How to think about marketing

You find yourself suddenly with the heavy responsibility of coming up with a marketing strategy for a tech company with a product you actually believe is going to be great for e-commerce businesses. What do you do?

You panic a little, just enough to get your creative juices squirting all over the place and you get to work. And you start to do what you think any actual marketing executive worth his salary will do. You draw the line in the sand, demarcating who is and isn’t your customer, split down to customer personas and so on.

There’s Joan the ex-blogshop entrepreneur turned Shopify success story who is just beginning to dig into data analytics. She’s 32 and has been in this industry for over 3 years. She’s passionate about trying new ways to do less work and gain better results, and loves it when she finds that thing that gives her an edge over her boutique e-commerce competitors. Or Joshua the middle-aged marketing executive at a medium sized e-retailer who is looking for his next big proposal that will 2X or 3X his company’s revenue over the coming year and land him a promotion. Or Haley the marketer at a tech startup with a product she actually believes will be good for e-commerce businesses out there…

All of a sudden, after investing a week researching and drafting a kickass proposal that you were sure was going to impress, it dawns on you that you might be doing it wrong. It’s not so much that it is wrong as it is disadvantageously misleading. These ex-blogshop entrepreneurs and marketing executives and decision-makers are not all that. From first principles, they’re people. They are just like you.

A marketer can loathe the idea of shopping as much as a entrepreneur can appreciate a stable corporate career. She can also be a mum or a sister or a rock climber, and when she’s the climbing she prefers to listen to classical music and go barefooted. She might even have a minor in data science.

The point is this: each of us are much more than the labels marketers think they cleverly brand us with. And if we devise a plan based on these labels alone, we’ll be missing a large part of the picture, to the detriment of the company, and even for the person who wants to be your customer.

In rough order, each of us are probably human first, family second, friend third, happiness-seeker fourth and perhaps professional fifth. So as a human trying to tell other humans about something good and valuable, it would be wise to at least try and think of him or her as a hairy ball of scrunched up identities than a single, neat, classifiable strand. It’s one human to another human.

This is why I believe a not-bad product can sell better than a high quality product if its marketers creates a story that is more appealing to its customers, be it an honest reflection or carefully constructed facade. People are much more. On that note, it’s worth re-interpreting B2B businesses as having customers that are no different from B2C businesses, since both businesses are in the business of appealing to humans.

Of course, it’s much easier said than done. Categories exist to help us make sense of vast data sets (interests, desires, personalities, beliefs, etc). But I find it is useful to remember that we’re ultimately trying to sell to another human being – not some imaginary type of customer. Even if it’s only to remind myself that there are more than a few ways to appeal.