Rocket GTM 🚀 - The new era of Empowerment Marketing

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Alfie Marsh
Alfie Marsh
Inadequacy marketing is being replaced.
The type of marketing that points out our inadequacies and reinforces our insecurities is dying and it’s being replaced by Empowerment Marketing.
For years marketers have relied on creating anxiety by highlighting our problems and then offering their products as solutions.
  • Want to get laid? Buy aftershave.
  • Feeling unimportant? Buy a Rolex.
  • Want to fit in? Buy clothes.
Inadequacy marketing plays on the anxiety created when we lack basic human needs such as safety, security, and belonging. These are the lower level needs of Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs pyramid shown below.
It is anxiety that compels us to act with inadequacy marketing.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
But consumers are wising up, and such messages are less powerful in compelling us to act.
No one wants to feel guilty. Or be responsible for their problems.
Selling fear turns people off
Take this ad produced in 1964 for the presidential election. A girl counts down the petals on a flower, which then turns into a countdown for a nuclear bomb exploding.
The message is clear: “Vote on November 3rd. The stakes are too high.”
"Daisy" Ad (1964): Preserved from 35mm in the Tony Schwartz Collection
"Daisy" Ad (1964): Preserved from 35mm in the Tony Schwartz Collection
If we were to see such an ad today we would probably laugh at its audaciously direct and manipulative nature.
In the world of B2B it’s the equivalent of saying:
“Buy our product or risk losing your job”.
No one likes being scared into action. I’ve only seen this be effective today when the fear is implied rather than explicit.
Fear based marketing can be effective, but there’s a better, more powerful way to win the minds of your customers.
Empowerment Marketing
A hero in the making
Empowerment marketing positions your customer as a hero in the making. Instead of focusing on your customer’s current problems and inadequacies, it focuses on who they could become if they unlocked their full potential.
Inadequacy marketing focuses on where you should be today where as empowerment marketing focuses on where you could be tomorrow.
With empowerment marketing it is inspiration that compels us to act, not anxiety.
Different types of empowerment
Patagonia
There are different ways to empower people: Patagonia empowers people to explore the outdoors and offers a way to be kinder to the planet and the people around you.
Everything they do aligns with this raison d'être.
Take their recent post denouncing Facebook’s actions last week:
Clearly Patagonia stands for more than just selling clothes. They’re willing to forego profits to execute what they believe in. And it earns them a loyal customer base.
People who buy Patagonia are undergoing a transformation. From whoever they are today to someone who believes in doing good to the planet and being kind to other people.
Just Do It
Nike’s “Just Do It”. The epitome of empowerment. Nike’s narrative sells the view that anyone can be an athlete. Their product doesn’t make you an athlete. No, their product helps you uncover the athlete who already exists inside of you.
Note their slogan doesn’t say “Just Stop It”. They didn’t point out your bad habits of binge eating in front of the television or your lack of motivation to go to the gym. They focus on who you could become, not what you should stop doing.
Empowerment marketing in B2B
The above examples are admittedly B2C. Where the transformation from untapped potential to accomplished hero is a deeply personal one. But B2C strategies are becoming frequently used in B2B.
Instead of selling a personal transformation, B2B empowerment marketing sells a business transformation. And instead of selling a future self you could become, it sells a business opportunity that you could capitalize on.
Andy Raskin’s strategic narrative framework is a powerful way to apply empowerment marketing.
I discuss it in more detail in a previous newsletter here but the five pillars are below:
  1. Name a Big, Relevant Change in the World
  2. Show There’ll Be Winners and Losers
  3. Tease the Promised Land
  4. Introduce Features as “Magic Gifts” for Overcoming Obstacles to the Promised Land
  5. Present Evidence that You Can Make the Story Come True
You want to educate prospects about a big change happening in the world. And show them it’s possible to capitalize on this opportunity by offering them the tools necessary to make this transformation a reality.
Outlining that there’ll be winners and losers implies their existing processes are inadequate, but you aren’t selling a fix to these inadequacies, you are selling a transformation that enables them to capitalize on a business opportunity.
The message is more “don’t get left behind” than it is “fix what you’ve already broken.”
A common mistake
Let’s say you wanted to sell a fisherman a new boat. He built his current boat with his bare hands. It’s small and slow, but it get’s the job done. And is perfect for fishing in the local bay.
Telling him how bad his boat is would hurt his pride.
Using empowerment marketing you’d tell him a story of how there is a new current heading in from the North, causing a huge swell of Tuna fish to congregate by an island five miles West.
The only way to get there is with a large boat, with a deep hull, and powerful engines.
The inadequacy of his boat is implied. But that is not the focus. There is no need to highlight this deficit. The reason his boat is no longer good enough has nothing to do with the fisherman’s work, it has everything to do with a new opportunity that has presented itself.
You’re selling the future, not fixing the past.
You have to remember that most of the time in B2B you’re selling to the person who built the existing processes. Be careful that they don’t feel blamed for their inadequacies. Be clear the need for an upgrade has been brought on by something outside of their control.
It’s not their fault their current solution won’t suffice, but they can now act to capitalize on the future gains.
Wrapping it up 🌯
The days of pointing out problems and twisting the knife are numbered. People want to act out of inspiration, not out of fear. Brands who focus on empowering their customers will win.
Remember you don’t sell solutions. You sell transformations.
Which transformation are you selling?
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Alfie Marsh
Alfie Marsh @alfieisamarsh

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