Here's a CV-style rundown of work I've completed related to marketing a business. Check it out
Go to the bookstore and look for a book, any book, that says marketing is a difficult task. I’ll wait.
Ironically, you won’t find any books like that because 99% of business owners believe they have a marketing problem, therefore 99% of business owners want an easy solution to this marketing problem.
Of course, finding the easy way out of your marketing problem, ironically, is the problem.
Aliens? No, don’t be stupid.
The Pharaohs were an interesting lot of people. They had huge visions of legacy and prosperity, and they would stop at nothing to achieve it. And they did a pretty good job.
But what did they actually do to make that happen? They certainly didn’t do it themselves. And the projects were so massive and complex it clearly wasn’t pure brute force against an enslaved population. (Besides, evidence suggests a big slave population in ancient Egypt has been historically exaggerated.)
So who were the linchpins that turned one man’s ego driven vision into reality?
Talented people, of course! People who intuitively understood the rules of engineering and architecture and could draw up some plans for others to follow.
And so it is in business. If you’re going to start an operation, there’s really only one talent you really need, and that’s finding talented people.
If you can effectively discover, hire, nurture, and keep talented individuals, then there isn’t much stopping you from succeeding.
This is true with any project that requires more than one person. It’s true for companies, rock bands, political activists, even social and friend groups. (Who’s going to have a better time, a group of people who are talented at the art of interesting conversation and empathy, or a group of people who sit around and wait for someone else to say something interesting?)
So maybe the first thing a business does shouldn’t be ‘find a customer.’ Maybe it should be ‘find someone good at finding people.’
What everybody needs can’t be bought. And if you really do need something that can be bought, odds are it’s cheap.
(Note: I’m not talking about the developing world where water is like gold. I’m talking about a world where stopping to read this blog post is a valid use of time.)
So if nobody really needs anything anymore, what’s marketing about?
It’s about wants. It’s about fostering and channeling the desires of everyday people, typically through a paywall.
In other words, it’s about creating placebos that help customers feel satisfied, or actualized, or whatever.
Just like how doctors give out sugar pills only to get similar, if not better, results, it works because people expect it to work.
Go to a doctor’s office, sit in the waiting room, get called by a nurse wearing scrubs, now sit in a different room, then wait for the doctor wearing his lab coat (walking at a calm yet quick pace because he’s very busy treating people), all so he can look at your vitals (on a clipboard) and explain what’s amok (usually in the droll monotone of a person who has said something everyday for the past few decades).
After all this, the doctor may give you a sugar pill. And it will probably work.
Sugar pills work because, after all that, you simply expect them to.
If the doctor came in wearing a wife-beater you’d probably think something’s amiss, and then the sugar pill wouldn’t work.
Marketing (the sugar pill of the business world) works when everything about the product or service just jives right.
Popular e-commerce stores all look similar because of the power of placebos. Clickbait headlines (you know, “Ten Shocking Revelations About President Obama You MUST Read”) work because you expect them too.
So go ahead a judge a book by it’s cover. That might be all you read anyway.