Before you launch (or, using an even better word, release) a new project, there’s always a flash of mixed feelings. Suddenly, you can still see how the idea you incubated all the way to completion might change others’ minds, souls, and perspectives. But, surprisingly, (and maybe for the first time,) your vision is obscured by the shadow of possible failure.
Entrepreneurs, artists, and those in positions with skin and (preferably) soul in the game face uncertainty and self-doubt almost every day. To turn the art of reaching the masses into a science, we invented marketing.
And yet, we do it wrong most of the time.
More than numbers, colours and places.
Bad marketing, ironically, loves to feature diversity so they can more easily fit people into boxes without offending anyone in the process.
Marketing school (a place where, if you’re lucky, no one knows how anything actually works) teaches you that, to correctly convince someone to exchange their hard-earned cash for something of your making, you need to quantify everything: It pushes you, sooner or later, to create an ideal customer persona, down to its height, race, neighbourhood, and favourite quesadilla place, if possible.
While it IS important to know your customers (we wouldn’t be writing this article if it wasn’t!), there is something to be said about what and how you learn about them. Would you do business, be friends, or date a stranger that knows you and your preferences? Or would you rather find someone who understands you? And, what would happen if you had a deeper relationship with the second person?
You might know this intuitively, but your average marketer doesn’t at all realise that people are more complex than the collection of mundane features. In the end, what defines a person is what we call psychographics: The collection of the things they fear, want, love, and excite them.
Why you aren’t even watching the commercial.
Try to remember the latest annoying Youtube commercial you saw, preferably one featuring a regular person (wearing a polo t-shirt) pitching an online course directly to the camera, in a plain room or balcony. When the company or ‘influencer’ behind this campaign decided to advertise on Youtube, they had to select between a number of characteristics to help Youtube show their ad to the kind of people they’re interested in attracting. These features typically range from users’ age to in-app behaviour and can get as creepy as ‘number of children’ and ‘income bracket’ (in some countries).
And yet, you aren’t (at least 99% of the time) even watching the ad.
As you, and us, and everyone watching the ad knows, this is because the advertiser might know that you liked Ron Paul’s latest video and that you’re a subscriber of the Tim Ferriss channel but, deep down, they don’t know the real you. And worse, you don’t even know them. They might have a sense of the things that you care about but, most of the time, they’re trying to at best reach as many people as possible, hopefully selling something while at it.
This, of course, is the most dehumanising and less cost-effective strategy.
The solution? Get down on your knees (but not to beg)!
It sounds like the fancy and desirable thing to do as told in marketing school finding a profitable niche in an unexploited market, crafting a product to fit its needs, and purchase as much advertising as possible to make money in no time. But, of course, if things were that simple, everybody that went to school would be a millionaire.
When we talk about getting down on your knees, we talk about getting your hands dirty and your skin in the game. We’re talking about taking meaningful action, and the best possible way to do it is by getting involved. By personally getting to know the inner world of your customers through relationships and mutual interest, not only inferences and demographics.
By treating humans as humans.
And, of course, the next logical step to achieve this is by being your own ideal customer. What kind of solution are you craving, and what problem are you hoping for someone to solve? How can you solve it, both for yourself, and others like you that are also hoping that a solution will come along? Do you know these others? Can you get them to help you help them?
In marketing, as in life, leadership is about finding solutions where everyone wins. Understand this, and not only will you have a valuable asset… you’ll also be accepted and respected as a worthy leader.