How to Attract Customers: Marketing 101

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Personal MBA" by Josh Kaufman. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are some things you should consider when deciding on your marketing strategy? Who should you market to? How do you make your product/service appeal to your target customers?

Once your business has something of value to offer, the next thing you should focus on is how you can attract attention and appeal to potential customers. According to Kaufman, your best bet is to tailor your marketing approach to people who’ve already expressed an interest in your offer.

Here’s how to attract customers who are most likely to buy your product.

Identify People Who Might Be Interested in Your Offer

Kaufman argues that people are busy and their minds are always preoccupied with something. With so many demands competing for their attention, they tend to make quick decisions about what’s relevant to them and worth their time. This means that they automatically ignore unsolicited advertisements related to products and services they have no interest in purchasing.

(Shortform note: Charles Duhigg (The Power of Habit) sheds light on why people make quick decisions about what advertisements are relevant to them. Your brain seeks out ways to avoid information overload so that it can function efficiently. It achieves this by creating automatic routines and decisions based on what you do or pay attention to most often. These stored patterns allow you to get through your day without having to pause and consciously think about everything you do—they account for more than 40 percent of your daily decisions and behaviors, including what advertisements you pay attention to.)

So how can businesses get people to notice what they’re offering? According to Kaufman, successful businesses don’t waste time or resources trying to get attention from people who have no interest in what they have to offer. Instead, they target people who’ve already expressed an interest in similar offers and focus their marketing efforts on converting these people into paying customers. 

  • For example, there’s no point in promoting a vegan recipe book to someone who’s recently purchased a book about offal. But it is worth promoting it to someone who bought a raw food recipe book since it complements their interests.

(Shortform note: Osterwalder and Pigneur (Business Model Generation) suggest an alternative approach to targeting potential customers: Define the customers you intend to target before you work on developing your offer. This way, instead of developing an offer and hoping you’ll find interested customers, you can design your offer around customers with specific needs and simultaneously develop your marketing and sales strategies to effectively target them.)

Persuade Them to Want What You’re Offering

After identifying people who might be interested in the product or service, successful businesses focus on making their offer as attractive as possible to these potential customers. Kaufman gives a few tips on how to attract customers using marketing messaging:

Keep your message short and direct: Just because people are interested in your offer doesn’t mean they have unlimited attention to devote to your content. If your marketing message doesn’t get to the point, people will lose interest.

Pay attention to when potential customers are susceptible to your offer: Even if people are interested in what you have to offer, they’ll only pay attention to your content when it suits them. For example, they may willingly engage in your content when they’re shopping online but might block your content if you spam their browser with advertisements while they’re working.

Provoke a positive emotional response by clarifying the benefits: Clearly demonstrating the benefits of your offer encourages people to imagine how good their lives will be after accepting the offer. It also makes them feel like they’re missing out as long as they don’t have it. One way to do this is to offer free samples or trial periods so that potential customers can directly experience the benefits of your offer.

Make use of endorsements to establish trust: When people see someone they like or respect advocating your offer, they automatically take notice. Additionally, they subconsciously transfer their positive feelings about this person to your offer: “If so and so’s representing this, it must be good.” 

How to Attract Customers: Marketing 101

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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