I belong to two book clubs.  My first book club has been meeting monthly for over 12 years.  When we started, each member sent an email in advance when it was her turn to host with directions to her home.

My second book club started up last February.  It’s a smaller group and the other members sent out an advanced email with just their address when it was their turn to host.  Technology being what it is now, the social norm is to find your own way there via a GPS navigation device.

I may be the last person in America without a GPS device.

Despite this, I rarely get lost.  I’ve never gotten used to the idea of leaving home without knowing where I am going.  Either I get directions in advance (via Google Maps or Mapquest) or have a gut sense of the route.

Like last night, for example.  My first book club was meeting at Chitra’s house.  Chitra moved three years ago.  I’ve been to her home just enough for the route to be semi-familiar.  As I wound my way there, I knew about where her house was and corrected my one wrong turn quickly after it occurred.

Most of the time my sense of direction serves me well.

I’ve also learned that if I say I know the way with conviction in my voice, my husband will believe me.  (This has only gotten me in trouble once or twice.)

Remember when giving directions was the social norm?

I loved offering directions and still do (though many people now decline the offer and seem surprised by it).

Providing clear directions with distinctive landmarks makes your guests feel welcome even before they arrive and allays any anxiety from venturing into new territory.

The same is true for good marketing.

Good marketing beats a clear and easy path to your product, makes your customers feel welcome and reduces their anxiety about giving your product a try.

Like clear directions, good marketing begins with an understanding of when and from where your customers are coming.  By “from where,” I mean what is the problem they seek to solve with your product.

Like clear directions, good marketing highlights the distinctive aspects of your brand.  If you were giving directions to The College Club in Boston, you wouldn’t just say that you were located in a brownstone on Commonwealth Avenue (like hundreds of other people).  You would say you were at number 44 with a glass door, just past the Berkeley Street intersection.

Like clear directions, good marketing addresses points of anxiety to allay them.  When giving directions you might add ideas of where to park if parking is a challenge and a phone number to call in case your guest veers off track.

To channel your directions-giving talent and guide prospects to your product:

  • Learn about their needs and circumstances.  Just as you would ask where your guests were coming from to give directions, ask your target customers about the problems they need to solve.  (You wouldn’t guess the direction your guests were coming from so don’t guess here either.  Ask.  What you hear may surprise you.)
  • Convey that you understand the problem they need to solve.
  • Keep it simple and specific.  Resist your urge to cram in every benefit and feature of your product.  Focus marketing messages on how your solution to their problem is unique.
  • Reduce the risk of trial.  The good marketing equivalents of parking recommendations and a phone number just in case could be a liberal trial policy and a money back guarantee.

Good marketing differentiates your brand from everyone else and makes you the obvious choice.

Apparently my love of reading was a differentiating factor for me in high school.  I was voted Female Class Bookworm my senior year.

Not the worst thing to be known for.

And now that my December book club meetings are over, I’m ready to start another book.

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