Those who just follow will never be leaders

Igor Pauletič / / Sales

If there’s one thing I’m always thinking about and trying to understand, it’s people’s shopping habits or, more specifically, their purchasing decisions. I start by first observing myself, then I learn from people close to me, and after that I observe and study reactions to the same stimuli within my broader social circle. Actually, I’m constantly trying to learn about how people shop and why we actually buy or intentionally decide not to buy something at the end of the buying decision process. The hardest thing in all of this is to understand the decision to defer our final purchase decision just a little bit longer. You could say my job is to try to understand what makes someone change, speed up, or stop their buying decision. My mission is to find out how my clients can more effectively influence their (potential) customers. The technology we use to enhance our clients’ CRM systems is only a tool that can facilitate this influence. Nothing more, I’m afraid.

What do customers see, how do they feel, and how does this influence their buying decisions?

One of the things worth analyzing in greater detail in order to understand how it affects the buyer’s mind is marketing communications. Once a product is developed to the point that it’s relatively mature and competitive on the market (the same goes for services), I believe that for most activities and most products the impact of marketing communications is the second most important factor overall in shaping buying decisions. Like it or not, this means that I spend most of my time at work exploring what, when, and how often someone communicates, who they address through their communication, and how good they are at adapting their marketing communications to the purchase readiness of individual potential customers. I also analyze what feelings they want to develop in their target audience through their marketing communications.

Marketing communications is the second most important factor in shaping purchase decisions. Click To Tweet

Training is based on copying rather than encouraging difference—even as a child you were always sung the same song and read the same fairytale.

Whenever I’m telling somebody who asks about what I actually do for a living about my work and the methodology we’re developing at FrodX, most of them say something along the lines of “Oh, how interesting!” But it’s not! Not even remotely! Because everything’s the same, all the time and with everyone. Whatever I start reading it feels like I’ve read it before. Whenever I want to watch a TV show I’ve already seen it or heard it. Big Brother now has five more clones on three different channels. The groundbreaking Ena žlahtna štorija TV series was joined by Usodno vino after its first season. Not to mention the myriad of other series I can’t even tell apart because I only watch them once in a while. One or two on each channel. It seems that everything’s become the same or similar, regardless of the medium. We’re living in circles of repeating content. And that’s also true of the marketing communications I track in my line of business.

Trends bring benefits to the trendsetters, not you.

We proclaim something a trend and then all of a sudden everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Hitching yourself to a trend ensures that you don’t lose too much. Products are also marketed the same way. The copycat strategy is the number one choice for most businesses. Some do this intentionally and others do it because they don’t have better ideas or skills.

I’m not trying to say that everyone that sells IT one way or another will have trouble finding new clients if they use stories about digitization and the “new” economies and phenomena of Uber or AirBnB to try and create a FoMO effect on our potential clients who need to digitize, support new business models, and start using different marketing strategies. And “digital disruption” isn’t the only trend of this sort. Others have latched onto the circular economy, Industry 4.0, the internet of things, and so on.

You can either be original or very loud. If you’re neither, it pays to just keep quiet.

Mentioning anything associated with copying and merging with trends can easily backfire on me (our clients also like to adapt to a certain trend rather than pave the way to a new one) or seem like I’m taking a cheap shot at companies that perceive themselves as FrodX’s competition. Neither is the intention here. I just want to draw attention to the fact that without a critical mass of creativity or diversity in every marketing communication we’re condemned to merely intensifying this communication and nothing more. If you can truly be louder than the rest, they might even credit you with a new trend (eventually). But our economy doesn’t actually have the power to do this. Maybe only for an extremely small niche, and even in this case this niche has to carve out space for its uniqueness using a considerably “different” product, one that solves a new problem or solves an existing problem in a significantly better way. Two of our clients have achieved global success within their respective niches. And I’d be willing to bet that a few more could achieve the same thing. But what all of these clients with the potential for global success have in common is that their product allows them to communicate “differently.” They are able to be original. Actually, they have to be.

Just being different is no guarantee of success. You still need to be better than the rest. Click To Tweet

Of course, they too have copycats, but the copycats’ progress is only measured by how fast they can learn to copy something. Their progress is largely measured only by how well they reduce the time they need to start being competitive in a new field. But they hardly ever manage to become innovators, because they think differently.

I don’t want to go too far with my enthusiasm about some of our clients. The main point of this post was that marketing communications that doesn’t convey how and on what you build your uniqueness is probably not very wise. I even wonder if it makes sense at all or why it is needed. OK, I understand that following a trend can protect you from making mistakes and works as a mass tranquilizer, but you’ll never unhitch yourself from it by being only one of the many that put their energy into describing what the trend is and how they’re following it.

I always try to see things around me as simply as possible. Even when that’s impossible, I at least try to explain things to the people around me in the simplest way possible. I get it that the task of marketing is to keep leading the pack and stay visible that way. But the task of sales is to calm down the customers it comes in contact with. Marketing must grab the spotlight and sales must appease any doubts. If you’re not creative or rich enough to grab the spotlight through your marketing communication, you should invest only in sales. You can also get a share of the spotlight through the recommendations of your existing customers, to whom you’ve delivered what you’ve promised.

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P.S. I’ve already written something similar on copying. It’s worth reading again: Copying from the competition, yet you think you can beat them?