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Confessions of a hypocrite

I sometimes catch myself being a hypocrite. When it happens, it’s never a pleasant realization. Sometimes the awareness comes from learning new information, sudden enlightenment, or seeing the results of my own actions. However it occurs, I usually give myself a figurative smack on the forehead and try to correct course moving forward.

There’s another kind of hypocrisy where we willfully suspend and ignore our normal way of thinking. When we’re in that state, it’s possible to say or do things we would otherwise find annoying or offensive if said or done to us. It happens in our own industry! 

I’m talking about impersonal mass marketing. The hypocrisy arises when an industry that prides itself on the personal human touch, relies on the opposite in an attempt to attract new business. I’ve done it myself, and even taught others to do it as well. After a few more smacks on the forehead, I believe there is a way to eliminate the conflict.

Don’t worry. I’m not suggesting an end to mass marketing – far from it. I am however, suggesting a more human approach.

Think People – Not Targets

While a spreadsheet or market analysis might represent me as a “target,” I certainly don’t think of myself that way. I’m sure you don’t either. We are all real people with real human likes, dislikes, charms and flaws.

Like most people these days, I receive mountains of generic marketing muck aimed at my assumed demographic group. Much to the disappointment of its generators, I do not get giddy with excitement when it arrives. Instead, I toss it in the trash or click the SPAM button.

The worst offenders come with ill-conceived openers like “as an entrepreneur, you’ll love…” or “stop suffering from…” or “as a senior you must be concerned…” Ugh. They all pretend to know me, but only prove that they do not. Any business using such tactics is wasting their time with me, and I have a feeling I’m not alone.

Sadly, as I said before, I’m a hypocrite. I’ve crafted many a catchy promotional phrase over the years and helped others do the same. I believe however, that we can transform all of our marketing efforts into something much more effective and important.

From Targeting To Human Connections

Let’s assume that I am a potential client for you. In marketing terms my demographics include: male, late 50’s, married, lives in the city, and business owner. 

There is definitely enough in that profile to market AT me, but not enough to actually connect WITH me. To be fair, sometimes that’s all the information you have. That is, IF you were dealing with unknown prospects. However, clients and well-known prospects are constantly telling you many more important things about themselves! All you need to do is pay attention. 

Here’s an example: if I walked into your office wearing a short-sleeved shirt, you’d immediately know that I love tattoos (I’m covered with them). If you took note of the gadget in my hand you’d see that I usually have the latest version (yes, I’m a geek). If you really looked close, you’d notice nearly all of my tattoos are Buddhist designs.

Just from these simple non-verbal personal details, you could connect with me in ways no promotional postcard ever could. How? Easy: “Interesting tattoos. Oh, is that the iPhone 6?”

Suddenly, all those previously impersonal broadcast emails or newsletters you might send me would take on an entirely different dynamic. They would no longer be coming from a company that didn’t know me, but from a real person who connected with the real me. I still might sometimes hit the DELETE button, but the SPAM button would no longer be my first response.

Not all potential connection-makers are as obvious as tattoos or smartphones. Some come from conversational remarks from clients like: “do you know if there’s a coffee shop nearby?” or “I don’t have much time. I need to pick my daughter up at preschool.”

These are priceless opportunities to move beyond the limitations of a seller/buyer exchange, and they are everywhere. We need only open our eyes, ears, hearts and minds to recognize them. They are not demographic database records, but something much more powerful.

One Connection at a Time

Is it really that simple to break through and transcend the dehumanizing drone of nonstop advertising? No, not entirely. But it is a big step in the right direction.

We live in a world where marketing arrives in a constant stream at the speed of Wi-Fi. It’s a mix of perfect solutions and irritating noise. Some may come from our own promotional efforts and some is aimed at us from others. Some of it might even be coming from me. I only hope that my attempts at forging human connections will make some of them more pleasantly received.

Nolan Burris is an author, former travel agent, failed musician and self-professed techno-geek. He’s also a popular international speaker both inside and outside of the travel industry.  He is the founder and chief Visioneer of Future Proof Travel Solutions (futureprooftravel.com) based in Vancouver, Canada.  Nolan’s believes that if can change the way business works, you’ll change the world. His goal is to spread the message of integrity and ethics in a techno-driven world.

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