You’re not selling what you think you’re selling. Or at least, you shouldn’t be.

The old marketing adage that ‘people don’t want a drill, they want a hole’ should be at the forefront of your mind at all times. Your product or service is often a stepping stone to some experience that your customer seeks.This experience could be freedom, adventure, the absence of pain or any of the other myriad states that people aspire to.

Marketing is the means by which your product or service is placed within the context of the desired experience. And it does this simply through conversation.

Your customers and potential customers are out there having this conversation already – with themselves, with their friends, probably with Google. They are asking ‘how can I achieve more freedom?’ or ‘How can my life be made more adventurous?’ All you need to do is respond to their question – ‘My product will help you achieve the freedom, adventure or luxury that you seek.’

Before you start actively participating in this conversation you need to understand what context your product is or could be a part of. There may be more than one. For example, if you are selling cookies, your cookies might be part of a conversation about ‘how can I best relax after a hard day’s work?’, or ‘how can I treat myself?’, or ‘how can I treat my kids?’ Or all three and more.

Once you have thought about which context your product belongs to, it’s time to join the conversation. In order for a successful conversation to occur the participants need to be in the same place. Then the conversation is made up of speaking and listening in turn. ‘Speaking’ in the marketing context is achieved through content. Content could be images, audio, video, articles, testimonials, or actual conversation through a sales rep. In order to strike up a conversation the content must be interesting and relevant to your customer. This content must be delivered in such a way, and in such a place, that your customers can and will listen, and consider it. This could be by way of social media, your website or email marketing.

When your customers have heard your opening gambit, and are interested, they will respond. They might respond by visiting your store or website, following you on social media, or making a purchase. If you want to build up a long-term, meaningful relationship with your customers it is imperative that you listen to what your customers are saying with their responses. What do they like? What don’t they like? What do they want more of? By listening in this way, you are best placed to continue the conversation, to respond to their needs, to continue to embed your product in the context of the desire that they wish to fulfill.

So, to recap… You’re not selling a product; you’re selling something that will create the context your customers are looking for. You won’t know what context your product fits into unless you listen. Once you know what context your product is a part of you need to join the conversation by telling your customer through content how your product will help them achieve the sought after context. Once you’ve told them, your customers will respond. And so the conversation will go.

Be warned, if your customers don’t respond to your message, something is wrong. Either you haven’t properly understood your customer’s needs, or your message isn’t compelling enough. We are social beings, we can’t help but involve ourselves in interesting, relevant conversation. Listen, empathize with your customer’s desires, and where your product can genuinely assist with those desires, tell them about it! That’s all there is to it.