Would you pitch your business to guests at a birthday party? That’s what marketers do when they don’t understand the Grace of Invitation. Lynn Serafinn explains.
In the book The 7 Graces of Marketing, the third of the 7 Graces is the ‘Grace of Invitation’. In our 7 Graces Project mission statement, we define Invitation as the practice of openness, hospitality, engagement and respect with our audience. We believe that these four cornerstones result in our audience WANTING to connect with us, rather than us aggressively trying to manipulate them into spending money.
Many people think they understand this Grace, but I often find lots of them miss some of its subtlety, especially when it comes to Online Marketing. Unconsciously, many of us are still following some of the old formulas for sales pages and calls to action, without bothering to think about the impact they are having upon our audience, and ultimately to our long-term relationship with them.
To make it clearer, I’ve made this little 3-question ‘quiz’ to demonstrate some of the key faux pas I frequently see people make, which can derail their practice of this beautiful Grace in their business. Of course, the 3 scenarios below are metaphors to help illustrate what is ‘fit for purpose’ in ethical marketing and what is not.
SCENARIO 1: You’re speaking to someone you’ve met for the first time while riding on a train on your way to work. They have expressed interest in what you do. Do you:
a) Pull out a contract with lots of fine print and make them sign on the dotted line
b) Make them miss their stop because you’re grabbing their arm and trying to sell them something
c) Share your business card and suggest you chat on Skype or meet for coffee sometime that month
I love meeting people on trains and buses. Sometimes I’ve made long-term friends and associates (and even clients) from chance meetings. But there is an ‘arc’ to the encounter: you travel together for a little while, chat, and then part ways. You don’t really know each other and you might never see each other again.
Most of us wouldn’t imagine being so arrogant as to try either option A or B with someone we’ve met on a train. But sharing your business card (with a smile) and suggesting you connect at a later date is a great way to part ways but leave the space open for further engagement.
ONLINE: When people land on your website for the very first time, it’s not a whole lot different from meeting them on a train. Your meeting is a chance encounter. They may have landed on your site by doing a Google search or maybe by clicking one of your links on Twitter. Maybe the link they clicked wasn’t even posted by you, but by someone else. They come into your ‘carriage’ (your website or blog) and you start chatting. If you’re really obnoxious, they’ll probably click away from your website and look for another ‘seat’ — i.e. do another Google search. But if you’re really pleasant, they’ll chat with you until they have to get off the train (click away from your site). ‘Chatting’ on your blog means that you are sharing information that you know is of interest to them. This is showing hospitality. Eventually, when they’ve read all they want from your blog/website, you allow them to leave — graciously. You don’t try to hold them back with pop-ups and other invasive marketing strategies. You do, however, give them a gentle invitation to stay connected, by asking them to subscribe to your blog, or something else that is the emotional equivalent of giving them your business card and setting a coffee date. This is showing them respect, thus rounding off all four cornerstones of the Grace of Invitation.
SCENARIO 2: You’re attending an outdoor summertime birthday party in your neighbourhood. Do you:
a) Show up in your flashiest business ‘power suit’ (and heels, if you’re female)
b) Back one of the guests into a corner and talk to them for hours about yourself and your achievements
c) Dress casually and connect with different people by asking about their interests and talking to them about that subject — with genuine interest
When you show up to an outdoor party, there’s an unspoken behavioural expectation that you’re coming there to chill out and socialise. Dressing in your best power suit is certainly not ‘fit for purpose’. Isolating another guest and forcing them to listen to everything about you, you, you for hours is not only rude, but you’re also not allowing them to enjoy the party or meet anyone else.
ONLINE: Social media is often the emotional equivalent of the ‘outdoor birthday party’. The behavioural expectation is that you are there to socialise. That means talking to people, not just about you and your business, but about them, about life, about ‘stuff’ in general. Sure, sometimes you can get into juicy conversations with people about deeper subjects, but if you’re the only one doing the talking, then it’s not a CON-versation or COM-munication (con/com = “with”).
Similarly, it’s equally ‘unfit for purpose’ when you’ve just met someone via social media and you instantly start emailing them business proposals. Sadly, I get bombarded with SEO proposals via new LinkedIn connections so frequently, that I’ve now stopped approving contact requests from anyone in the web development industry unless I already know them.
SCENARIO 3: You’re a lecturer standing in front of a room full of high school freshman on their very first day. Do you:
a) Deliver your favourite Ph.D. level lecture on quantum physics
b) Do an in-depth analysis of the rituals of an ancient tribe in the South Pacific, using lots of anthropological jargon
c) Tell stories about what it felt like when you first started high school, and about the journey that might lie ahead for them
Delivering graduate level banter to a bunch of wide-eyed teenagers is likely to create 1 of 3 responses: 1) their eyes will glaze over and you’ll bore them to tears; 2) they’ll become hostile and cynical towards you and think you’re a stuffed-shirt or; 3) you’ll trigger their anxieties and self-doubt. A ‘fit-for-purpose’ talk would address them where they are in that moment: wide-eyed, curious, nervous, scared, trusting and hopeful.
ONLINE: This has to do with what I call ‘meeting people where they are’. WAY too many bloggers I see write articles using jargon or concepts understood only by them. This is especially true for people in the mind-body-spirit industry (from which most of my marketing clients come). I also find this to be the case with most ‘business solution’ companies I see online. They tend to be so full of jargon and hype that I simply cannot understand what they are talking about or offering.
When someone first lands on your website/blog OR reads one of your Tweets, you have to imagine they are like this room full of freshmen students: receptive, eager, looking for answers but possibly inexperienced in your (or even their own) field. There’s a fine line that you, the marketer, have to master between speaking clearly to the ‘beginner’ while not boring those who are more advanced. You need to acknowledge the ‘entry point’ through which people are crossing into your territory, while systematically guiding them on a journey.
Using lots of specialised jargon on your site is just like the physicist or anthropologist in A and B. The ONLY excuse for using such jargon is if you are exclusively a B2B (business-to-business) company in a specialised field and you KNOW that your audience already knows the lingo. But when speaking to the public, never assume they automatically know what you’re talking about when they first land on your website. Build a natural progression into your materials. If you are writing about something a bit more ‘advanced’, then make sure you have some prerequisite material to which they can refer so they can understand the subject better. Link back and forth between articles within your blog posts (anchor text links are good for your SEO anyway).
The Grace of Invitation has an elegance and pleasantness that feels good to both the marketer and the audience. Because it feels so ‘easy’ many people think they have it mastered, but they don’t. I hope these three metaphors made it easier to understand how to bring the Grace of Invitation into your marketing, and how to market in ways that are ‘fit for purpose’ in the new marketing paradigm.
As always, I welcome your thoughts on this subject and look forward to reading any comments you’d like to share below. Let’s make this our autumn-time outdoor birthday party. 😉
And, of course, if you’re curious to know more about the 7 Graces of Marketing, I do invite you to check out my book of the same name, and to come join our 7 Graces Facebook community, where you’ll find hundreds of ‘grace-full’ marketers.
If you’d like to read more articles like this, be sure to subscribe to the blog before you leave. We normally publish twice a week.
15th October 2013
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The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing.
Brit Writers Awards Finalist
eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically, by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media.
eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
LYNN 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 is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Lynn’s 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. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)