Comfort zones: Can you (should you) step out of them in your marketing?

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An article by Cosential marketing vice-president Bobby Hollis in a Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) eletter raises some challenging observations.

“When it comes to our careers, sometimes we need to go for it and get out of our comfort zone,” he writes. “If I hadn’t taken my own advice last year, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Stepping into a marketing role from a decade in sales without the background was a challenge, but a great one.”

Sure, I had (healthy) intimidation for a few months, but the rewards have been immense. I’ve surrounded myself with people who challenge me. I’ve signed up for things outside of my comfort zone, like attending conferences, sessions, and participating in MySMPS online forums. And, I’ve asked a lot of questions, then a bunch more.

Why does all this matter? Because getting out of my comfort zone has allowed me to build relationships and gain knowledge. Finding like-minded people who can relate and advise me has been nothing short of inspirational.

Hollis’s points are well made, but there is an intriguing inverse argument when it comes to delivering a marketing message. Are you more likely to be successful when you cause your audience to step out of its comfort zone, or are you taking an unnecessary and dangerous risk?

There are two answers to this question. If you are trying to cause individuals to do something they would otherwise not do, you’ll have to move them out of their comfort zone, but if you push too hard or at the wrong time/way, you’ll blow the opportunity for a relationship because you’ll be irritating and offending your audience.

Yeah, it’s a somewhat challenging issue to determine if you are doing enough to attract attention but not too much to attract negative attention.

The best approach may be to generally operate within your knowledge of your market’s comfort zone, but test those differentiating things that cause you to stand out and make it easier for potential clients to take action and respond. You build that risk-taking capacity by earning their trust (branding) and you achieve the nudge with some creativity.

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