You’ve heard it loads of times – “YOU HAVE TO HAVE AN ELEVATOR PITCH READY AT ALL TIMES!” But who in an elevator ever actually wants to hear any pitch? I understand that it’s all figurative, people are rarely in an elevator when elevator pitches are given. The major problem with the idea of elevator pitches is this: there is no regard to the audience, their circumstances, or their willingness to listen. Elevator pitches assume that a captive audience is the best audience you will ever get. But that is simply a huge lie touted to salespeople in hopes that it will get them to market at any remote opportunity.
The truth is, the best marketing happens outside the captive audience, outside of obligation. The best marketing happens in the right context.
For example, think about the last time you received a telemarketer phone call. They likely called you when you were in the middle of dinner, and when you were not interested in a conversation because your chicken was smoking on the stove, your child was crying, and your favorite TV show just started.
This happens so often it hurts. Think about all the wasted money that company put into paying that telemarketer to be present in the office at the time that they called, and think about the horrible rude responses that telemarketer has to deal with as they called everyone else in that zip code, while everyone else was cooking dinner, all because of the skewed notion that you should market to someone in the comfort of their home.
This is where I call upon my beloved field of work: user experience. User experience is something I could go on for AGES about, but to summarize it into one sentence:
User experience design focuses on presenting the right information, in the right place, at the right time to encourage the right response.
It’s what I use when I design my websites, and what I use when providing recommendations for marketing and branding. Whatever it is you’re creating or marketing, you want to be sure that you’re providing the right product, at the right place, at the right time. In other words, you want to give the people what they want at any given moment: something of value in that moment.
At the University of Hawaii, I was given the privilege of hearing the great words of one of most innovative and progressive thinkers in the world of marketing. Stephen L. Vargo, co-author of the book Service Dominant Logic, emphasized the importance of co-creating value with your customers. That is, showing them something that they value, and further giving them the opportunity to contribute to that value. That all seems very abstract, but here’s a great concrete example that might help flesh that out.
Say I’m interested in purchasing a surfboard. I’m brand new to Hawaii, love the idea of surf culture, and I would love to hone my beginner skills on a board. Here are some ways that people could market a surfboard to me:
- They can call me while I’m grilling steak for my friends and offer me a steep discount on a surfboard that I can fulfill if I pull out a credit card and give them information on the phone.
- They can mail me a coupon so that I can review it on my own time, and I could maybe decide to keep the coupon.
- They can catch me while I’m shopping for bathing suits, and insist that if I purchase a surfboard with the bathing suit, they’ll give me the bathing suits for free.
- They can talk to me while I’m actively shopping for the surfboard, and offer me classes for beginner surfers, as well as invite me to surfing community events.
Which do you think is the best option? Personally, I’m vying for number 4.
Many people are convinced that a quick pitch at a random moment, paired with a discount, will result in the sale. Or if you’re a bit more experienced, you might say that the bathing suit paired with the discount will offer the greater chance of a sale. Have I not just been saying contextual marketing plus adding value?
Sure, discounts can “add value” monetarily, but many people are actually driven by deeper desires and drives than saving money. How else would the luxury market survive if people only discriminated based on price?
What Vargo argues, and what I argue as a user experience professional, is that you want to cater to more than just the transactional aspects of marketing. There are ways to increase the value that make people more inclined to purchase your product and more likely to stay loyal to your brand. In this surfboard example, I argue that giving people opportunities to join a community, increase their proficiency, and also provide a quality board based on expert opinions, will provide value that the customer simply will not find elsewhere, and otherwise will make them feel recognized.
Call it hippie thinking, but if you take a moment to get to know your customers, really learn what they value, you can craft an experience that will encourage them to seek quality experiences — and most importantly, you can do it all without taking a loss on your profits. So ditch the pitch, but build your experience.