Recently I launched a new business. It’s based around a little software plugin that I made. I spent lots of time testing it, perfecting the code and packaging it up in a nice looking website with great documentation and plenty of examples. The initial product development was done. All that was left to do is sell.
But how do I drive people to my website? I could post on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks, with links back to my site, but what sort of content will build engagement and interest? Then I had a realisation which answers this question. And it’s not limited to the internet and online sales — it applies to any product sold in any way.
To get your customers’ attention you need to give them value in addition to the value they will get from the product itself. In other words, you need to give them value in exchange for their attention.
I’ll explain what I mean, but first a brief story about lunch.
What’s lunch got to do with it?
Yesterday I went to lunch with the CEO of a technology vendor. She has been trying to sell her company’s product to me and my employer for some time. This is the fourth lunch we’ve had over the last two years and at no stage has it appeared that I’m close to making a purchase. It’s not that the product lacks interest or potential value to my organisation, it’s that my organisation is not ready, internally, to adopt the new way of working that would be required to use the product.
So why do the CEO and I continue to meet for lunch every few months? For the CEO, in part she sees the possibility of a sale, even though it is uncertain and still some time away. But that’s not all. She is very well connected in the industry and is able to provide real value by connecting people and identifying trends. This is value that she provides to me when we meet and, I imagine, to others when she meets with them. And it’s only possible because she cultivates and maintains broad connections, including with me.
This is why I am willing to spend time with her every few months — I get real value from the meetings. I give her my time and attention, she gives me value in the form of connections and industry observations. And I am more likely to buy her company’s product than if we didn’t meet. The meetings ensure that I don’t forget about her company, and that I consider its product if and when the time is right.
What about other types of products, like those not sold by sales people?
The principal of “value in exchange for attention” applies to other types of products as well, even those not sold by sales people.
Consider a loaf of bread you buy in the supermarket. Does the baker of the bread give value in exchange for your attention? They do. It takes the form of convenience, which the baker buys from the supermarket and gives to you.
Supermarkets sell lots of products but the main value they provide is convenience. They aggregate products and bring them physically close to consumers, creating shops where space is valuable and scarce. Manufacturers and wholesalers compete for that space by paying to get their product on the supermarket’s shelves. Sometimes they pay money, sometimes they sell their product at discounted rates. Either way, they pay.
Ultimately they are buying a little piece of the “convenience pie” owned by the supermarket. The baker gives you value in the form of convenience delivered to you via the supermarket, you give the baker your attention when you’re in the supermarket perusing the bread isle.
What value are you offering your customers in exchange for their attention?
You should consider this question each time you post on social media with the intention of driving engagement and interest in your product. If you are not offering something of value, people won’t give you their attention.
The value you offer can take many forms. Here are some examples:
- Insight — offer a new way of looking at the world.
- Instruction — explain how to do something.
- Entertainment — be fun to read.
- Human connection — describe your emotions in response to an event, helping your readers to empathise.
- Knowledge — provide facts, preferably about something obscure.
- Convenience — the supermarket example.
My meetings with the CEO gave me insight and knowledge. The baker and supermarket give convenience. What value are you offering your customers for their attention?
Thanks so much for reading!
If you liked this article, please leave a clap and consider following me. I’d also love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Check out my latest project: Lithium List.
Follow me on Twitter.