April 1, 2019
You can do marketing
I love seeing people create, express themselves, and start businesses. I’ve built websites for my cousin (a rapper), created a media kit for a friend who produces TV shows in Croatia, and designed promotional materials for a friend’s yoga retreat. Recently, I decided to extend my offer to anyone who has an idea, but needs help taking the first step. Across all conversation, one theme has emerged and it sounds like this:
“I’m not good at marketing.”
”I don’t know how to do marketing.”
”I’m not very tech savvy.”
It’s easy to understand how people feel this way. A simple search for “marketing strategy” will yield a barrage of blog posts touting the importance of content marketing, link building, and email marketing. Before you know it, you’ll be watching video tutorials on “Creating Viral Pinterest Boards” before you’ve even stopped to consider your audience. Yes, there are thousands of marketing channels and tools, but don’t get intimidated and give up before you’ve actually started.
Marketing is hard, but it isn’t complicated. Know the difference.
In October I gave a small group presentation on branding and communication to a group of peers at an Unsettled retreat in Cape Town. The participants ranged in age from 25 to 60 with professional backgrounds that were equally diverse. In preparation, I thought about how I wanted to present what felt like a complex idea. Would I talk about visual identity and the role of aesthetics? Logo, color, and typography? Shared narratives, vision, and values?
I’ve given a few rambling talks on branding before and knew I needed to try something else. I didn’t want to overwhelm people with details, techniques. I wanted to empower them with simple ideas and mental models.
The presentation was eight slides with four recommendations:
1. Tell a story
2. Illustrate it
3. Cut the bullshit
4. Create invitations
The message was relatively simple: think of your business in terms of a story, find ways to show (rather than tell), strive to communicate as simply as possible, and create invitations for conversation, rather than a one-directional broadcast.
Is this a foolproof guide to branding? No. Does it capture peoples attention and enlist basic human abilities? Hopefully.
The response to my presentation was positive. I received positive feedback from people who do branding for a living and people who’ve never thought of branding.
I hope to do the same thing for marketing; to debunk the idea that you’re not good at marketing or can’t do it — the idea that’s stopping you from wholeheartedly trying.
If you’re reading this and having a reaction, you’ve probably been told one of the following things:
1. You need to have a website
2. You need to be on social media
3. You should be blogging
4. You should pay for SEO help
This is stock advice. If you run a power washing company, it probably doesn’t make sense to have a blog. If you’re a freelance accountant, you probably don’t need to be on Pinterest.
Yes, SEO is important, Adwords can generate leads, and social media is powerful, but resist the idea that if you don’t know about these things, then you are incapable of marketing.
To become a successful marketer start at the beginning.
Who are the people you serve?
What problems and challenges do they face that are relevant to your business?
Where are they looking for help?
How can you help?
That’s marketing. Finding people in need and delivering a relevant solution.
You can stop reading here, and you’ll have made a huge step. It might seem simple, but those four questions are the toughest part of marketing. Avoid growth hacks and the tactic of the week until you’ve invested in exploring those questions (alone or with outside help).
You’ll inevitably hit a point where you feel you can’t go further. You’ll have discovered a customers problem, but may not know how to deliver the solution. That’s fine. You’ve done the marketing heavy lifting. You can admit to not being a Wordpress developer or social media expert, but you can no longer say you aren’t a marketer and that’s a great first step.
BONUS ROUND: REAL WORLD EXAMPLES
To help you visualize how this type of marketing looks and illustrate the thought processes behind it. Here are a few examples form high-tech micro-products to Tweets. I’ve taken the creative liberty to narrate the thought process behind each.
Hubspot: Website Grader
We know our potential clients are interested in building an online audience and are fairly internet savvy. Most have websites and are concerned about website performance. Let’s create a free tool we can share with people who want to audit their website. We can solve their problems, build trust, and attract curious clients to our core product, the sales and marketing CRM.
Buffer: State of Remote Work Report
We know that many of our current or potential users operate companies with remote teams. We also know, from experience, that running a remote team is hard. Let’s share our knowledge and engage with a larger community by providing a resource that answers the question: What is it like to manage or be employed at a remote company? Worst case scenario, we offer a valuable resource to our current clients. Best case, it's shared throughout the business community, and a few readers click the “Try Buffer for Business” link at the top of the page and purchase the product.
Ben Tossel: MakerPad Founder
Most of my followers and potential customers are entrepreneurs or makers looking to build their ideas. I’m sitting at the airport and probably going to be on my phone anyway. I’ll help as many people as I can in the next 2 hours. In the process, I’ll likely learn about what people are building, which will inform the courses and tools I offer through my paid program. Because it’s a useful invitation for anyone building, it’s likely to be retweeted and passed along between friends who are building something, thus spreading my reach.