This post by Seth Godin got me thinking about one of the most important resources we have and how we are wasting it: time / attention.
No time to waste?
It seems like in our business (communications, marketing) we’re all so eloquent when it comes to explaining how precious the time / attention of the targeted customers is. They are swamped with information, they get pushed and pulled around but the days of interuption marketing are over. Customers don’t take that anymore (although I rather think that most of them have numbed themselves instead of getting emancipated).
Yet instead of leaving these customers alone and treating them and their time and attention with respect we encourage our clients to swamp them again.
Not with the classic swamping techniques from the interruption marketing era but with all kinds of one-to-one-experience-viralisting-guerrilla-ambient-mouth-to-mouth mumbo jumbo.
And it gets even worse.
Because we even encourage our customers to swamp each other for the sake of ( ) (fill out the blank). We do so by pretending we are refraining from influencing them. We do so by pretending they are just unleashing ideaviruses by being powerful sneezers.
We encourage our customers to disrespect other customers’ time and attention. How do we ever think they’ll ever respect us trying to get their full time and attention?
Seems like today everybody’s sneezing the hell out of themselves these days because it’s supposed to be an affirmation of their status as an independent customer.
Give me (and yourself) a break, will you.
Listen, learn and save snot
First of all: if you want people to be real powerful sneezers and real influential and independent customers you don’t just encourage them to sneeze whenever they are happy.
You encourage them to listen.
That’s right: listen.
Great listeners know when and why and how they can sneeze in order to add something meaningful to somebody else’s lives. They do so because they are so good at listening that in the end people ask them to sneeze.
How on earth is that possible?
How to get asked to sneeze in somebody else’s face
Great listeners ask questions. They do so to help other people to understand what their true needs are. If you ever come accross a great listener you’ll know. By the end of the conversation you’ll probably have expressed very clearly what it is that you really want and how that makes you feel. Once you know that, you’ll be able to make a specific request in order to solve your problem or satisfy your need(s).
Now here’s the thing: you’ll probably ask that question to the person who helped you understand what your basic needs are. Because that’s the person who apparantly seems to know you well since he/she made you realize what you really feel and want (although you’ve done much of the hard work yourself). So he/she must be the person who has the expertise to help you right away or at least point you in the right direction.
That’s how powerful sneezing truly works. It starts with powerful listening. Not with blowing your nose into everybody’s face as hard as you can while hoping you’ll infect a lot of people.
Addendum for real sneezers
In case you don’t care about listening because you simply need to blow your nose: here’s some good advice to help you out with that as well: “How to blow your nose”
PS: Seth’s ideas on unleashing the ideavirus still make sense to me. What doesn’t make sense is the idea that we should now try and turn everybody into a sneezer by focussing on the sneezing only. Great marketeers have always been great listeners. Same goes for great sneezers. Hey, I even believe a sneezer can infect someone by not sneezing him or her. Suppose you feel someone isn’t interested in your ideas and you can completely respect that. Chances are you’ll be perceived as a respectful, professional person. Your friend might even send people to you who he believe need what you are selling. He/she will do so because you’ve built trust. You’ve become a reference even without selling something to the referrer.