Relativity: Marketing Fundamentals 3 of 7

Today’s article is about Relativity.

Of the five frameworks in this series, I’d say this is the simplest to get right and the one most consultants get wrong.

We’re all programmed to incorporate bias, based on our existing worldviews, into our thinking.

And at the same time, we each overestimate our ability to empathise.

We’re inclined to believe we have this innate capacity to recognise our biases, put them to one side, and then view the world from an alternative perspective.

I know I did.

I was heading up marketing for a software firm targeting UK property developers. Let’s say those developers were building an apartment block. They need to find, tender, and enter into contract with a range of subcontractors.

Subcontractors could package out each section of the building to subcontractors

We helped them manage that process and, by improving their efficiencies, helped them increase profit margin on construction by 10%. That equated to £100k+ additional income per project.

A desirable value proposition, right?

Based on 30 years of combined experience working with developers, we knew what they valued (money), so we didn’t ‘waste’ time testing the message. We went straight to market.

Over the next six months, through SEO, ads, and content marketing, we built a system that generated around 800 email subscribers per month, of whom about 160 represented a good fit lead.

Your typical marketing filter

Know how many booked an introductory call with us each month?

Just 4

Nowhere near enough to sustain the business.

Up to this point, ‘speaking with customers’ had been halfway down my to-do list. After all, we ‘knew’ what they wanted. But, failing and not knowing why, I moved it up the list.

Within 3 customer conversations, I immediately understood where we’d gone wrong.

Remember the value proposition?

Improve profit margin on construction by 10%. That was our messaging, front and centre.

But on these first three calls, guess how many times the customer mentioned improved margins…


They told us, ‘Subcontracting is a tedious task.’ They liked that our product made it quicker and easier so they could spend less time doing it.

I held further conversations, this time with property developers who matched our good-fit clients but hadn’t yet worked with us.

What they shared was even more revealing.

They’d come from a 20 year finance background, completely burnt out from 80-hour weeks that had stuffed their bank accounts but wrecked their lives.

They’d missed their children’s childhood. Birthdays, school plays, rugby matches.

Their marriage was on the line because they were never home.

So they quit and switched to property development.

They could still earn good money but with a much healthier work-life balance.

But their early experience wasn’t as simple as planned.

They were as unhappy as a developer as they were as a banker

Contractors messed up the build, project delivery was delayed, and they’d spent far more time managing on-site than anticipated. It wasn’t what they hoped it would be.

And we’d got them completely wrong.

From our perspective, we assumed these were smart finance people who made cold, hard decisions based on numbers.

We missed the most important element of the equation.

They’re human.

Our product was simply a vehicle to get back what they’d missed in the past 15 years: a life.

That’s why our messaging wasn’t resonating.

It was Relativity.

Even though both buyer and seller were observing the same event - develop a property - we didn’t see the same thing.

We could only see it from our relative perspectives.

They saw a pyramid, we saw a square.

One person sees a pyramid, another sees a square

That’s why they didn’t care about what we did, because we didn’t reflect what they want.

And because the message was wrapped around our relative perspective, it didn’t resonate.

It didn’t stop them in their tracks. They simply walked on by.

We had contrast - nobody offered a subcontract management tool that improves margins by 10%.

But they didn’t care - it wasn’t desirable.

"It's you talking about your target market in terms that make sense to you but in a way that clients would never ever describe themselves." Jonathan Stark

But when you do the work to understand the buyer’s perspective and reflect it in your message, that’s when magic happens.

I’ve experienced this as a buyer, and I imagine you have too.

You immediately notice their LinkedIn tagline in the feed because it speaks to a desire that’s always on your mind.

Then you click through to read the marketing copy, and it feels like they’ve cracked open your head and read your mind.

They know you better than you do.

They know how you’re suffering and what you dream of, and they articulate both using the same phrases you do.

You reflect back to them the fears going through their head

They tell you they have the solution you’ve been looking for.

And, because they clearly understand what you want, you’re intrigued to learn more about their solution.

That’s the significance or Relativity - it informs your position to create Desirable Contrast and stand out amongst all the noise.

And with that in mind, I want you to review your current homepage and ask yourself this question:

How much of your messaging, if any, is informed by your assumptions versus what you know to be your customer’s reality?

Email me and let me know -

But before you do, I want to draw your attention to another element at play here.

It’s not enough to know what they want. You have to communicate that knowledge in a way that instantly resonates with buyers.

That’s for the next article - Principle of Least Effort

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