As I talk to marketing and sales leaders, I hear this reoccurring theme: “I want to do something that really matters; I want to feel what I’m doing is really making a real difference.”
I feel the same way, but I’ve painfully learned that it’s futile to make changes outside before we make changes inside. This requires a different kind of thinking to drive a different way of marketing.
In our rush to obtain leads, drive opportunities and close sales to move the sales needle, it’s too easy to forget that we need to address the needs, wants, hopes and aspirations of our customers.
The problem with today’s customers
Today’s customers are weary of pitches, hype, buzzwords, corporate speak and manipulative messages, and as a result, they ignore them.
This is especially true for companies that have a complex sale where B2B buyers face daunting decisions that involve huge risks, and sellers struggle to articulate their value propositions and differentiate themselves from competitors.
Customers aren’t saying, “We need solutions.” Instead, they’re saying, “We need to solve a problem.”
So what would happen if we focused on helping them do just that?
Serve first and market second
With this in mind, I’ve been reflecting on servant leadership for the past year. Robert Greenleaf’s work on servant leadership states this: “Serve first and lead second.”
I believe this idea can also be applied to sales and marketing. Let’s call it servant marketing, which can be defined as “serve first and market second.”
Servant marketing works like this: How we sell and market informs customers of how we’re going to serve them. It’s not what we say; it’s what we actually do that matters.
I’d like your input to help me define this better. I think servant marketing is built on the following ideas:
- Empathize with your customers and walk in their shoes to understand their problems
- Think like your customers when they set out to solve a problem and understand each step they take to solve that problem
- Learn how you can help make your customers lives better
- Provide your customers what they want
- Help customers identify and solve problems
- Give customers content and expertise that helps them gain clarity
- Empower employees who touch your customers with the resources, training and tools to really help them
Our customers are more sophisticated than ever and have access to more information and more options. There’s no room for game-playing or guessing. We have to know what they want and give that to them. If we can give them what they want, we can create a competitive advantage that will reap higher margins and profits.
I realize this may seem altruistic, but it’s not. It has an economic benefit. One company that I’m hoping to interview for a future blog post practices servant marketing and generates 200% more revenue per customer than their competitors.
I’m looking for more companies that practice servant marketing.