What would you think of a doctor who gave you a diagnosis and wrote a prescription before you had even set foot in their office? You’d probably move on. It’s an unlikely scenario, but hold on to the idea for a moment.

Now, think of the majority of the marketing that bombards you on a daily basis. You know it’s a lot, even though you can’t remember most of it. Why don’t you remember it? A company has decided to skip the part where they want to help you understand a problem. They’re only interested in telling you about their solution.

Blah Blah Blah

The New York Times recently ran the numbers and concluded that we’re exposed to about 5,000 marketing and advertising messages daily. We had it easier back in the ‘80s, when the number stood at only about 2,000.

Which of the 5,000 or so messages you saw today can you remember? You will only recall just a handful, and it will be for three very important reasons.

  1. You’ll remember the message because it’s relevant to a problem you believe you have – or it deepened your awareness about a problem.
  2. You’ll remember the message because it helped you to consider or evaluate a possible solution to a problem you have.
  3. You’ll remember it because it provided you with information to make a buying decision.

The rest of those messages will get lost in the sea of forgetfulness. Some of them, though, will pull a really cool magic trick. Let’s say last night your washing machine started going grrr-kunka-thunk instead of the usual wisha-glunga-wisha-glunga. Not good.

Then today, you were presented with an amazing number of marketing and advertising messages for – you guessed it – washing machines. What kind of wizardry is this?

The washing machines have always been among those 5,000 daily marketing and advertising messages. They were just part of the static. Now you’re hearing a signal through the noise. You’re suddenly seeing washing machines everywhere. This marketing is relevant because you have a problem.

The awareness stage

Washing machines are on sale all over the place. That’s great, but not really.

These messages are leading with their solution. Features. Benefits. Price. Like that crazy doctor, this marketing delivers the diagnosis and prescribes a new washer – without even consulting you.

And, it’s because most marketing is only made to push out messages. Very little of it ever asks for your symptoms. The irony is that a company might have the perfect product or service. As a prospect, you probably couldn’t care less. At least, not right now.

Back to grrr-kunka-thunk. “Do I need a new washer? Maybe I should get it repaired. How do I know it’s even really broken? Maybe it ate a sock or something.”

Meanwhile, the majority of the marketing you now pay attention to – because it’s about washing machines – pushes features and benefits. If that keeps up, it’ll probably revert back to noise. Because what you’re more interested in right now is not a built-in detergent dispenser, but figuring out if you actually have a problem.

You’re looking for perspective. You’re looking for someone who can tell you if grrr-kunka-thunk is a problem. You head online. You use your favorite search engine to describe the situation. A local company has several articles that not only validate your problem, but also offer actionable information. It’s helpful stuff. Yes, you really do have a problem if it’s grrr-kunka-thunk, rather than grrr-kunka-rumba. It’s not a sock. Or if it is, the pump ate it. Either way, that’s bad.

Trust and expertise

Inc. reminds us that the trend of wanting to do things ourselves is nothing new. Technology and the social aspect of the Internet has amplified it, and our DIY world will be approaching a $14 billion industry by the start of the next decade. The market may just be warming up, but the public’s mentality toward how we wish to be treated by companies who want our business has already turned the corner.

We don’t want to be chased. We want companies with which we eventually do business to show us they understand our problem, offer information, and let us make the decision to buy. Today’s successful companies understand that prospects don’t want to be sold to – we want to sell ourselves.

The only way a company can successfully sell to today’s consumer is to understand what prospects and customers value. “What’s in it for me?” is not a selfish question. It’s a way to balance the equation. When you’re able to show a prospect you understand their problem and you have a superior solution, you don’t have to sell so hard.

How does this process happen? It’s at the heart of inbound marketing. It’s understanding the motivations of a buyer and offering them ways to fit your solution into their worldview – but only after you’ve fit their problem into yours.

You’ve got to find their “why.” And how will you know if the only thing you’re offering is the prescription of your features and benefits? It’s a case of bad medicine, for sure. Find out how to get better results from your online marketing.