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Everywhere I look on social media these days someone is trying to sell me something. I’m experiencing wave after wave of dry and unemotional sway. 

“Purchase these proven templates that will help you create viral content.”

“Get our guide today on how to be an influencer and get a million followers.”

“Learn how to use hashtags like a pro on our new social media course.”

“How to become an Evergreen Content Machine.” 

“Get the equivalent of this PhD and two Masters degrees for just $29 today!”

“Subscribe today and get these digital hacks that will help you achieve exponential growth.”

Most of us don’t want exponential growth. That doesn’t mean we’re not ambitious or don’t have drive or clarity of vision. You start to question yourself. Am I doing the right things? There’s considerable pressure on small businesses, especially now. The challenges are more significant than ever. When it comes to marketing, particularly online, everything is so in your face. Yet, it’s all so barren and uninspiring. 

You don’t have to be an internet sensation and you don’t have to be perfect to be successful. No one cares if you’re ripping it up in your industry or you’re killing it every single day at work in the face of the pandemic. The rest of us are just trying desperately to keep the lights on. We exist in a culture obsessed with self-promotion. If you haven’t published any books or won any academy awards after your first year in business, somehow it feels like you’re failing. 

Many businesses are too inwardly focused, always highlighting their success and not concentrating on their customers’ success. William Shakespeare famously wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” If we are all actors on the stage of life, then too many businesses are positioning themselves as the lead role. Wrong. The customer always plays the lead, and your business offering is part of the supporting cast. 

The world may have advanced digitally, but the basics of human psychology haven’t changed. The fundamentals of marketing are still the same. It’s time to tone it down with the manipulative gimmicks and strip it back to basics. Persuasion through communication is an ancient art form, but right now, the world needs something different. People are tired, they are weary, and they are fragile. Empathy, humility and authenticity are the sexiest words right now when it comes to marketing and content creation. Businesses need to think about people’s emotional needs as well as practical needs. They need to be positioning themselves and their products and services as a prop or a stagehand – something critical that will help their lead actors get through the next scene and help them shine in the process. 

Creating content for your website, marketing materials, or social media should be based on building lasting and emotional connections with your customers and your audience. We are moved to action only by emotion and we process this via our subconscious. We don’t have enough time, capacity or mental calories to work things out logically in our rational minds. Triggering an emotional response is more likely to influence our decision-making process. 

Think about your brand strategy for a moment. Getting your message right is crucial. How people experience you and interact with your business is a fundamental part of your branding that you need to own. Think about your own experiences as a buyer. Visualise some of the brands you buy from, the actual products you purchase, and the social media accounts you follow. What is happening there? How often do you respond to things because they trigger feelings and values and motivations? Does the content you produce reflect this, and is it consistent with your message?

Maybe you don’t have a brand strategy, and you know what, that’s ok. Sometimes, just knowing what you stand for and being real will serve you just as well. In a world where politics, mass media and advertising presents a constant barrage of manipulation and consumption, people will look to brands they can trust. The emotional and psychological aspects of marketing have never been as vital as they are right now. Being believable and showing empathy means you’re trustworthy. Adding value to your customer’s story instead of your own will enhance your brand reputation. 

In psychology, we talk about motivation, persuasion and influence and how we can use these to tap into the behavioural, social and emotional. The question is not how do I make potential customers buy something; it’s how do I make them feel something? Subconscious above logical, every time. We believe that because the world has moved on, we need to up our game in terms of marketing and selling. So, we spend hours, days, and weeks thinking up fresh ideas to create content that today’s buyers will love. Nowadays, consumers are a lot savvier. There is more choice than ever before. Technology has been a real game-changer. Social media has provided greater reach; therefore, my content needs to reflect all of this to stand out. Except it doesn’t stand out as everyone is doing the same thing. It’s true, the world has changed, but the basic principles of what drives us to action haven’t and never will. Our fundamental needs are still the same. It’s the products, services and methods to achieve them that have changed, but we focus our strategy too much on that and not enough on the other. 

We still quote old worn-out cliches such as “people buy from people.” Why? Because they form a connection, develop a rapport, a sense of trust and an emotional attachment. These are all feelings and relate to our sense of belonging, esteem and self-actualisation.  We are driven by our basic need and desire to value and be valued. 

When it comes to our marketing message, we need to tone down the noise and strip it back to basics. You’ve built the set, now cast your potential customer in the leading role in their own story. Make them the hero, not you or your business. If you are craving that academy award, then a performance like this might just win it for you.