Leadership is one of those topics that is big in the military and big in the business world. There’s even been a huge crossover lately, resulting in a pile of business books based on leading like a SEAL, running your business like a Naval aircraft carrier, etc. Leadership is a great thing to study (I’m studying it at a graduate level right now and loving it) but you rarely hear people talk about leading customers. Here’s a pretty simple concept for applying good leadership skills to guide the choices of the people who pay your bills.
Many people are familiar with this leadership concept as it applies to teams and employees, but I’ll lay it out just in case. There are those who manage the time and effort of others to accomplish something FOR THE MANAGER and there are those who lead people by inspiring and equipping them to accomplish something FOR THEMSELVES. Good leadership connects the goal of the team or business with the personal, intrinsic, deep-seated motives of the team members so that they own the goals. They dig deep and give their best because they actually want to accomplish the businesses goals on a personal level. This is way more effective than forcing results out of people through threats and rewards alone.
You can harness the same concept with your client and potential clients. The trick (don’t worry, it’s not that kind of trick) is to connect your product or service to your customer’s goals and needs in a way that makes them WANT to buy from you or hire you. This lines you up as the resource they need to achieve what they want, rather than the guy at the mall chasing them down to rub a hand lotion sample on their arm (you know who you are, lotion guy). Whether you’re creating your product or service, rethinking it, or looking for ways to position your existing offering, think in terms of how you can help people become or achieve what they already want, and already know that they want.
Marketing guru Don Miller points out that people don’t want a business to come along posing as the hero, they want to be the hero! What they want from you is knowledge, provision, assistance, some sort of help in becoming the hero of the story for themselves. Think about companies that already do this well. Nike offers a way for you to be the athletic beast that you want to be. Redbull doesn’t do the flying for you, it gives YOU wings. Tech and smartphone companies say “You’re busy, you’re popular, you want to stay in touch at all times. Here’s a tool to help you be that person.”
The customer equivalent of forcing results through threats and rewards is pushing sales through price wars and sleazy advertising. Be better than that. Give people what they need and improve their lives in the process. What does your product or service connect with in the heart of your customer? What can you help them be?