Monday, June 22, 2009

Get Personal

Picture this: A salesman comes into your home, sits down next to you, and begins talking about his product or service. But he’s not particularly warm or friendly. In fact, he subjects you to a rather impersonal sales pitch. It quickly becomes apparent that he has no desire to communicate person to person.

He bores you with an endless list of features that mean little to you. He shouts the price in your face, while stressing what a great deal he’s giving you. Then he asks for the order. By now, you’re not in the mood to do anything but throw him out on his ear. And that’s exactly what the vast majority of people do to almost all the advertising and marketing communications that they experience.

People can’t be bored or bullied into parting with their money. But sometimes they can be nudged or romanced into buying—if you touch them in a genuinely personal way. This is especially important if you’re selling to Baby Boomers. They’re highly individualistic, so they like to be tickled where they really live. Of course, determining how to do that takes much more than research. It takes the insight and sensitivity of a gerontology counselor—one who also happens to be an advertising and marcom expert.

You need someone like that, because you can’t create a feeling of personal warmth with reach and frequency alone. That frame of mind is born of a genuine rapport that you create. And that rapport doesn’t come easily. Building it takes time and finesse and a caring attitude that respects each Boomer’s needs, desires and self-perceptions.

Our obnoxious salesman isn’t the type who would bother trying to build such a “soft” skill set. Why bother, when you can bulldoze people? Well, that might work with some consumers, but not Boomers. That’ s why your advertising and marcom need to go far beyond canned presentations—the kind that bore the audience with drivel that was cobbled together by a committee back at the home office. Before you take this route, ask yourself, When has anything truly personal come out of a committee?

Whatever media you use, the message is clear: People are always more open to what you’re saying and selling when you speak to them, not at them. Faceless facts, no matter how convincing they may seem, don’t make for persuasive communication. People rarely buy for logical reasons. Most often they use logic to rationalize the emotionally-driven purchasing decision they’ve already made.

If you decide to get personal with Boomers, just keep in mind that there are ways to shout without yelling. As you create your next ad or brochure, ask yourself if it really hits Boomers where they live. Does it sell gently, with warmth and respect? Does it treat Boomers the way you’d like to be treated by someone coming into your own home? After all, the mind is the most important home we all have.

No matter how you do it, one thing is undeniable: Get personal, and you’ll be far more welcome in the Boomer Buying Center.

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