At first blush, "marketing nirvana" seems an oxymoron, like "jumbo shrimp" or "working vacation." But so does the brand "Burkini"—a combination of "burka" and "bikini," yet its creator embraced the path to marketing nirvana and became an international success.
Here's the path...
Step 1: Understand your audience's beliefs and desires
The Burkini is stylish and comfortable swimwear that also meets the Islamic requirements for modesty. It was invented by a woman who was inspired by watching her Muslim niece struggle to play netball in bulky covering.
All enlightened marketers know that the essential first step to motivating people's behavior is to understand their perspectives and embrace their desires and beliefs. Everything else flows naturally from there.
Step 2: Make people comfortable
Being moved by any type of marketing is like crossing a footbridge stretched above a deep chasm: It requires motivation and consideration. Only those who truly desire what's on the other side, and who feel relatively safe and in control, will be moved to venture across.
Those skilled at motivating people to cross a new bridge don't want them to become distracted or suspicious. So they make them comfortable by sending consistent and familiar signals that make everything appear unambiguous and safe.
Step 3: Paint the picture
People are drawn across the bridge of belief and behavior change by their anticipation of a better experience and a better life. Effective marketers ignite people's imaginations by painting vivid, compelling, and personally relevant pictures that move them.
Step 4: Make it theirs
Great marketers are viscerally aware that they are simply guides on other people's trips. And so those marketers do everything possible to make others' journeys feel special by strategically pushing decisions and actions in their direction, helping to make them feel that they are at the center of things.
Step 5: Make it easy
Belief and behavior change demands that people follow the lead of their feeling mind, of their intuition and assumptions. Distractions and difficulties turn on their thinking mind, which undermines belief by overriding their instincts. Even something as seemingly irrelevant as a hard-to-read font can cause people to lose touch with their intuition.
Great marketers simplify the belief process by eliminating difficulties and competing options on people's attention. They work really hard to make belief really easy.
Step 6: Get them to act
Let's assume that people desire what's on the other side of the bridge—because the picture is compelling. And they feel comfortable and in control—and drawn by their instincts. But they may still be unsure. Is the bridge really as stable and safe as they've been led to believe? Taking a step forward on the bridge reinforces their feeling of knowing that it will support them.
Enlightened marketers help create those experiences by deliberately influencing people's behavior.
Step 7: Make progress visible
Behavior is a powerful influence on people's feelings. But its affect will be short-lived unless it is reinforced by their perceptions and experiences. Unless progress is made visible. Progress is a validating feeling that, given a plethora of competing options, people's decisions and behaviors are the right ones for them to be making.
Effective marketers send signals that make those feelings salient—interactions that are tied directly to people's behaviors. They continually remind them—through rewards, surprises, and thank yous—that they've chosen the best possible course.
Step 8: Exude passion
Exuding passion is not about creating a carefully honed image. It's about making a statement about your values and convictions—the bigger cause that drives you. Yes, people experience passion in the consistent words and purpose-driven actions of marketers. But it also manifests as an outpouring of innovative new products, bold and engaging communication, and, especially, in the deeply held beliefs and behaviors of others like them. Great marketers help bring those signs to life.
Step 9: Control their impulses
The philosopher Alan Watts once remarked, "If you put your hand on the knee of a beautiful woman and leave it there, she'll cease to notice it. But if you gently pat her on the knee, she'll know you're still there. Because you come and you go. Now you see me, now you don't."
Effective marketers know when to come and when to go; when to be heard and seen, and when to disappear and remain silent—like knowing when to interact on social networks, when to proffer a discount, when to advertise, and when to lie low. The very best marketers know exactly what types of signals to send and when.
Step 10: Hide the how
Great marketers influence stealthily and downplay their roles. They hide the how. They understand that belief is driven by people's perceptions and by their feeling minds, and that they're moved by their imagined stories and experiences. And so they work hard to bring those mental images to life, to elevate people's energy, and instigate change by making experiences feel personal and transformative. They carefully orchestrate the drama to hide the how, to conceal the magic and inner workings of people's journey.
* * *
The word "nirvana" literally means "blown out," like extinguishing the flame of a candle. It is a profound state of liberation from the suffering of a deluded mind. Marketing nirvana is, similarly, liberation from a deluded marketing mind—the one that imagines it can persuade people to do things they don't truly believe in or desire.
Enlightened marketers understand the realities of today's savvy and well-connected marketplace. They don't try to cajole or manipulate people against their will. Rather, they seek to guide them to a new destination: a transformed way of feeling, thinking, and acting that's aligned with their personal desires and values.
At its core, then, marketing—altering someone's beliefs and behavior—is not an act of short-lived persuasion; it's an act of leadership. And leadership is all about guiding people on a journey that makes them comfortable and happy—a journey, ultimately, that improves their lives.
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