Probably the worst way to get someone’s attention is to poke them. A sharp jab with the finger will certainly get someone to notice you, but the poke conveys no information about why you need their attention and is, frankly, kind of annoying.
A lot of the advertising and marketing I see, especially in the business-to-business sphere, seems aimed at simply getting attention, being noticed. It’s a poke — it’s usually vaguely annoying and it often the response it generates is either indifference or irritation.
The best advertising provokes a response. It makes the target of the advertising think and react. It’s provocative, not in a titillating or base way, but in a thought-provoking way that engages and inspires people to respond. Viral YouTube videos that get people talking and laughing, alternate reality games that blur the lines between game, promotion, and reality, and dynamic speeches and presentations at conferences are all good examples of marketing that provokes.
Here are some good ways to transform your marketing from poke to provoke:
1. Question Cherished Beliefs: Nothing provokes a response more than a well-reasoned, effective attack on the status quo. If your product or service does things differently, illustrate how it tears down walls and destroys the “old way” of doing things.
2. Force a Decision: In logic class, this is known as creating a false dichotomy, and it’s considered bad debating practice. In marketing, however, forcing your prospects to make a choice, and laying out the alternatives such that your solution is obviously the best choice is simply good provocation.
3. Invite a Response: Give your customers a way to interact with you, to let their voices be heard. Marketing should be a dialogue, not a monologue. If the method of response is clever and engaging, all the better. Build a compelling social media presence and provide multiple ways to connect with you (Twitter, Facebook, customer forums, etc.)
Provocation can backfire, of course. Sometimes the response you get is not the one that helps you, but even negative responses can give you insight into improving your campaigns. Most of the time, however, you’ll engage your prospects in a satisfying dialog and you’ll gain respect in their eyes, recommendations to their friends and colleagues and perhaps a little money from their budgets.