This is Marketing
Cover & Diagrams
How can you use marketing to spread your ideas and make the impact you seek? The fact is that marketing has changed—it has more reach and more speed than ever before. And, it is no longer synonymous with advertising, something that was done to the customer, rather than for them.
This is Marketing shows how, in today's world, effective marketing must rely on empathy and service. You have to understand your customers' worldview and desires, build tensions, and create ideas that spread. Above all, you must target the smallest viable audience for your message and craft a story that resonates with the listener.
Top 20 insights
- Marketing has changed: it is no longer the same thing as advertising, something that was done to the customer, rather than for them. Effective marketing now relies on empathy and service.
- There are five steps to marketing: invent, build, story, spread the word, and show up.
- Your goal is the change you seek to make in the world. Your strategy is the long-lasting way you're investing in reaching that goal. Your tactics are the many, many steps you take on behalf of your strategy.
- Your story has to resonate with the listener—tell them something they are waiting to hear and are open to believing.
- Your brand is the promise you are making to your customer. Your logo is the Post-it reminder of the brand promise.
- You can't be seen until you learn to see. This includes being aware of the worldview of the customer—is it the horizontal view of affiliation or the vertical view of dominion?
- Look for the smallest viable number of people you need to influence to make it worth the effort. These are the people who want what you're offering and are open to hearing your message. Focus on what they believe and what they want.
- Claim your corner of the map, the far edge where people really want what you have to offer. Don't aim for the popular center of the map; it's already too crowded. Instead, build a true story where you are the clear and obvious choice.
- You are not selling stuff, you are selling connections, feelings, and status. This means you have to figure out what people want.
- Who is the exclusive cohort you are trying to reach? Think like the Grateful Dead: appeal to a relatively small audience, rely on fans to spread the word, and stake out your one corner of the map.
- Marketing is the act of making change happen.
- You can't change everyone, so ask, "Who is it for?" to focus your actions.
- The internet is a key part of marketing today. It feels like a vast, free playground; in reality, it's both the largest medium and the smallest one, made up of a billion tiny whispers.
- Use the three-step narrative for action developed by Marshall Ganz to lead your tribe: the story of self, the story of us, and the story of now.
- The best way to earn trust is through action. You need to be trusted by your smallest viable market, to be famous to them, and to show up for them.
- Market to an individual such as your boss the same way as you market to the world: see the status roles; decode dominion versus affiliation and use trust to earn enrollment.
- "Cheap" is another way to say "scared." If you're the cheapest, you're not promising change, you're just promising the same but for less. Low price is the last refuge of the marketer who has run out of ideas.
- You will serve many people, but you will profit from only a few so seek out and delight the few; start by focusing on the neophiliacs, those who embrace change and who have a problem you can solve right now.
- Use the right symbol for your audience—this is especially important today, when people scan instead of study—and if you need to, have the guts to invent new ones.
- People don't want the thing you have made—they want what it will do for them and how it will make them feel.
To market effectively in today's world you must target the smallest viable number of people and tell a story that matches their dreams and narrative. Realize that you are not really selling stuff or a service, you are selling dreams, connections, and status. Some people want to change their status, others to protect it; some are motivated by the horizontal view of affiliation and others by the vertical view of dominion. Use the right symbols for your audience. Don't sell yourself cheap; set your price bearing in mind the promise you are making and the expectations of your smallest viable market. Build trust and show up consistently as you organize your tribe.
Marketing is all around us; we take it for granted. At the same time, marketing has more reach, with more speed, than it has ever had before. So, what are you going to do with that impact?
The fact is that even your best, most generous and insightful work will need help to find the people it is meant to serve. How can you spread your ideas, make the impact you seek, and improve the culture?
Marketing has changed, but our understanding of how we are supposed to do it has not kept up. It is no longer the same thing as advertising; something that was done to the customer, rather than for them. Rather, effective marketing now relies on empathy and service. It involves very little in the way of shouting, hustling, or coercion; which means you now have to understand your customers' worldview and desires, build tensions, and create ideas that spread.
Your story has to resonate with the listener—tell them something they are waiting to hear and are open to believing. To tell your story, you need to see how humans dream, decide, and act; and you have to help them to become better versions of themselves. Ultimately, you're trying to connect—not transform someone, but dance with them.
Here are the five steps to marketing effectively in today's world:
- Invent: Invent a thing worth making, with a story worth telling, and a contribution worth talking about.
- Build: Design and build your invention in such a way that a few people—your smallest viable market—will really benefit from it.
- Story: Tell a story that matches the dreams and narrative of that small market of people.
- Spread the word: This is the step where people get excited about your invention.
- Show up: Day after day, year after year, show up—regularly and consistently organize and build confidence in the change you seek to make.
Don't sell the drill bit
Theodore Levitt, a Harvard marketing professor, famously said, "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole." But we can take this further: someone wants the hole so they can put a shelf on the wall; which lets them keep their stuff tidy and on display; and, they want to feel good about doing it themselves.
In other words: "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want to feel safe and respected." They don't want the thing you have made, they want what it will do for them and how it will make them feel.
The smallest viable market
Start your marketing by asking yourself what change you are trying to make happen. Focus on something specific and attainable. You can't change everyone, so think about changing a specific group of people. Choose your group based on their worldviews, what they dream of, believe, and want (psychographics), and not based on what they look like (demographics).
Now, consider what is the smallest viable number of people you would need to influence to make it worth the effort. These are the people who want what you're offering and are open to hearing your message. What do they believe? What do they want? Claim your corner of the map, the far edge where people really want what you have to offer. Don't aim for the popular center of the map; it's already too crowded. Instead, build a true story where you are the clear and obvious choice.
You are not selling stuff, you are selling connections, feelings, and status. So, you have to figure out what people want—this is not that simple, as everyone wants different things. Start with the core basket of dreams and desires, the shared vocabulary of all humans—things like affection, community, health, reliability, respect, and peace of mind. Somewhere in this core basket are the feelings you want to evoke in your smallest viable market.
The Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead grossed millions in revenues yet only had one top 40 Billboard hit. How? They appealed to a relatively small audience, they relied on fans to spread the word, and they staked out one corner of the map—live concerts with long jams for the fans, rather than polished records with short hits for the radio. They gave the fans plenty to talk about, creating a family of insiders.
They did all this thanks to three things: talent, patience, and the guts to be quirky.
People like us
Marketers recognize the importance of the phrase, "People like us do things like this." Marketers also recognize that to make change, they need to normalize new behaviors. To figure out how to do this, the marketer's first job is to define who is "us." Who is the exclusive cohort of people, the group of fans, you are trying to reach?
Tension and affiliation
Effective marketers have the courage to create tension. This is not the same thing as creating fear; tension is something that leads to change. It means interrupting a pattern, getting people to think about something new or different, to embrace a new educational experience.
The desire to change our status, or to protect it, drives almost everything we do. For the smart marketer, this means recognizing that some people are hungry for a change in status while others are desperate to maintain the status that they have.
Status is not the same thing as wealth. It is relative, always in the eye of the beholder, and it is learned. As a marketer you have to be very careful about evoking status. How are the people you seek to serve perceived by their chosen community and what do they see when they look in the mirror? How do they maintain, or try to change, that status?
Affiliation and dominion
Affiliation and dominion are different ways to think about status. Someone who cares about affiliation focuses on who knows them, who trusts them, and where they stand within the tribe. Someone who cares about dominion focuses on what is theirs (not yours), who has more power, and what they themselves do. Modern, urban society—the world of the internet, arts, and innovation—is built primarily on affiliation. It admires the network effect.
The effective marketer must be aware of the worldview of the customer—is it the horizontal view of affiliation or the vertical view of dominion?
Reaching the right people
While you will serve many people, you will profit from only a few. This means that you need to seek out and delight the few.
Not everyone sees a symbol the same way; the smart marketer has to use the right symbol for the audience and has to have the guts to invent new ones. This is especially important today, when people scan instead of study. Semiotics—the flags, symbols, and shorthand that you use to tell your story—really matter. And, when you're targeting the smallest viable market, you can pick the symbol that will really work for those people.
Remember that it's OK to hire a professional, someone who can design a website, logo, or brand image that other people will like. No-one cares who created the symbol, only that it works.
Remember, too, that your brand is not your logo. Rather, "brand" is a shorthand for the customer's expectations—what promise do they think you're making? That promise is your brand. The logo is the Post-it reminder of the brand promise.
Finally, remember that it's OK to treat different people differently. Some people want the thrill of the new; others just want to fit in and make the boss happy. Some want a chance to make things better; others just want to win.
Most people like what they have; but there's a small percentage who actively seek out the new and the different—the neophiliacs—and another small percentage who will defend the status quo no matter what. This last group are not your target; forget them. And, you don't have the time or money to target the majority, who are mostly satisfied. Instead, start by focusing on the neophiliacs, the people with a problem that you can solve right now.
Strategy and tactics
Your goal is the change you seek to make in the world. Your strategy is the long-lasting way you're investing in reaching that goal. Your tactics are the many, many steps you take on behalf of your strategy. Change your tactics the minute you decide they are not helping you to achieve your strategy.
Finding the right advertising strategy can be difficult. This doesn't mean you shouldn't try, just be aware of what you are doing and why. Brand marketing—like putting a billboard at the side of the road for Absolut vodka—has been used for generations. It has its place, but you need to be patient as you can't really measure its effectiveness. Direct marketing, like creating a Facebook ad, is different. It's easy to get the word out online—you can reach people quickly, you can target those people more precisely than with any other medium, and you can measure everything. The internet is a key part of marketing today. It feels like a vast, free playground, and it's certainly the largest medium; but it's also the smallest one, made up of a billion tiny whispers.
Marketing changes your pricing and pricing changes your marketing. The price is both a signal and the engine for your project's growth. So, how do you set the 'right' price?
"Cheap" is another way to say "scared." If you're the cheapest, you're not promising change, you're just promising the same but for less. Low price is the last refuge of the marketer who has run out of ideas. Similarly, cutting your price will make you seem less trustworthy, and the smart marketer knows that he or she needs to be trusted. However, "free" is worth considering as a way to spread an idea quickly, to share your vision and ideas, to build connections.
Above all, set your price bearing in mind the promise you are making and the expectations of your smallest viable market.
Permission and trust
Permission marketing treats people with respect in order to get their attention. It requires humility and patience on the part of the marketer. Winning the permission of your customers doesn't have to be formal, but it does have to be obvious. Subscriptions are an overt act of permission. Once you have permission, you can educate; take your time and tell a story.
How do you get permission in the first place? Intentionally create a product or service that people decide is worth talking about. Don't resort to the shortcut of stunts—those come from a place of selfishness.
The trusted marketer earns enrollment. And, in a world that scans and gossips instead of reads and researches, the best way to earn trust is through action. We remember what you did long after we forget what you said.
Remember your smallest viable market? You need to be trusted by them, to be famous to them, and to show up for them. Use public relations to tell your story to the right people, in the right way, and build that trust.
Visualize a funnel: on their way through, people change from strangers to friends to customers to loyal customers. The smart marketer puts the effort into improving that funnel. Prime the pump with ads aimed at neophiliacs, the people who are looking to find you. Build trust with frequency and generate word of mouth. Give them a reason to want to tell their friends about you.
A powerful example of this funnel at work is the story of Facebook. Some people signed up because "this looks interesting;" more joined because "this can help me;" and finally almost everyone joined because "I'm the last person on earth who's not doing this!" You don't have to set out to create something global, however, just an effective and trusted funnel for your particular 'local' market.
Organize your tribe
If you're lucky, there's a tribe out there that will listen to you; you don't own them, and they would probably survive if you went away, but you can still organize and lead them so that they would miss you if you left. The best marketers are farmers, not hunters. They plant, tend, plow, fertilize, weed—and repeat.
Harvard professor Marshall Ganz has a simple three-step narrative for action for leading your tribe: the story of self, the story of us, and the story of now.
- The story of self: This is the story that gives you standing, you chance to explain that you are people like us.
- The story of us: This is the story of the tribe; it explains why your story of self is relevant to us and how we will benefit when we are part of the tribe.
- The story of now: This is the pivotal point, when you enlist the tribe on your journey.
Get the boss to say yes
Marketing to a person is in many ways the same as marketing to the world. If you go in with what you want and a false sense of urgency, or if you go in asking for authority without offering responsibility, you will probably not be able to change her mind.
Instead, change the process by seeing the status roles; decoding dominion versus affiliation; and using trust to earn enrollment.