(Originally published on Entrepreneur.com)

Since the outbreak began, it can seem like it’s harder than ever to stand out amidst all the noise.

We’re writing posts that people don’t read, hosting live streams people don’t attend, and running ads that people don’t click on anymore.

And when you combine a decrease in engagement, a loss of income, and a nagging feeling that you’re not even making a contribution, it’s only natural that the internal strife just builds and builds.

This lack of engagement, money, and purpose very much defined my life a few years ago. I had developed skills as a communication and messaging expert, yet I was driving for Lyft just to make ends meet. I knew I had valuable skills, but no one else did.

Then, a couple of years ago, I made a shift in my marketing that changed everything.

When I had attempted to put myself out there with my marketing before, I did what nearly everyone else does – talk about my solutions. When someone does this, they might describe their five-step system for achieving some sort of goal, hype up their course as exactly what someone needs to make a change in their life, or talk about a “revolutionary new gadget” they have for sale. (Case in point: I took a break from writing this article and went onto Facebook. I saw a video ad for an exercise toy. In the 30-second video, the spokesperson mentioned his “awesome new product” three times.)

This seems like it would be an appropriate thing to do in one’s marketing – we have a product or service, why wouldn’t someone want to know about it?

Think about your problems on your “trudge to the bathroom”

In response to this question, I’d like to present to you the image of a person who has just woken up.

They’ve just refrained from hitting snooze for the third time, several joints crack as they crawl out of bed, and as soon as they’ve shaken the cobwebs from their mind they trudge to the bathroom thinking about all the things they have to deal with that day: the interminable nature of the lockdown, how much their spouse is driving them crazy, how hard it is to get work done with their kids around all the time, how much weight they’ve gained by not going to the gym, or whether they’re even going to make it through 2020 because their industry is falling apart.

Then, finally, they make it to the bathroom.

Now I ask you: At what point in that groggy journey did they think to themselves, “boy, I hope I find an awesome new product today”?

As marketers, we’re failing the “trudge to the bathroom” test because we’re talking about our stuff – not whatever was preoccupying our audience when they woke up that morning.

We’re skipping over the problems as our audience experiences them, when the effectiveness of our marketing is defined by how well we understand the problems our audience cares about solving.

Find opportunities for connection

When they see that we understand the problem as they experience it, they see that we understand them as well.

And when we speak to their world, they want to be part of ours.

If you’re offering a service and marketing yourself to executives, seek out connection points. Rather than talking about your method, talk about how burnt out you are on motivating your team via Zoom when the kids are making noise and their attention is divided between work and learning how to home-school from scratch.

Say you sell tools for putting together backgrounds for video calls. Rather than talking about the various bells and whistles of your product, speak to how embarrassing it is to have a messy house in the background, but how there isn’t any time to straighten up with so much going on.

Speak to the problem, not the solution

When I had my own marketing revelation several years ago, I stopped talking about best communication practices and instead spoke to public speakers and the agony of feeling like a fraud when getting on stage. Like I said, everything changed.

When the health crisis hit, I spoke to the hardship of having a recently canceled speaking gig and the deflated feeling that comes from people bailing on one’s virtual presentations.

There’s a key difference between speaking about our solutions and speaking directly to the problems our audience cares about solving.

A good test of whether you’re addressing the right problems is whether they’re the sorts of problems that consume people as they trudge to the bathroom first thing in the morning.

If your marketing is to succeed in this crowded, noisy world, take a moment to consider the pain that your audience is in, and speak to those pain points to capture their attention. Audiences will follow whoever understands them best.

If you’re interested in going deeper in exploring how to attract others to your work, fill out an application to speak with me and we’ll go from there.


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