It was about 11:30 am. I’d been through a couple of meetings, dodged a few phone calls (and got hit by a couple of others!) and I was meeting up with a colleague to talk about the progress we were making on a project that’s due this week.

We made our way from the office to one of my standby coffee shops in Bend called Crow’s Feet Commons.

As I was standing in line ready to order my customary Cappuccino and a Dirty Chai I realized that I was hungry as well. Between the glass jars and the pastry case there had to be at least 15 choices. I was completely overwhelmed…

The person in front of me ordered a soft pretzel. Seemed like a solid choice so I did the same when my turn came. I was thusly asked if I wanted Stone Ground Mustard or Honey Mustard for dipping. I asked the barista to get me what her favorite was. She didn’t answer and appeared back a few seconds later with my warm pretzel and a ramekin of honey mustard and said it was the best damn combo on earth.

I said thank you and paid my tab.

I headed out to the table with my beverages and tasty treat and over a lively conversation made them both quickly disappear. And it was the best damn combo on earth.

Most of the time, marketers think their job is to market whatever it is they are trying to sell. Most of the time it is way easier than this.

How you ask? Most of the time it’s all about telling people what they need to buy.

I spend a good amount of time either face-to-face or on the phone with an owner or marketing director who has a budget that they would like to spend with me and know they need me, but can’t even begin to to tell me what it is they actually need.

I spend a long time thinking that it was the client’s job to tell me what it is that they need.

It isn’t.

Today when I talk to a client about any services from a website to marketing automation and everything in between, I don’t ask them what they need. Instead I ask them what it is they hate about their current product or situation and what problems they are struggling with from a marketing standpoint.

Then, and only then, will I make a service recommendation.

The barista didn’t expect me to tell her what I wanted and luckily didn’t respond with questions or the famous and useless “I like everything here” comment that is 100% unhelpful in all situations. She knew that I had made all the choices that I was going to make and when asked, told me what to buy.

Point is simple – we’re not just marketers or baristas, we’re actually decision makers.