by Alberto Aleo
Would you recognise the model of the attractive male that dominated in the ‘90s? Strong muscles and tanned skin, accompanied by a gentle but decisive character: in short, the perfect man! Yet if you now take a look at any of the ads or films from those years this model appears more than oversimplified and false. Undoubtedly, our tastes have changed and Hollywood, which has always been a step ahead of marketing and communication trends and exercised its own influence, has replaced Schwarzenegger’s perfect body with the much more credible physique of everyday men. Current marketing trends reflect this concept: be real, not perfect. So let’s try to better understand what this actually means in order to glean some helpful tips for our companies’ strategic decisions and for our work in general.
Stand out and let others choose you
Imagine you are having dinner with a potential partner. If the person you are with starts listing their virtues, expounding their talents and explaining just how capable they are, you will soon begin to lose interest and probably conclude that this is not the right person for you. Now, try to recall your longest romantic relationship, or a friend to whom you have been attached to for a long time. Think for a moment about the things that attract you most to this person and you will realize that what might appear as defects to anyone else may well be the very things that attract you most.
Defects and flaws actually draw people closer together as they underline the things we have in common and emphasize our humanity, becoming part of our identity.
So when you carry out a SWOT analysis (examining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your business) you need to study your “defects” and take them into consideration as an integral part of your image. While your flaws will mean you do not provide the ideal solution for everyone, remember that nowadays that is the key if you want to be chosen: you must be real, not perfect.
Honouring your promise
The pact between customers and company can be summed up in a single promise: I will satisfy your needs. This promise must be repeated through the various phases of your relationship and you must first render this promise credible, and then fulfil it. Too many companies are still functioning in 90s’ mode, promising their customers that they are perfect and believing that this will help them to be selected. If you are not yet convinced, open any internet site: within the same sentence you’ll find the words “quality”, “low price” and “service” featured together, even though anyone with experience in marketing is aware that these concepts can hardly coexist in the same offer.
Companies today must make clear, credible and simple promises. They must be real, not perfect!
They must tell us something concrete like “My products are the cheapest and their main quality is value for money”, or “We can boast top performance and this means our prices are higher,” and so on. Choosing a clear promise is a good way to stay on the market, to develop a competitive style and become recognized. Just to give you an idea, an American agency recently carried out research into the most overused phrases in business communication. Virtually all the companies used descriptions such as “market leaders”, “manufacturing excellence”, “customer service”, “cutting-edge innovation”: these terms, chosen to make us attractive to customers, actually risk creating boredom as we slide towards a generalized conformism.
Entering the circle of trust
As we wrote in the article dealing with the Circle of Trust, one of the first “Circles” you must move beyond when forming a relationship with your customers is their skepticism. They are often prejudiced in their relationship with the salespeople and the company, believing that any salesperson is out to con them. This attitude will lead them to doubt your promises, fearing that you may be unable or unwilling to fulfil them. How do you think a person this suspicious will react to a phrase like “We are the best, the cheapest and the most attentive?” This approach will scare them, as they’ll think that for the umpteenth time they are dealing with a good talker who is trying to put a positive spin on a poor offer. To overcome their distrust you must show them who you really are, explaining that you cannot do everything, but there are some things that you do really well: once again, real, not perfect. This is not just about being the “good guys” who tell the truth, but great strategists of the current marketplace, now characterized by increasing democratization of communication systems where people appreciate transparency and where reputation and word of mouth have become crucial.
Going back to the models that dominated through the ‘90s, the one that both Alice and I liked most was Sylvester Stallone. This man had an imperfect face, terrible pronunciation and a background among Italian immigrants in one of the harshest areas in the States. Sylvester was flawed, but he made it because he had one overriding quality: he never gave up. From this story of defects that became qualities, he created a movie. Have you ever heard of Rocky, I wonder?
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