9 lessons from Dale Carnegie for Inbound marketers

Inbound marketers can learn valuable lessons from the legendary author Dale Carnegie. In a time when we believe all marketers are liars, Dale Carnegie’s wisdom of winning friends and influencing people can come handy. There is a valuable insight for inbound content marketers.

The agenda of the marketers and content marketers could be the same, but the approaches and routes are different. Content Marketers are believable marketers. Their agenda is to educate, help and in the process market to their target audience.

In a way, all marketers Content Marketers are out in the market to win friends and influence people. This may not be an agenda of other marketers. Dale Carnegie, the topmost motivator of our time, may not be useful to all the marketers, but he certainly is of immense help to Content Marketers.

The principles he has taught and propagated in his bestselling book How to Win Friends and Influence people offers a clue to all Content Marketers.

Content Marketers create content to influence their target audience.  Their objective is to educate and help their target audience to make their life easy. This is their approach to brand building and lead generation. They neither invest in brand ambassadors nor make lofty claims.  They are not interested in fooling the prospects with false claims.

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Dale Carnegie comes into play when the intent is purposeful and the approach is genuine.  In his book, he recommends ways to win friends and influence people.

Following are some of the gems which can be used in the Content; you as a Content Marketers create.

  • Be genuinely interested in other people:

As a marketer be genuinely interested in other people, i.e. target audience. Do not approach them as a target for a sale. Be genuinely interested to solve their problem. Create content which helps them in understanding the problem. Guide with the right approach to solve it.

“In stunning contrast to most fortune, 500 companies Starbucks consistently spends more on training than it does on advertising.’’ The Starbucks Experience’ by Joseph A Michelli

Like the Starbucks, companies need to invest more in useful and contextual content than on fancy and lofty marketing campaigns.

  • Smile:

How a brand or content can smile? It can with a friendly choice of words. By creating content that makes them smile. Use cartoon / animated characters to tell a story. Aren’t we smiling when we see the Zoo Zoo of Vodafone? Godrej created this piece of content to market the product and in the process make us smile.

There are various ways in which your content can put a smile on the face of your target audience.

A smile is the easiest way to win confidence and trust. Of course, it has to be genuine.

  • Be a good listener:

Marketers are talkers. But we all know listening is an important skill. Yet very few of us practice this. Very few brands practice this. Recently I was examining social media presence of a brand. They had many updates and posts on LinkedIn, but when it comes in response to comments, there were hardly any. Only complaints from the customers and that too are unanswered. What is the meaning of this two-way communication channel?

We don’t listen; we are interested in promoting the self. Period.

Market digitally, but also listens to the comments made by your customers and target audience.

  • Talk in terms of other peoples interest:

Most of the content I have seen on the company websites and social forums are about the company products and services. Rarely anything about how the company helps in solving target audiences’ challenges and achieving their goals.

Whether it is website content or content created for content marketing purpose, the focus should be the target audience and not self-promotion.

The company might have won the award, but how that helps me in knowing how are they going to solve my problem? How effortless would be my experience in dealing with the company?

Limit your self-praise and focus on target audience’s interest.

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  • Make the other people feel important and do it sincerely

Content is king, cash is king, but the ultimate king is the customer.  All brands are out to influence their target audience with their content to attract the customer. This customer will pay the cash.

Most content marketers create generic content. If you wish to influence people and make them feel important, focus on customer persona.

The consumer of the content should feel the content is created for him only. This is how he will feel important. If you can broadly divide your customer profile into six different personas and create content targeting anyone persona, you are making 1/6th of your customers/persona feel important.

This is far better than random content creation and targeting everyone.

  • If you are wrong, admit it quickly and empathetically:

Tell a story about how the company dealt with a customer when the company messed up. Remember for this your brand should have stories of dealing empathetically with unsatisfied customers. You should have a culture of going out of the way to set things right.

Excerpt from the book ‘Amaze Every Customer Every Time’, author Shep Hyken discusses the stories of customer experience (CX) at Ace (Hardware) stores.

“… Basically, it’s an internal spending policy, one that you as an Ace owner, can choose to adopt or not as you see fit. This policy empowers any associate (staff) at your store to spend up to five dollars on his or her own initiative without prior approval, on any customer at any time and on as many individual customer problems as necessary, to solve an individual customer’s problem… and make him or her smile.

… Make it easy for the customer and employee. Is the customer unhappy? Yes. Would make the customer happy cost less than five bucks? Yes. End of the problem.’’

This kind of stories reassures the prospects.

  • Begin in a friendly way:

The important role of the content marketers is to create a brand which the target audience sees as a friend. This is not possible cosmetically. At every touch point, the brand should be perceived as a friend of the target audience. The hardcore sell focus turns the customers away from the brand.

People like to deal with friends. Invest in prospects to make them friends. Invest in existing customers for repeat orders and referrals. Dealing with a friend is easier than dealing with the unknown.

This approach may not result in an immediate sale. But it is better than all other approaches.

  • Appeal to nobler motives:

The purpose matters more than anything else. In his book ‘Looptail’, the author Bruce Poon Tip of G Adventures writes;

“…. Social enterprise to me is about solving standard business problems with solutions that address social issues like environmental sustainability and economic inequality. That idea started a non-profit world, but more and more, you see it creeping into the for-profit world because the consumer is demanding it.

The customer doesn’t want to purchase something randomly; they want to know where that product is coming from and to identify with that brand. They want to know why they should purchase it and why they should purchase it from you. They want to understand what that brand and the people behind it stand for.”

Don’t always write about your products/services and solutions.

Share nobler stories. This is a powerful way to attract the target audience. People like to deal with humane/empathetic companies. To share nobler stories, do nobler things.

  • Ask questions rather than giving direct orders:

What this means is; do not give a sales pitch. Ask questions to understand first. Ask questions to know your customers. Ask questions to get the answers you want. I want to sell won’t work. The approach of I want to understand you and your problems will lead to informed sell.

By asking the right questions, content marketers can turn his own I want to sell agenda into I want to buy from customers.

To take an approach propagated by Dale Carnegie is a difficult proposition. As most of the marketers are not interested in the long-term approach. But content marketing is not a campaign, but a commitment.

”Instead of encouraging our institutions and our leaders to grapple effectively with complex, long-term challenges, we’re rewarding them to do the opposite.”  Source: ‘Perspective on the Longterm’, author Laurence Fink, Chairman & CEO of BlackRock.

But the irony is there is no other way for the brands, but to take the long-term customer-first approach.

Seth Godin’s quote sums up it very well.

“If the marketplace is not talking about you there is a reason. The reason is that you are boring. You are probably boring on purpose, boring on pricing because that’s safer; you have a boring location because to do otherwise would be nuts; you have boring products because that’s what the market wants.” Nobody talks about boring business.” (Source Book:  ‘The Referral Engine’ by John Jantsch)

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All Inbound Content Marketers can use the wisdom of Dale Carnegie to their professional advantage.

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