Weekly, I consult with small and medium sized businesses. Typically, I talk to the business owner or manager since they aren’t large enough to have a full-time marketing person. At first they are looking for the marketing “silver bullet”. They want to know which channel (or channels) will provide the most money for them.
Besides the fact that there’s rarely (if ever) a Silver Bullet for marketing, they miss a key point: their company makes money when they help other people get what they want. Zig Ziglar has an old saying that goes: “You’ll get what you want in life when you help enough other people get what they want.”
So before I ever give them any marketing advice, I give them a little exercise to help them understand their customers better. I have them make personas of their customers. These are fictional representations of their ideal customer.
This may sound silly initially, but it forces them to put themselves in the shoes of their customer. What does their customer want/need? What are his or her passions and desires? What is their pain point and problem? So often we can focus on the features of our product or service (it’s shiny, goes fast, and has a 10 speed gearbox) when in fact it’s the benefits that we want to focus on (it makes me look good, I’ll feel safe driving it, it will save me money on fuel).
Ultimately, this process is just systemizing empathy. It forces us out of our mindset, into the mindset of others. And it doesn’t just work in business. Try this in life.