This week Director Matthew Harrison draws the key marketing lessons from his (now dormant) seduction techniques.
Each and every year, the month of March is a joyous occasion for me. The brutal New York winter dissipates and makes way for 8 months of glorious sun. The English football season reaches its climax, as along with the rest of the Western world I fix my attention on Nottingham Forest’s promotion challenge. Most importantly and joyously of all, the month of March marks the anniversary of my wedding, which I should highlight (just in case she’s reading) was a day of unparalleled perfection.
And so this week my mind took a surreptitious walk down memory lane to a warm September day in 1997, a lucky 13 years ago. This was the day when I targeted my now-wife and (eventually) convinced her that I would fulfil her every need. Now, as a marketer first and lady-magnet second, thoughts of this distant time got me thinking. What, if anything, could my seductive exploits of the late 90s teach me and the wider marketing community about appealing to their target audiences? If I can successfully target that most notoriously demanding of audiences, the attractive female, surely there is no limit to my marketing prowess?
That sunny day in 1997 had been an inauspicious one, at least from a professional point of view. My finest achievement had been to break the photocopier and spend 90 minutes failing to fix it. As I returned home at 5.30, I frankly needed a beer. I delicately broached the subject with my housemate Dave, who pondered my request before suggesting we go to the pub immediately.
Two hours and 5 pints of Kronenbourg later Dave and I were deep in discussion, our agile minds flitting between the meaning of life and whose turn it was to buy the next drink. I was just about to walk towards the bar when I noticed the door open and two girls in their early twenties walked in. I salivated, ordered another round and began plotting my next move. My mission: to make the blurred, dark-haired girl on the right fall in love with a drunken photocopier-wrecker. Mercifully, Dave told me a joke about Camilla Parker-Bowles, distracting me for the rest of the evening.
Several evenings later, a group of friends and I decided to meet up in the same bar. Word was that a selection of females would be present, some of whom would be more than happy to meet the man of their dreams this evening. Even better, one or two discrete enquiries amongst the local cognoscenti revealed that the blurred girl was called Caroline and would be making an appearance along with her friends.
I sensed my chance, and quickly set about polishing my shoes, getting Dave to iron my shirt, and splashing myself in enough Fahrenheit to make a cactus wilt. I donned my leather jacket and, fusing debonair cool with rugged Anglo-Saxon masculinity, unbuttoned the top 2 buttons of my shirt. It would be no exaggeration to say that I looked irresistible.
Scanning the bar as I arrived mid-way through the evening, I immediately saw Caroline, chatting with her friends in the far corner. She was tall and slender with long, dark brown hair. Her dark knee-length skirt and tailored jacket clung enticingly to her figure and her top revealed a hint of décolletage. Her outfit reminded me of the perfect hors d’oeuvre: just enough to keep the interest; not quite enough to make me feel queasy and rush for the exit. I wonder if anyone’s ever delivered a finer compliment than that to her? I do hope so.
Rather than striding confidently towards her and delivering a killer chat-up line in front of her friends, I bravely decided to wait until she was on her own and then pounce. This must have been my lucky day because a few minutes later I found myself standing next to her at the bar.
We started talking. Now when I talk to attractive ladies, I have something of a magic touch – I start talking and they immediately disappear. Strangely, however, for an apparently sane woman with all of her faculties intact, Caroline responded – and not with a restraining order. She laughed at my jokes. She nodded as I told her all about my big-shot job in the photocopying room. She gasped with relief as I finally asked her a question. She seemed to believe me when I said that it must be the man behind me that stank of vinegar.
We met up a few more times over the following week or two, each encounter becoming slightly more relaxed than the last. I took her to a restaurant and tried to show off by buying some expensive wine that I’d never heard of. We went to a football match with a group of friends. Gentlemen, I hope you are learning as you read this. After 4 or 5 ‘meetings’ we were officially an item and I was congratulating myself on my marketing expertise.
So, when I look back at the seductive marketing techniques I employed in my early 20s and reflect upon how they changed the course of my life, I am struck by how similar the art of attracting a business-to-business customer is to the seduction of a beautiful woman. I therefore leave you with my key tips on how to attract and keep the most demanding of b2b customers:
Make the first impression count – A sober, well prepared marketing approach is always likely to be more effective than an impulsive dash in the direction of the target customer. This applies to all aspects of the marketing mix, from promotional materials and interpersonal contact through to pricing and proposal preparation. By the time you get to undoing an early bad impression, the object of your desire will already be looking elsewhere.
Expect the sales process to take 4 or 5 contacts – Business-to-business buyers, like women, are complex creatures. The quick ‘hard sell’ is far less suited to their multifaceted needs and their focus on interpersonal contact than it is to the more impulsive and impersonal world of consumer marketing. It is critical to take the time over a number of conversations to understand customers’ rational and emotional needs, before providing a personalized solution built around these.
Ask lots of (intelligent) questions – Like the most boring of inebriated men, bad b2b marketers focus so much on their own offering that they forget to ask the target customer what makes them tick and what would make their lives better. This is a fatal mistake when each target customer has needs that are often technical, complex and unique.
Always leave them wanting to find out more – Successful business-to-business marketing is a long-term, dynamic process built around frequent conversation and mutual exploration. The effective b2b marketer answers every question concisely, whilst hinting at new, intriguing ideas that make the target customer want to find out more next time.
Tell a coherent, authentic story and stick to it – This is the most difficult and most critical trick of all. Just as the single man identifies an overall impression he wants to project to the fairer sex and attempts to dress, smell and speak in a way that authenticates that impression, so the successful b2b marketer must identify the story that target segment wants to hear and ensure that every customer touchpoint authenticates that story. This requires consistency, and – most fundamentally – a deep and accurate understanding of what the target market wants from you. Master these two basics and you are on your way to becoming a seductive b2b marketer.