After ten years working as an individual entrepreneur I've finally worked out what marketing should really mean.
Marketing is unethical and manipulative. That is what I thought deep down for the first few decades of my life. Why I have struggled to get my first entrepreneurial attempts off the starting blocks. And why I’ve had to think long and hard about this blog post.
I have never believed in “networking”. I assumed it was fake friendliness with an ulterior motive under the surface.
My negative beliefs have been reinforced by the bombardment of email spam spoiling what was the best ever method of communication. The cold calls disturbing peaceful evenings. And then social media, with ads and moving images everywhere distracting us from our worthy aim of building relationships with friends and family. And all for what? Often, to waste our precious time, get us to spend our hard earned money on stuff we don’t need, or in the worst cases, to defraud us.
Like most introverts, I’m the exact opposite of a natural networker: for the last few years I have worked on my own from my home in the rural west of England. Miles away from the vibrant and social cities where most successful businesses are born and grown. And I convinced myself that I was somehow “better” than other people who ran much more successful businesses because I wasn’t out there forcing myself down people’s throats, showing the ugly face of capitalism.
But in the last year I realised that my glasses were fogged - I was wrong.
There Is No Point In Great Art If Nobody Sees It
Living near us, we have an extra-ordinarily talented cabinet maker. He spends his life making the most beautiful pieces of furniture, going beyond just good, to being a master of his craft. The centrepiece of our home, that our family meets over and eats on every day, is a beautiful oak table that he made. One that will last many lifetimes. The photo above is of one family member enjoying it.
A few lucky people have discovered this craftsman and have beautiful custom designed furniture in their offices and homes. But this cabinet maker struggles because not enough people know of his talent.
Perhaps you have skills that others don’t know, hiding your light under a bushel. Have you asked yourself why?
Without Marketing There Is Nothing
Marketing is necessary. Not just a necessary evil, but actually underlying almost all positive change.
Without marketing, human innovations would never have found their way outside the caves, sheds or laboratories they were created in. Charities would not be able to raise money to help people, students would have little motivation to learn, the good politicians would not be heard, you would never know about your local yoga class or online photography course, or why you should stop buying tuna that is fished in ways that kills dolphins.
Positive change will not happen until people are moved to action.
And this is key: People are only moved to action when information is understood, captures their interest and ignites their emotions. All three things need to happen, otherwise there is no action, no change.
As we are all unique and see and hear things in different ways, communication must be carefully tailored for every different audience to inspire and motivate.
Good Marketing Benefits Everyone
The truth is that marketing is neither good nor evil. Like so many things, it is all about the intention that underlies it.
Marketing is bad if it distorts the facts or tempts people away from the good stuff they are doing. When it crosses the line to propaganda it becomes evil.
Marketing is good if it is:
fact based, spreading the truth about things
delivered in an efficient and useful way
to people who will benefit
I’ve realised why the sales people, the people who service the clients and the customers, are more often than not the best paid people in a business. They deserve to be. Without marketing a business would not exist. I feel embarrassed that I have worked for so long in the corporate world and it has taken me so long to realise…
Without marketing, churches would have no congregations, universities no students, restaurants no customers. You wouldn’t even have your spouse or partner - after all, dating involves perhaps the hardest marrketing of all: marketing yourself.
Effective Marketing Helps People
The key is that marketing should not be done to people.
Effective marketing is about listening and understanding, so that you can help to solve problems or make people feel happier.
People will want to be marketed to if that is what you are doing. Hence the term “permission marketing” which is about building relationships with customers and working as their partner. Not distracting them from their job or their leisure, putting your foot in the front door to stop them closing it and selling them something they don’t need.
My Take Aways
Don’t market to people with spam and attention grabbing clickbait.
Identify who will most benefit from your skills or services, and get in front of them (without being a pain in the arse).
Ask the right questions to find out what they really need. And then really listen to the answers with full attention and empathy.
Think of all the ways you can help. Isn’t that what friends do for each other?
When your customers become friends you will have hit upon the Holy Grail of marketing. They will do it for you, with word of mouth.
Then everyone gains, and your marketing will have done good.