Marketing is all around us. Marketing seeks more and is driven by better. Marketing creates culture and change. Each of us is a marketer, and each of us has the ability to make more change than we think.
Our opportunity and our obligation are to do marketing that we’re proud of. This is a summary about roots and anchoring your work deeply in the dreams, desires, and communities of those you seek to serve.
It’s about creating work you can be proud of. It’s about making things better by making things happen. And you can do it.
Not Mass, Not Spam, Not Shameful
Marketing has changed, but we keep repeating the old-fashioned tricks that don’t work anymore. Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve their problem.
There should be no shouting, hustling, or coercion. Effective marketing is about understanding our customers’ worldviews and desires so we can connect with them. Marketing shouldn’t be selfish.
It should involve creating honest stories that resonate and spread and offer solutions. It’s time to stop looking for shortcuts and time to start insisting on a long, viable path instead.
The Marketer Learns to See
There are five steps to marketing:
The first step is to invent a thing worth making, with a story worth telling and a contribution worth talking about.
The second step is to design and build it in a way that a few people will particularly benefit from and care about.
The third step is to tell a story that matches the built-in narrative and dreams of that tiny group of people, the smallest viable market.
The fourth step is to spread the word.
The fifth step is often overlooked. It’s to show up regularly, consistently, and generously for years and years.
Marketing Changes People Through Stories, Connections, and Experience
Everybody sees the world through a different lens. The best way to market is to care enough about those you serve to imagine the story that they need to hear. Then, share that story so they can take action that they’ll be proud of.
We need to understand the irrational forces that drive each of us so we can market directly to those we serve.
People don’t want what you make. They want what it will do for them. They want the way it will make them feel. If you can bring someone belonging, connection, peace of mind, status, or another desired emotion, you are doing something worthwhile.
We can use stories, connections, and experiences as tools.
The Smallest Viable Market
Think about what change you are trying to make. Make it realistic and achievable. Think about the promise you are making. Your promise is directly connected to the change you seek to make, and it’s addressed to the people you seek to change.
You can’t change everyone. Always ask yourself, “who is this for?” Begin with the smallest viable market. What’s the minimum number of people you would need to influence to make it worth the effort?
You can’t serve everybody, so be specific about who are you seeking to serve. Use this template:
My product is for people who believe _____________. I will focus on people who want ___________. I promise that engaging with what I make will help you get _____________.
In Search of “Better”
Better isn’t up to you. Better means something different to everybody. Your job as a marketer is to communicate what your “better” is so that people who are looking for you can easily find you.
Ask yourself about the people you seek to serve. What do they believe? What do they want? Be curious about their dreams and desires, and create something that will deliver just that.
In modern-day marketing, the consumer doesn’t have to engage with you. Find out what better looks like for your customers and focus on that.
Effective marketers begin with a group we seek to serve, a problem they seek to solve, and a change they seek to make. Remember that plenty of people are good at what you do. Perhaps as good as it as you are. Quality is no longer sufficient.
Figure out the story your customer tells himself and open the door to that possibility. Find and build and earn your story.
The Canvas of Dreams and Desires
When you market change, you offer a new emotional state, a step closer to the dreams and desires of your customers. Sell feelings, status, and connection, not tasks or stuff.
It’s your job to watch people, figure out what they dream of, and then create a transaction that can deliver that feeling.
More of the Who: Seeking the Smallest Viable Market
Your best customers become your new salespeople. If you want to spread the word, you need to build something that works better when it gets spread.
Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired, says that an independent creator of intellectual property needs one thousand true fans in order to make a living.
It’s more productive to matter a lot to a few people than to matter a little too many people.
Look at the people that don’t choose you and ask yourself, “why are they right?” When we find the empathy to say, “I’m sorry, this isn’t for you,” then we also find the freedom to do work that matters.
People Like Us Do Things Like This
Everyone always acts in accordance with their internal narratives. Most people’s actions are driven by one question: “Do people like me do things like this?”
Normalization creates culture and culture drives our choices. Marketers make changes by normalizing new behaviors.
Trust and Tension Create Forward Motion
People follow patterns. If you can interrupt the pattern and create tension, you can create new patterns. If you care enough about the change you seek to make, you will care enough to create tension on behalf of that change.
If you can be an agent of change, you can create tension and then relieve it.
Status, Dominance, and Affiliation
We spend a lot of time paying attention to status. Status protects us. It helps us get what we want. It creates a narrative that changes our perceived options, alters our choices, and undermines our future.
The desire to change our status, or protect it, drives almost everything we do. Not everybody wants to make their status higher. The smart marketer knows that some people are open to a shift in status, while others only want to maintain their roles.
People can have different internal status (who they see when they look in the mirror) and external status (how they are seen by their chosen community).
A Better Business Plan
A modern business plan should be divided into five sections:
This describes the world as it is.
This describes how you are going to change things.
This describes what will happen if the assertions are inaccurate.
This highlights who is on your team and who is going to join your team (in terms of attitudes and abilities).
This describes how much you need, how you will spend it, what cash flow looks like, profit and loss, balance sheets, margins, and exit strategies.
Semiotics, Symbols and Vernacular
Busy people scan instead of study. This means that the logo you use, the stories you tell, and the appearance of your work all matter. Symbols have different meanings for different people.
Send a signal that is specific to your audience, and they will trust you.
Treat Different People Differently
If someone is satisfied with what they have, you’re unlikely to cause them to become dissatisfied. Find the people with a problem that you can solve right now, and start with them.
Enrollment is mutual and it often leads to change. The best marketers earn enrollment by seeking people who want the change being offered. You’ll serve many people and you’ll only profit from a few.
So find your valuable customers and treat them better.
Reaching the Right People
An ad that goes unnoticed doesn’t exist. A noticed ad is noticed by some people, but not everyone. If the right people notice it, it creates tension. The difference between brand and direct marketing is about what happens after the ad runs.
Direct marketing is action-oriented and it is measured. Brand marketing is culturally oriented and it can’t be measured. If you buy direct marketing ads, measure everything. If you buy brand marketing ads, be patient.
If you can’t afford to be patient, don’t pay for brand marketing ads. The market has been trained to associate a frequency with trust. So don’t quit in the middle of building that frequency.
Price is a Story
There are two key things to keep in mind about pricing: marketing changes your pricing. And pricing changes your marketing. People form assumptions based on your pricing, and your pricing shapes what people believe about your service.
Your price should be aligned with the extremes you claimed as part of your positioning. Lowering your price doesn’t make you more trusted. It does the opposite.
Permission and Remarkability in a Virtuous Cycle
Permission marketing recognizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention. Every publisher, every media company, every author of ideas needs to own a permission asset, the privilege of contacting people without a middleman.
In order to get permission, you must make a promise. And then–– that’s all you do. Permission marketing takes humility and patience, but it’s worth it. If you are remarkable, your project will spread via word of mouth.
Trust is as Scarce as Attention
We live during a time when more people are connected and fewer are trusted. Marketers need to spend more time focusing on what they do when no one is watching.
You can earn trust by becoming famous, even if it’s only for a specific tribe. Public relations is more important than publicity. Public relations is the art of telling your story to the right people in the right way.
Visualize a funnel with leaks and holes in it. At the top of the funnel, you pour attention. At the bottom of the funnel, committed loyal customers to come out. Between the top and the bottom, most people leak out.
As people work their way through the funnel, the status of their trust changes.
You can fix your funnel to make sure that the right people are attracted to it. You can make sure that the promise that brought them in aligns with where you hope they will go. You can remove steps so that fewer decisions are required.
You can use tension to create forward motion. You can, most of all, hand those who have successfully engaged in the funnel a megaphone so they can tell others, “people like us do things like this.”
Organizing and Leading a Tribe
If you have a tribe that you work with and lead, remember that it’s not your tribe. The tribe would probably survive if you went away. The goal is for them to miss you if you did.
Your opportunity as a marketer is the chance to connect with the members of the tribe. A movement doesn’t happen overnight. The best marketers are patient and keep trying until they succeed.
Marketing Works, and Now It’s Your Turn
Don't aim to be perfect. Perfection forbids us to try. Instead, aim to be better. Better challenges us to see what’s there and begs us to imagine how we could improve on that.
Better invites us in and gives us a chance to seek dramatic improvement on behalf of those we seek to serve.
Marketing to the Most Important Person
If you spend time and money (with skill), you can tell a story that spreads, that influences people, that changes actions. Understand that marketing is a process and a craft.
Realize that as a marketer, the better you are trying to teach or sell to the right person is worth far more than what you are charging.
It is the marketing we do for ourselves, to ourselves, by ourselves, the story we tell ourselves, that can change everything. It’s what’s going to enable you to create value, to be missed if you were gone.