A friend told me about the time his mom took him to the shopping mall to help her pick out a birthday present for his father. He was about six years old at the time, and it was no surprise when he headed straight for the toy store. That gave her a chance to have a little talk with him about the gift selection process: we look for something the other person would like, which is not necessarily what we would like for ourselves. She then guided him to another store, where they picked out a more appropriate gift. All these years later, he still remembers that important lesson.
The adult version of this story happens all the time. I once attended a strategy meeting at a nonprofit agency. The group was discussing ways to express appreciation to donors, and someone suggested framing a list of names and displaying it in a prominent place in the office. The leader of the group said, “That won’t work. I don’t want my name publicized.” Someone pointed out that people could remain anonymous if they wanted, but she stood firm against the idea. It wouldn’t have been a shock if an outsider had made that statement, but she should have known better. If you ask me, it was obvious that the wrong person was leading that meeting.
I’ve heard the same kinds of things in advertising meetings. A retailer refuses to run an ad in the sports section of the paper, because he doesn’t like sports. (He doesn’t understand that his products appeal to the demographic group that follows sports.) A business owner decides against a digital presence, because “digital is only for national news.” (She doesn’t realize that her target audience is relying heavily on digital for local news.) A sales person hesitates to recommend a higher ad budget, because that advertiser has never spent that much money before. (In reality, the advertiser may have plenty of money to spend on the campaign, but the sales person can’t think beyond his own perceptions.)
Henry Ford said, “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”
Yes, anyone can see things from their own point of view. But it requires special talent to see things from the other person’s perspective.
Advertising requires its practitioners to follow Henry Ford’s advice on many different levels. Sales people have to see things from their advertisers’ perspectives. Then they have to help those advertisers see things from their target audiences’ viewpoints. Along the way, they have to help their production departments create audience-relevant messages.
It’s human nature to believe that everyone will like this new business proposal…or that headline…or this ad schedule. That’s why it takes discipline to understand what the other person thinks. In the end, you’ll develop better advertising, better marketing partnerships and better internal working relationships.
(c) Copyright 2020 by John Foust. All rights reserved. John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: email@example.com