I think of myself as quite a shy person. But when I’m curious about something, I’ll go quite far to satisfy my curiosity. – Alain de Botton
The answer is curiosity – and it’s a bit of a surprise to me why I haven’t used that word before to think about this.
I was browsing through LinkedIn when I came across a post by Jess Cunningham that makes this point – before you spill out everything about what you do to someone check if they’re interested in what you’re selling or are interested personally in seeing you succeed.
If not, you need to first make them curious.
Now clearly this is Marketing 101. The AIDA model, which talks about the stages of marketing as Attention, Interest, Desire and Action, goes back to 1898 or earlier.
The words Attention and Interest, however, don’t do justice to what’s actually happening.
Even variants like Awareness or Comprehension are words that have had all the life sucked out of them – a word vampire has come along and left just a desiccated husk of meaning.
Well, to see how this works imagine taking your dog for a walk.
Let off the leash a dog will dart from bush to bush, sniffing and nosing and moving on.
Dogs are curious – they’ll pause longer to check out something new or if there is the scent of another dog.
Curiosity, however, is also a dangerous thing.
If you watch animals or little children they are naturally wary – they have to be to survive.
If you want to get a squirrel to come over to you or a cat to allow you to stroke it you have to first get it interest in a nut or show that you aren’t a threat.
Everyone needs to feel safe in the moment before they will venture towards something new.
Because, if they didn’t, something bad could happen and there might not be enough time to react.
When I drew the picture above I was trying to capture this idea of animal curiosity – the need to investigate that lies in us all.
The dog in the picture walks past three identical rocks until there is something new in the last one, where it stops and sniffs.
If you think of what is happening as getting attention – then the leaflet pusher or beggar on the street is doing the same thing – getting your attention.
In most cases you push past, because the attention is unsolicited, unwanted, undesirable.
So sales people are taught to force forward – get attention by any means and then force people to listen in order to create interest.
If you think about what is happening as inspiring curiosity, on the other hand, then different images come to mind.
What do you stop and look at?
Something pretty? Something fun? Something musical? Something you’re already interested in?
The quote from Alain de Botton above should probably be running in your mind as you think about marketing your product.
Most people are wary – that comes across as shyness.
But, when they’re curious they’ll spend a lot of time to assuage their curiosity.
The question you have to ask yourself is why they should be curious about what you do.
It’s too simplistic to say that there’s nothing interesting.
There is almost always something interesting about stuff that exists and that you’re marketing – because someone had to be interested enough to create it in the first place.
Maybe that’s a circular argument and actually there are lots of things that should never have been created in the first place.
If you’re selling those then maybe you should consider something else.
But for the 80% of stuff for which there is a market out there, however niche, your marketing plan should begin by asking, “what is it about my product or service that is going to make a prospect curious?”
Curiosity is the tip of your spear.
Get it as sharp as you can.