Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. ~Einstein
Having a great handle on your buyers' reality is one of the most important aspects of great marketing. When we remain objective, seeing our markets in the truth of the present, we focus on customers' perceptions today. The problem is, staying objective and in reality isn't a natural thing for many of us. Human nature gets in our way. For example...
Humans can be passionate. It's really easy to let our passion shade our objectivity. I especially have to watch myself around this one. I'm a passionate person, and proud of it. When I believe in something, I'm like a puppy with a ragdoll. I will not let go. I get excited, energized and ready to take the world by storm. That passion fuels my creativity - which is a really good thing. Unless I step so far into my own passionate beliefs that I lose my objectivity about my customers' reality. Our passion for our products, technology, services and more can create blinders to our customers' truths. That's when we lose sight of what really matters in our markets.
A herd mentality also makes it tough to remain objective. We tend to adopt the beliefs and perspectives of those around us - in our business and our personal lives. It's how we form societies, friendships, business cultures and families. The more we interact with others and their beliefs, the easier it is to mind-meld with them. Sooner or later, we can lose our objective focus. That's especially true in business - where we tend to be programmed with the corporate legends about which customers are smart, which are a pain in the you know what, which value sells and so much more....all based on our past experiences - not today's reality.
Humans learn - and that messes with our objective view of reality. We learn from others and our own experiences. This is the biggest challenge to seeing reality around. We learn from that bad experience with a certain market - and we decide we can't be successful there. Even if the market shifts toward us - we don't see the opportunity objectively. We see it for what it was, not is. That's true of almost every human belief - those beliefs are based on yesterday's news, not today's reality.
Hanging onto the Customers' Reality
So how do we stay in our reality given the human condition -and the very bold reality that we are all Humans in Business? Here are tips I recommend to clients.
Spend time in the real world. The bottom line is that what our buyers believe IS our reality, whether we like it or not. So go into the real world often and listen closely. It doesn’t really matter what any of us vendors think – what matters is what our buyers believe. Talk to people outside of your company, outside of your partners and channels or your best customers. Get outside your comfort zone of familiar folks who tell you the same things over and over again - they've drunk your koolaid right along with you! Go look for some fresh perspectives - new prospects, folks outside of your market, that potential buyer who didn't buy from you. Ask them about their perspectives...and get ready for a strong dose of reality. Only from our customers' reality can we create compelling buying propositions for our audiences.
Shoot those Sacred Cows. Challenge everything you believe, ask questions, debate those big beliefs that you automatically follow. If you have a belief you hang on to for dear life, or a belief that you push away and refuse to evaluate - you're probably dealing with a gravity-ridden sacred cow. Don’t just follow the strategy you defined a year ago, believe that positioning story is still all powerful. Ask yourself "What is true today-and tomorrow." Sacred Cows keep us stuck in our past. Shoot 'em dead and step up to today - and tomorrow's truth.
Be contrary. If you're in a team environment, have a debate. Have part of the team defend the status quo viewpoint. Then have some other folks defend different perspectives that are contrary to that status quo. Appoint some neutral referees if you have a peppy team, and start the conversation. The objective is to explore every possible aspect, from all the angles. The more we push the envelopes of the status quo - the more opportunities we uncover.
We all lose our objectivity. That's part of being human.
The question is - are you willing to make the effort it takes to remain in your buyer's reality? It's not that difficult to do - it does take a shift in your own behaviors. First, agree to cast aside your own business legends and beliefs. Then, step into your buyers' world, focus on understanding their experience and their perceptions. Once you do that - you can move forward with their beliefs as the core of your business focus.
Always remember - it's ALL about them. Now more than ever!