The Selfless Marketer
I liken bad marketing strategy to the efforts of most religious missionaries. The intentions are well meaning and they genuinely believe that their evangelizing is for a greater good. But the basis of their outreach is largely arrogant, self-serving and has little to do with affecting any sort of sustainable change for the better.
Imagine if missions came without conditions. Imagine if they existed for the sole purpose of improving the lives of other human beings in need? And the only requirement for receiving help was to show up. Now apply that to marketing. What if we stopped offering up solutions to problems we only assume exist? What if we really invested the time, resources and an earnest interest in solving real problems for our fellow human beings? No strings or expectations attached.
Bad marketing is inherently conditional. It’s often reactive, client driven and conversion based (get more sales, more likes, more views, more data, etc..) Bad marketers are impressed with themselves and their big ideas, no matter how disconnected they might be from the people they are seeking to impact. They ultimately define success by their ability to make people do things. And that’s the smart ones.
It occurred to me recently that the best marketers share one common trait: the ability to empathize. And not from a place of condescension or assumption but a real, rare ability to imagine life outside of one’s own four walls. Today’s best marketers are fascinated by the differences among us. They recognize that real people aren’t defined by their demographics. And they don’t assume that customers need their product, look forward to being interrupted by their ads or blindly accept their claims as gospel.
No matter what it is you're selling, forget everything they ever taught you about "the customer". Instead, consider re-directing some of those hours spent in baseless brainstorms to walking in a few pairs of unfamiliar shoes. Study your customers as people with real wants and needs, not as fictional subjects or sales units. And most importantly, get out into the world and start engaging, beyond the confines of your "usual".
Your future customers will thank you for it.