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Prospects ignoring you? Here’s how to get them to listen

Want to know why your business gets overlooked on social media? Why your Twitter account has fewer than 200 followers, your Facebook account only has 30 likes, and you can count your blog’s daily readership on one hand?

The reason is simple.

My dog, Ruby, is usually super-obedient. That is, except when something spooks her. When she’s scared, she enters fight or flight state. She becomes selectively deaf to my commands and goes into over-ride mode.

Whatever I say, she ignores me.

Likewise, most people are in constant “over-ride mode” when it comes to marketing messages. They’re cynical and switched off.

You’re spooking them.

That’s why your business gets overlooked. People have learned to ignore pretty much anything that looks, sounds or smells like it has something to sell.

You’re looking, sounding and smelling selly.

Thirty year’s ago, the average American city dweller was exposed to 2,000 advertising messages every day. Today, that’s more like 5,000. Every year, consumers are hit with nearly 2 million marketing messages.

The average person can hold seven pieces of information in their short-term memory.

No wonder consumers feel bombarded and don’t want to know. Their eyes, ears and minds are overloaded to breaking point.

The Conventional Solution

The struggle to capture the attention of a cynical public is nothing new.

The conventional solution is what I do with Ruby when she’s not listening:

Shout louder.

As Linda Kaplan Thaler, CEO of New York ad agency the Kaplan Thaler Group, says:

“We never know where the consumer is going to be at any point in time, so we have to find a way to be everywhere. Ubiquity is the new exclusivity.”

That’s fine if you’ve got a marketing budget the size of a developing country’s GNP. But what about the rest of us?

Social media in business offers a low-cost, accessible solution. You can’t be anywhere, but you can be accessible anywhere in the world with an internet connection. And you sure can shout.

You’ve seen the Facebookers and Twitterati that do this. They repeat the same message over and over and over again. “Read my book!”; “Buy my product!”; “Check out my blog!”

This is the spray and pray solution, where social media in business is seen as a megaphone.

It doesn’t work. Do this, and you’ll crash and burn.

(Shouting louder doesn’t work with Ruby, either).

Why Conventional Fails

Shouting louder doesn’t work in any context because it simply reinforces consumer behavior. The more you bombard them with messages, the better they’ll become at ignoring you.

(Interesting story. On a recent train journey, I noticed adverts had been printed at the top of the menu cards. The menu cards had been designed so wherever you sat, you were face-to-face with the advert for the whole journey. Yet every menu card in every seat had been folded, clandestinely, by train passengers, to hide the advert. That’s what I’m talking about)

Shouting louder especially doesn’t work on social media.

Why? Because social media is not a megaphone for your business. Rather, it’s a set of ear muffles for your customers and potential customers.

If they don’t want to hear what you’re saying, they don’t follow you.

Take off those Ear Muffles

There’s a simple way to get people to listen.

Simple doesn’t mean easy, however. This will take effort and dedication on your part.

I’ll explain this technique in one short sentence:

Speak when your audience take off their ear muffles.

When do people take off their ear muffles?

When they’re talking with their friends. Your first strategy is to get people talking to you and about you. Contests, promotions, or “pay with a tweet” can help, but ultimately the best way to get people talking is to be conversational.

Spend time on social media hanging out with your customers. Be approachable. Answer their questions.

When you do this consistently, you’ll achieve organic growth, with word of your remarkable business whispered from friend to friend to friend.

When they’re listening to someone they trust. These are the bloggers and authors they already read, the YouTube channels they already watch, the email lists they’re subscribed to. This is why guest posting works. Other strategies include contributing to a multi-authors ebook, taking part in interviews, and joint webinars with authority figures. Webinars are particularly effective. Jon Morrow got 13,000 subscribers just doing webinars and interviews, without having a single post on his own blog.

When they don’t want to miss out. When people notice you doing something amazing, they’ll willingly take off their ear muffles. When you provide massive value, for free, your audience will want to throw their ear muffles to the floor.

By massive, I mean massive. When they take off their ear muffles, they’re expecting to be enthralled – and have every expectation shattered – just like a deaf person hearing music for the first time.

(Side note: You should also be this good when you’re hanging out on social media, and when you’re doing guest posts and webinars).

In the words of Steve Martin: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

What do you think?

I’m curious. What have you found are the best ways to get a cynical audience to listen online in a marketing-saturated world?

About David Masters

David Masters is a freelance blogger who teaches small businesses how to buzz up their social media marketing at Social Caffeine. Come on over and get your buzz on!

24 thoughts on “Prospects ignoring you? Here’s how to get them to listen

  1. Brilliant. Shouting louder definitely doesn’t work and it’s the approach so many are trying (and then getting discouraged).

    I’ve found getting that trusted introduction is what works for me — whether it’s through others sharing my posts on social media, allowing me to guest post on their blog, hosting me on a teleseminar/webinar, etc. Letting their audience know they can trust me and I come recommended is key to getting past those ear muffles. 🙂

  2. Thanks Michelle! Trusted introductions have worked well for me in finding clients for my freelance business. Guest posts are a great tool, too. It’s partly about credibility. When the editor/owner of a high traffic blog believes what you have to say is worth sharing, then people will sit up and listen.

  3. Great advice, and certainly an eyeopener for me!

    Having a new (developing) website, I spend time each morning checking the site stats…finding next to nothing, I have methodically “shouted louder” to no avail. After reading your insightful blog posting, a few small (grand) changes are in order. Of course that’s why I subscribe to those in the know.


    • Yes! Get in touch with all the bloggers in your niche and offer them a scoop. Just look at what Sean Platt did – 75 interviews across the blogosphere to promote Yesterday’s Gone. Look at what Danny did with guest posting, too.

      Think broader than the traditional media. Where does your target market hang out?

  4. Wow, this post had me glued to the end.

    I’m not a social media fan so it’s really tough for me to spend time interacting on facebook or twitter. I’m trying to do as much guest posting as I can as I have repeatedly heard how effective it can be.

    As for webinars, that sounds a bit advance. How can someone who’s name is not known in the writing world get involved in a webinar?

  5. A few minutes ago I read a LinkedIn message that asked me to CONSIDER visiting and subscribing to a blog. Take CONSIDER out of your vocabulary! She wants me to SUBSCRIBE, not CONSIDER. This dishonest groveling repels me. How much more honest and effective to say, “Please take a look at my new blog, and I hope you’ll like it well enough to subscribe.”

    • Sometimes it’s good to ask people to consider things, but in marketing it’s easier, and more effective, to get people to consider THEIR problems first rather than MY solutions (or MY product or MY blog). Solutions, products and blogs come later.

      Sure, “Please take a look at my new blog, and I hope you’ll like it well enough to subscribe” is cleaner and more to the point, but it’s not really any better than asking you to consider taking a look. At a minimum, she needs to explain why the blog is relevant to YOU and how it helps YOU.

      She’d have been much better to connect with you and ask you a question that’s easy for you to answer. Build the relationship first.

      • Good point David. IMO, the key is your “At a minimum” statement. I wouldn’t be reading this blog if Danny hadn’t identified and spoken to MY NEED right off the bat, as he consistently does. My attention span has shrunk to mere glances most of the time, so you’d better snag my eyeballs in that first glance, because you probably won’t get a second one. Then, once you have my eyeballs in your message, reward them with a straight request, not groveling.

  6. I’ve found that being slightly insane helps. 🙂

    For a long time I tried to be very “normal.” I didn’t want to be zany and scare people off my blog, and I finally realized that that was really stupid. I started being much more myself, and enjoying what I was doing without worrying how people would perceive me.

    Since I started doing that, I’ve gotten more attention, visits, subscribers, and everything else. Sometimes just being yourself gets people to take off their “ear muffles.” 🙂

    • Great tip, Lindsey! Zany works, if that’s you. Lori Taylor at Social Caffeine says “funny is money”.

      As a general tip, I’d say don’t be afraid of being who you are. And enjoy yourself! If you’re having fun, others will want to join in.

  7. I agree with Lindsey above about being yourself. You have to “do you” and let everyone else do what they do. Along with that, I’ve found that adding value has been the most effective way of connecting and drawing people in. Whatever medium you use, you have to add some value, it can’t be all about you. The more you make it about your reader/user/follower, they more likely they’ll respond positively.
    Thanks for this post!

    • Good call on adding value! A handy ratio to bear in mind on social media is that for every 10 updates you post, 9 should be about helping your audience. Only one should be about you.

  8. David, some great stuff here! I especially like the last quote – “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”. Shouting louder is defiantly not the way to go, we tested it ourselves and it sure as heck doesn’t work. Sometimes I feel like you just have to not worry about your product and just be interesting. Instead of sell sell sell, just spread some wisdom and people will notice. It’s still a challenge for us to be where we want to be but at least we are going in the right direction by following some of your suggestions. Great article:)

    • Product is essential, but you’re right, there’s way more to it than that, especially as because for many bootstrappers and solopreneurs, you are your product. Being interesting is always great advice.

  9. My first thought was to click past this email,but now I am glad i clicked and read it. There’s some great info here. I need to make some changes in my approach to get those ear muffs off.
    Thanks for the article.

  10. Great points here. I’ve seen a lot of Twitter accounts that are too promotional and it is annoying. Who wants to follow someone who sees you as a dollar sign instead of a human?

    13,000 subscribers and no blog posts? That’s incredible!

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