Has anyone ever told you that everything is marketing? That you can’t not market yourself, just as much as you can’t not communicate? This is true in the sense that we are always exposing ourselves to the scrutiny of our environment. We are always at risk of being judged and compartmentalized by the ones who see our actions and hear our words. As such, if we are really running a business that is supposed to have an impact, we need to be extremely aware of the fact that we are being “watched,” and use it to our advantage.
To market means to position your business in a way that it can be seen, heard (with the goal of someone buying something from you). So, if it is true that there is no second chance to make a first impression, ask yourself what you want that first impression to be? Do you want to be considered as “more of the same” or “different, but honest.”
You would think that people would choose the latter, right? But they don’t. If that were the case, we’d probably have less saturation and noise in each industry. For some reason, we all decide to agree on a set of “rules” that someone outlined before us, align our marketing accordingly and fire away with our Google ads. And by doing, so we create…more of the same. And the differentiating factor becomes our price and maybe our inventory. But in reality, we push a lot of the same for cheaper just to beat out the competition.
To uniquely market yourself means that you must know your market first. And a market is defined by a place that offers solutions to people who are looking for something. Some of them know what they are looking for, but most don’t. Most are confused when they enter the market, not knowing, for example, whether they are going to have fish, meat or a vegetable stew for dinner. It is up to you to address that uncertainty and confusion and point them in the direction that will benefit them.
This is what it means to own your marketing voice. It’s not more of the same, it is also not randomizing your presence according to rules that have been set by others. It’s about full and total ownership. It’s about not putting your logo all over an inflatable doll in front of your office, not going for that internet banner, or dropping that corny radio commercial. It is about thinking hard about what people need. Marketing is not a discipline. Marketing is being in business to bring value.
There are plenty of examples of great companies that fail because their marketing tells potential clients, to their face, what problem they have and how they can solve it. They may be right about the problem the potential customer has, but they are not right about using it to attract them. Nobody wants to hear that they have a problem. People want to be heard and understood before they listen to what you have to say.
In marketing, this is the approach of generosity. If you are not generous and instead just loud and rowdy, people are disturbed and will avoid you. Even if they might agree with your marketing, there is still a level of mistrust or skepticism about your approach.
What good marketing does is open a channel of trust. Good marketing hits close to home and is relatable: I see your pain, I hear your trouble. And I am not listening to have a reaction. I am listening because I care.
Loud corporate marketing does not listen. It just crushes people with its presence. We are all aware of those big corporations and even though we engage with them, we don’t always feel too good about it afterwards. Your business is most likely not big enough to be permitted to act like those big corporations. You would not be forgiven by the market if you tried to. And what a great thing! It is an opportunity to be thoughtful, human and relatable.
Coca Cola is loud because they have power and are too big to fail. But this is where we, as entrepreneurs of value, can beat Coca Cola, Redbull, Hilton, Toyota and all the other big players, because we care enough to stop and listen. When Coca Cola listens, they do so because they want to play in our field. They want to appear to be on eye level with their customers. But it’s pretentious and an act of social media tinkering. It’s fraudulent and dishonest and creates false connections- connections that are worth nothing more than a like on Instagram or a comment on Facebook. They have no transformational value; they don’t even have much transactional value.
We, who ARE on eye level with our customers, cannot afford to pretend to listen. We have to listen because we actually want to listen so that we can understand, connect and eventually act with our customers’ best interests at heart.
Turn your advantage into your marketing game plan: Listening to understand. Listen to connect. Listen to bring value. Leave the yelling to those who have no choice but to yell.