Marketing 101: Start With Yourself

Have you ever tried learning to draw? A common refrain you’ll hear from art teachers is “Draw what you see, not what you think you see.” Here’s a quote from Drawing With Your Artist’s Brain, by Carl Purcell:

“If you think you can’t draw, it’s all in your head. Every time you pick up a pencil, a battle rages between the two sides of your brain: Your analytical brain, which wants to generalize and take shortcuts; and your visual brain, which sees it like it is.”

If you think you can’t do marketing, it’s all in your head.

  • To become a good marketer, you must first understand how marketing works. You want to understand marketing the way birds understand aerodynamics. You don’t actually need to know every single piece of jargon, you just need to know enough to be able to use what you have to get to where you want to go.
  • This is surprisingly hard to do, because of useless noise and misinformation. You’ll receive a lot of conflicting signals about what works and what doesn’t, what you should do and what you shouldn’t. Everybody has an agenda, whether they acknowledge it or not.
  • Ideally, you should be able to suss out the agenda in any particular text, and identify if and how you’re being misled. This is easier said than done, though. I’ve also found that the utility I get from analysing stuff like that to be minimal.

Analyzing your own experiences will give you a better understanding of how to move people.

Everybody’s been marketed to, and everybody’s responded both positively and negatively to different kinds of marketing. As such, you have a wealth of primary-source information just waiting to be tapped into.

You need to know how you were moved, personally, before you can have a reasonable idea of how to move others.

Here are just some of the questions you might ask yourself:

  • What are your favorite brands?
    • Why are they your favorite brands?
    • What exactly do you like about them?
  • When was the last time you told a friend to watch a movie? Why?
  • What products and services have you been recommending to others? Why?
  • What are the brands you don’t really like?
    • Why do you feel that way?
    • What do you wish they’d do better?

When you really dig deep into it, you’ll unearth insights about what works for you.

These insights may not be universal, but what works for you should work for others like you. And that’s a great place to start. The challenge isn’t just to ask a lot of questions, but to explore each question as far as possible. Then, try to figure out how to ask yourself better questions.

Writers read more closely than regular readers do. They enjoy it for what it is, but they also pay closer attention to how it makes them feel. They dissect the experience and analyze it. Why does it move me the way it does? What purpose does each element of the experience serve? Doing this can make anybody a better writer.

Marketing isn’t very different. And just as every writer should be able to tell you about her favorite books, every marketer or would-be marketer should be able to tell you about the marketing that’s worked well on them, and why. For bonus points, cross-reference these with your peers and see what you have in common.

The more thoroughly you understand how marketing works on you, the more thoroughly you’ll understand how to market to others.

Everything else emerges from that fundamental insight.


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