yourself, your team, and your entire organization, is a change in mindset.

7 things you can do to start closing more sales today

How to close more sales

Prospect for at least an hour every day. If you have trouble staying motivated, understand where you stand on the marshmallow issue and learn how to do something about it.

Having said that, make 100 cold calls a week (that’s 20 every day). If that seems like a number too high for you, read the story of Wilbur You or watch The Pursuit of Happyness (yes, it’s spelled correctly).

Share something of value with your top prospects. Send them a relevant article you stumbled upon. Invite them to a useful webinar. Introduce them to potential business partners.

Attend 3+ networking events per month. They don’t have to be big, expensive seminars. Search for and go to local networking events.

Write one blog post a day. If writing isn’t your thing, make it one blog post a week.

See how others are selling and learn from them.

Work on your LinkedIn connections 2 hours a week.

Why you’ll never make good money freelancing (and what to do about it)

Being a freelancer vs. Being a consultant

A friend asked me how she could make more money as a freelancer. ‘You can’t,’ I told her. ‘Why not position yourself as a consultant instead?’

You drive your price down by being a freelancer.

You’re seen as a temporary worker hired to design a logo, code a website, or write 500 pages of copy. You can get the job done faster than a full-time employee and at a lower cost (compare a $60,000/year salary to a $10,000 project lasting one quarter). No matter how great your talent, price is always negotiable since there’s so much labor supply online.

You bring your price up by being a consultant.

You get hired to help your clients reduce costs, optimize processes, and increase profits. You work with, and not for, senior-level and mid-level managers. Your price is hard to negotiate because supply for consultants, especially good ones, is scarce.

See the difference?

As a freelancer, you’re a cost.

Costs are generally meant to be kept low.

As a consultant, you’re an investment.

Bigger investments generate bigger returns.

The next time a client asks you how much to design a logo, ask them back if they have branding guidelines. When they want you to write a 500-word article, check if they have a content strategy that matches their goals.

Do the strategic work and outsource the rest to freelancers. You’ll be surprised by the creative freedom you’ll get as a planner instead of a doer.

Take your users out to lunch


Your users are, above all, human. And humans like to talk about their hopes and pains.

At an early stage, the most effective way to understand your startup’s users is to speak with them — collecting helpful insights without having to worry about scalability yet.

So reach out to your users with an open mind and friendly attitude.

Invite them to share their thoughts about your product or service on email.

Call them to ask how they feel about using your product or service.

Ask them out to lunch to talk about their needs and problems.

Spend as much time talking to your actual users as you can, without losing focus on your everyday work. Try to understand their perspective. Learn to speak their language. Ask why they trusted you instead of your competition.