B2B, Superstars and Irresistible Force – Directness in Marketing Pt 4

In this 4th and final part of our series on Directness, author, marketer Lynn Serafinn discusses the importance of understanding our relationship with our audience, and how our marketing should reflect this.

Back in the early 1990s, I was a trance musician. I owned a small electronic recording studio and record label, and I also imported and sold 12” vinyl records to the local club and rave DJs. It was a very rich and prolific era in music, and the rave scene (and especially the trance faction) had a captivating culture that became almost a spiritual path for many.

Back then, the relationship between artist and audience was an interesting one. Musicians were rarely known by their real names, and their faces even more rarely seen. They had cryptic and mind-bending names, and sometimes changed their name with every release. Even in magazines, it was a rarity to see photographs of trance musicians and at raves, very few old-school “classic” trance musicians performed their music live. The artist was seen merely as a channel for the music known as ‘Trance’. The music was all-important. The person behind it was not. The more anonymous and cryptic an artist was, the truer they were to the trance culture. It was the exact opposite of MTV thinking, where the musical artist was often portrayed as being larger-than-life.

Invisible as they were, the trance artist’s compositions were brought to the world by club and rave DJs, the best of whom spun the mix in such a seamless way you could hardly notice when one track had transitioned to another, thus making the identity of each artist even more obscure. The DJ became the high priest (or priestess) of the holy scripture known as trance music. The top trance DJs might spin to audiences of tens of thousands of ravers and club-goers every week. And much like the high priests of ancient times when scriptures were often kept secret from the public, these fiercely competitive DJs were extremely protective of the identity of their records. Many went so far as to cover their rarest and most prized records with blank labels, so no one else would know what they were spinning. Thus was born the era of the DJ superstar, who found fame with the help of hundreds of unknown artists.

While there were some highly successful DJs who were also musicians, the majority of musicians were not DJs, and vice versa. Those musicians who did not DJ were often frustrated to see how DJs often spoke about the music they spun on the decks as if they had composed it. They wanted to be seen by the public, but due to the nature of the rave culture, they were not selling their music directly to the public. While the public might be their ultimate listening audience, from a business and marketing perspective they were not the target audience. The distributors, record shops and DJs comprised the target audience to whom they were selling. This mistake in understanding the situation often led to artistic frustration. Eventually, electronic artists no longer worked in anonymity. But ironically, as they came out of the shadows, the rave culture dissolved altogether. It had lost its mystique.

I’m telling this story because it can teach us a lot about the different kinds of relationships with our audience, and how important it is to know who we are marketing to, what they want, and how they perceive us. Without this understanding, there is little chance of bringing in the 7 Graces—especially the Grace of Directness—into our marketing.

Let’s take a look at three different marketing relationship types we can see in this one example.

B2B—A Case of Mistaken Identity

Many not-so-successful electronic musicians in the 1990s struggled with an issue of mistaken identity. Not their own identity but the identity of their audience. These musicians might have believed they were making music for the public, but from a marketing perspective, they weren’t. Their marketing audience was not the public, but other businesses–distributors, retail shops and, of course, the DJ. For the most part, the public were not going to buy a vinyl-only release, especially when they didn’t know its name.
For each of these business-to-business (B2B) relationships, the type of marketing communication required is different for the simple reason that the needs and desires of each party are different:

  • Distributors want to know what kind of profit margin you’re offering and whether or not they can get retail shops to buy large quantities of the record.
  • Retail shops want to know which kinds of DJs will buy the record, and whether it’s going to be a “hit”.
  • DJs want to know whether or not the record fits with their personal style and (most of all) whether or not it will make people dance.

Imagine you are a musician putting together your promo kit for any of these B2B scenarios, but that your marketing copy is aimed at trying to “sell” your record to them with hype and glitz and glam. It’s utterly inappropriate because it does not respect the B2B relationship OR address what the desires and needs of the other business associate. It gets even worse if/when musicians approach record labels using this same strategy. Yet that is exactly what a lot of musicians did (and still do), and that is in my observation why many of them struggled in the industry.

Today in my work as a marketing consultant, I still see many authors and small business owners send one generic “blurb” about themselves, their book or their company to everyone, thinking “one size fits all”. You cannot (must not!) use materials aimed at the public to speak to people who are in a B2B relationship with you. If there is ever a time to ditch the hype, it’s when talking to other businesses.

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I’ve had some potential clients make first contact with me by trying to “sell” themselves to me with all the very same marketing copy they use on their sales page, as if I were a customer. I’m not looking to buy their book. I’m looking to see if I can sell their book. I’m not interested so much in what the book is about, but rather in whether or not I can present the author to the public. One recent potential client even told me that I would be “missing a great opportunity” if I didn’t take them on. Needless to say, I didn’t. I’ve also seen people send out requests for partners or backers for their promotions using similar language.

The Grace of Directness is important in all marketing relationships, but especially in B2B relationships. Real business people can smell hype within the first few syllables you utter or write. Never, ever, try to “sell” yourself or your product to your business partners. Always be aware of the B2B relationship. Ask yourself, “What are their desires and needs?” Better yet, ask THEM what they want and need in order to work with you. Then, address those desires and needs in a simple and direct way. When I speak to a distributor or media outlet, for example, I ask them their terms and what materials they need from me. I ask them their turnaround time and when I should contact them again. Then, I give them everything they asked for, ensuring it is thorough, clear and factual. I give them respect and lots of space and I never, ever pressure them or treat them like a “target”.

The “Superstar” Relationship

The next two relationships we’ll look at are relationships with the public, rather than other businesses. Let’s first take the DJ as an example of what I like to call the “Superstar” relationship.

In terms of marketing, the DJ’s most visible relationship is with the “masses”. He (or she) must speak directly to the end-user—the raver, the club goer. Although he’s spinning records, he’s not in the business of selling them. What he is “selling” is his own image. His image is characterised by his being regarded as the “maven”—the person other people go to find out the latest trends. All marketing for a superstar MUST be image-focussed, where the maven is seen as the leader of a “tribe” around a particular interest, outlook, belief or lifestyle. The Superstar relationship is between his image and the public.

Oprah Winfrey (and all her enterprises) is a classic example of this “Superstar” relationship. She is similar to the DJ in that she is not so much known as someone who “creates” new things, but rather as someone who discovers and presents new things. She is seen as the maven for new ideas in personal development and other fields. And much like the DJ, Oprah’s name has outshone many of those she has presented to the world. The reason why the marketing for a “superstar” business (or individual) must be very image-focussed is because the image IS the “commodity”, so to speak.

The Superstar relationship is not simply about being “famous”; it’s about what you’re known for. Nor does being a sole-proprietor mean you automatically have a Superstar relationship with your audience. If you’re not a maven, you’re not a “Superstar”; and if you’re not a Superstar, marketing yourself as if you were one is a big turn-off to your audience.

If you are NOT a Superstar your marketing should not be focusing on image, but on value

—which brings us to the next relationship type.

The “Irresistible Force” Relationship

Unlike the Superstar relationship, the Irresistible Force relationship is between the business and the public, rather than an image and the public. This is not to say that your “public image” isn’t very important. Reputation is everything in the Irresistible Force relationship. But the key thing to remember is that, in this kind of relationship, your audience probably care less about you personally than about your company’s values, standards and customer care.

Most companies, including sole-proprietor companies, have a business-to-public relationship in their marketing. Yet, many of them do not fully embody the “Irresistible Force” relationship in their marketing style. To become an “Irresistible Force”, your marketing needs focus on value. It needs to provide your audience with the simple and straightforward answers and solutions they are seeking. As discussed in part 3 of this series, instead of using gimmicks and flashy adverts to establish mere brand identity, we need to speak to their tastes and fulfil their desires. We need to know our audience and speak to (and with) them.

By setting the intention of becoming an Irresistible Force instead of thinking up clever ways to “capture” or “convert” customers, we make ourselves…well…simply irresistible by connecting, inspiring and inviting our audience into our space in a direct, transparent and respectful way.

To me, any alternative to this is not what I would call “grace-full marketing”.

Closing Thoughts

There are many shades of relationships in marketing. I’ve identified only three of them. And within even these three, there are many permutations and hybrids. Within any business, you will have more than one type of marketing relationship, depending upon the scenario. You will have different kinds of B2B relationships and different kinds of business-to-public relationships. Furthermore, these relationships evolve and metamorphose with time. Relationships are dynamic, living energies.

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If our relationship with our audience is predatory, we will always use distractive techniques, fear and hype to “capture” them. We will never see, hear or understand their needs, as we will be thinking solely of our own. I believe the dharma of business—all business—is to “feed” people with what they need to live healthy, happy and meaningful lives, and that the purpose of marketing is to communicate to people that we have something of value to share with them.

Without a deep understanding of our relationships, there can be no Directness in our marketing, for the simple reason that we will be speaking behind a mask, to a mask. In summary…

Know Thyself.

Know Thy audience.

And know where you are in relation to your audience.

Then, speak to their needs in simple language. That’s the essence of Directness.

Self Enquiry

This week, give some time to reflect upon your relationship(s) with your various business audiences:

B2B Relationships

  1. List all the companies or individuals with whom you have a B2B relationship.
  2. What are the needs and desires of each of these companies?
  3. How well are you addressing the needs and desires in your B2B relationships?
  4. Where and how might you be speaking to the wrong audience when you communicate with your B2B relationships?

Public Relationships

  1. Would you say your company is better categorised as having a “Superstar” relationship or “Irresistible Force” relationship with the public?
  2. How aware of this relationship are you in your marketing communication?
  3. How well does your marketing material speak to that relationship, addressing the needs and desires of your audience in a direct, straightforward way?
  4. Where and how might you be speaking from the wrong relationship when you communicate with your public audience?
  5. What needs to change? How will you change it? By when?

Taking This Further

To read more about the Grace of Directness (and the “Deadly Sin of Distraction”) I refer you to my book The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell.

Also, I discuss in detail the importance and mechanics of our different kinds of business relationships in my newest book Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically.

Throughout this 4-part series, we’ve been looking at the importance of Directness in marketing and its many challenges. We’ve looked at how our cultural conditioning impacts our communication and how our self-image determines our degree of openness and clarity in our marketing. Then, we explored how using distractive techniques and gimmickry in our marketing can create brand recognition, but obscure brand identity. Bringing all these types of awareness together in Part 4, we looked at the importance of understanding the different kinds of marketing relationships we have with others, and how to bring Directness into those relationships effectively and appropriately. I hope you’ll go back and read through all four articles in the series, and take up the challenges in each. This way, we can begin to transform the world of marketing to a new, more ethical paradigm.

I hope you’ll subscribe to the 7 Graces blog either via email or via Amazon Kindle blogs, so you can receive all our upcoming articles on ethics and the new marketing paradigm for the 21st century. We publish 2-3 times a week.

AND, as always, please share your comments, experiences and thoughts below. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

~ Lynn Serafinn
22 February 2013

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Lynn Serafinn author of The 7 Graces of MarketingLYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She was recently named one of the Top 100 marketing authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. Her eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. In her work as a promotional manager she has produced a long list of bestselling mind-body-spirit authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, a budding social enterprise whose aim is to help grow a new generation of passionate entrepreneurs who want to serve both people and planet through innovative, ethical, independent enterprise.

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