The blog ofJonathan Pepin

Notes from This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn To See [raw]


The answer to just about every question about work is really the question, “Who can you help?”

Marketing is the act of making change happen. Making is insufficient. You haven’t made an impact until you’ve changed someone.

Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem.

Marketing involves very little in the way of shouting, hustling, or coercion.

The other kind of marketing, the effective kind, is about understanding our customers’ worldview and desires so we can connect with them. It’s focused on being missed when you’re gone, on bringing more than people expect to those who trust us. It seeks volunteers, not victims.

It’s easier to make products and services for the customers you seek to serve than it is to find customers for your products and services.

You can learn to see how human beings dream, decide, and act. And if you help them become better versions of themselves, the ones they seek to be, you’re a marketer.

The first step is to invent a thing worth making,

The second step is to design and build it in a way that a few people will particularly benefit from

The third step is to tell a story that matches the built-in narrative and dreams of that tiny group of people,

The fourth step is the one everyone gets excited about: spread the word.

The last step is often overlooked: show up—regularly, consistently, and generously, for years and years—to organize and lead and build confidence in the change you seek to make.

Persistent, consistent, and frequent stories, delivered to an aligned audience, will earn attention, trust, and action.

Culture beats strategy—so much that culture is strategy.

People don’t want what you make They want what it will do for them. They want the way it will make them feel.

Every organization—every project—is influenced by a primary driving force.

The driver, whichever one you choose, is the voice that gets heard the clearest, and the person with that voice is the one who gets to sit at the head of the table.

Perhaps it makes sense to be very specific about the change you seek to make, and to make it happen.

Stumble 2: You want to defend what you’re already doing, which is selling what you’ve already been charged with selling. So you reverse-engineer a “change” that matches that thing, and you load it up with buzzwords that mean nothing to anyone.

“Who’s it for?” It has a subtle but magic power, the ability to shift the product you make, the story you tell, and where you tell

The relentless pursuit of mass will make you boring, because mass means average, it means the center of the curve, it requires you to offend no one and satisfy everyone.

When a marketer arrives and says, “This is better,” he’s wrong. He actually means, “This is better for someone and it might be better for you.”

Empathy is at the heart of marketing

Everything that we purchase—every investment, every trinket, every experience—is a bargain. That’s why we bought it. Because it was worth more than what we paid for it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t buy it.

A marketer for a dog food company might decide that the secret of more dog food sales is to make a food that tastes better. But that requires understanding how a dog thinks, which is awfully difficult. It turns out that the right formula is to make a dog food that dog owners want to buy.

there’s almost always a disconnect between performance and appeal.

Quality, the quality of meeting specifications, is required but no longer sufficient.

If you can, great, congratulations. Now, let’s set that aside for a minute and remember that nearly everyone else can too.

If you make something that others make, if it’s something we can find on Upwork, on Amazon, or Alibaba, you’ve got pain. It’s the pain of knowing that if you raise your price enough to earn a decent return on the effort you’re putting into your work, we’ll just go somewhere else and buy it cheaper.

From now on, your customers know more than you do about your competitors. And so your commodity work, no matter how much effort you put into it, is not enough.

edges and stories and transformations are available to the craftsperson as soon as he decides to make a difference.

act on it, open the door to the possibility, and organize the entire experience around that story. This is the work that helps people understand that you are special, and this is the work that makes things better.

there’s the opportunity to be a professional, to exert emotional labor in search of empathy—the empathy to imagine what someone else would want, what they might believe, what story would resonate with them. We don’t do this work because we feel like it in the moment. We do this work, this draining emotional labor, because we’re professionals, and because we want to make change happen.

Scrapbooking is an efficient alternative. When designing a website, or an email campaign, or a new product, you can scrapbook it.

It might not be about being cheaper. It’s tricky to define better. But without a doubt, the heart and soul of a thriving enterprise is the irrational pursuit of becoming irresistible.

Your best customers become your new salespeople.

The challenge for most people who seek to make an impact isn’t winning over the mass market. It’s the micro market. They bend themselves into a pretzel trying to please the anonymous masses before they have fifty or one hundred people who would miss them if they were gone. While it might be comforting to dream of becoming a Kardashian, it’s way more productive to matter to a few instead.

Those people who don’t buy from you, the ones who don’t take your calls, who sneer at your innovations, who happily buy from a competitor even if they know you exist . . . those people . . . Why are they right? Why are the people who don’t choose you correct in their decision to not choose you?

For most of us, from the first day we are able to remember until the last day we breathe, our actions are primarily driven by one question: “Do people like me do things like this?”

In “People like us do things like this,” the “us” matters. The more specific, the more connected, the tighter the “us,” the better. What the marketer, the leader, and the organizer must do as their first job is simple: define “us.”

The pattern match is business as usual.

A pattern interrupt, on the other hand, requires some sort of jolt. Tension is created, and energy is diverted to consider this new input. Is it something worth considering?

If you want someone who has never hired a gardener to hire you to be their gardener, you’re asking for a pattern interrupt.

When life interferes, new patterns are established. This is why it’s so profitable to market to new dads, engaged women, and people who have recently moved. They don’t have a pattern to match, so it’s all an interrupt.

If you’re going to market a pattern interrupt, it will require you to provide the kind of tension that can only be released by being willing to change an ingrained pattern.

If you feel like you’re coercing people, manipulating them or causing them to be afraid, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Tension is something we can do precisely because we care about those we seek to serve.

Status roles determine who gets to eat first in the lion pack, and who gets to drink first at the oasis.

And the desire to change our status, or to protect it, drives almost everything we do.

The smart marketer begins to realize that some people are open and hungry for a shift in status (up or down), while others will fight like crazy to maintain their roles.

Consider, for those you seek to serve, their external status (how they are seen by their chosen community) and their internal status (who they see when they look in the mirror).

Affiliation: The questions that someone who cares about affiliation asks himself and those around him: Who knows you? Who trusts you? Have you made things better?

Dominion: The questions and statements that someone who cares about dominion offers to himself and those around him: This is mine, not yours. Who has more power? I did this myself.

The people you’re seeking to serve in this moment: What are they measuring?

“Who eats first” and “who sits closest to the emperor” are questions that persist to this day. Both are status questions. One involves dominion; the other involves affiliation. Not simply eating first, but being on the same team as the person who eats first. And getting pleasure out of watching others eat last. Not simply sitting near the emperor, but knowing that you’ll be in his good graces (and those of the rest of the royal court) tomorrow as well.

Dominion is a vertical experience, above or below. Affiliation is a horizontal one: Who’s standing next to me?

divide the modern business plan into five sections: Truth Assertions Alternatives People Money

The truth section describes the world as it is. Footnote if you want to, but tell me about the market you are entering, the needs that exist, the competitors in your space, technology standards, and how others have succeeded and failed in the past.

The assertions section is your chance to describe how you’re going to change things. We will do X, and then Y will happen.

You’re creating tension by telling stories. You’re serving a specific market. You’re expecting something to happen because of your arrival. What? This is the heart of the modern business plan. The only reason to launch a project is to make change, to make things better, and we want to know what you’re going to do and what impact it’s going to have.

You will make assertions that won’t pan out. You’ll miss budgets and deadlines and sales. So, the alternatives section tells me what you’ll do if that happens. How much flexibility does your product or team have? If your assertions don’t pan out, is it over?

The people section rightly highlights the key element: Who is on your team, and who is going to join your team. “Who” doesn’t mean their resumes; it means their attitudes and abilities and track record in shipping.

The last section is all about money. How much you need, how you will spend it, what cash flow looks like, profit and loss, balance sheets, margins, and exit strategies.

When you opened this book, you probably said, “I have a product and I need more people to buy it. I have a marketing problem.”

Now, instead of asking, “How can I get more people to listen to me, how can I get the word out, how can I find more followers, how can I convert more leads to sales, how can I find more clients, how can I pay my staff . . . ?” you can ask, “What change do I seek to make?” Once you know what you stand for, the rest gets a lot easier.

That’s precisely why so many logos of big companies look the same. It’s not laziness. The designers are trying to remind you of a solid company. That’s the work of “reminds me of.” You can do it with intent.

Semiotics doesn’t care who made the symbol. The symbol is in the mind of the person looking at

About sixty-eight of the hundred people will be close to the average. Another twenty-seven will be significantly further away, and four will be extreme outliers. This happens often enough that we call it a standard deviation.

Good marketers have the humility to understand that you shouldn’t waste a minute (not of your time or of their time) on anyone who isn’t on the left part of the curve.

It’s the neophiliacs, the folks with a problem that you can solve right now (novelty and tension and the endless search for better), that you can begin with.

Pricing is a marketing tool, not simply a way to get money

Marketing changes your pricing. Pricing changes your marketing. Because people form assumptions and associations based on your pricing, and your pricing shapes what people believe about your service, it’s important to be clear about how you position yourself. Your price should be aligned with the extremes you claimed as part of your positioning.

Price is a signal.

When you’re the cheapest, you’re not promising change. You’re promising the same, but cheaper.

There are countless ways for you to share your vision, your ideas, your digital expressions, your ability to connect—for free. And each of them builds awareness, permission, and trust, which gives you a platform to sell the thing that’s worth paying for.

Lowering your price doesn’t make you more trusted. It does the opposite.

Every publisher, every media company, every author of ideas needs to own a permission asset, the privilege of contacting people without a middleman.

Subscriptions are an overt act of permission. That’s why home delivery newspaper readers are so valuable, and why magazine subscribers are worth more than newsstand readers.

This is the direct marketer’s dream. It’s advertising that clearly pays for itself. It lets you scale. You can measure what’s working, do it again and again, and grow. It’s worth noting that very few organizations do this math carefully. They’re spending and praying, hoping it all comes out in the wash. But if you’re careful and alert, you can begin to understand what putting attention into the top of the funnel costs you, and you can work to improve not only the quality of your leads but the efficiency of the process. By all means, work to lower the cost of that first click. But if you do it by making a ridiculous promise in the ad you run, it’ll backfire, because once in the funnel, people will stop trusting you, the tension will evaporate, and your yield will plummet.

Instead, consider focusing on which steps to shift or eliminate. Explore what happens if people engage in your ideas or your community before you ask them to send you money.

If you can’t see the funnel, don’t buy the ads. If you can measure the funnel and it costs too much for you to afford ads, don’t buy the ads. Fix the funnel first.

The tribe doesn’t belong to you, so you don’t get to tell the members what to do or to use them for your own aims.

If you’re fortunate, there’s a tribe that will listen to you and consider what you say. If you’re lucky, they’ll interpret your words in a way that they believe will help them move the mission of the tribe forward, and you’ll get a chance to do it again.

The tribe would probably survive if you went away. The goal is for them to miss you if you did.

three-step narrative for action: the story of self, the story of us, and the story of now.

The story of self gives you standing, a platform from which to speak. When you talk about your transition—from who you used to be to who you became—you are being generous with us.

the story of self is your chance to explain that you are people like us.

The story of us is the kernel of a tribe. Why are we alike? Why should we care? Can I find the empathy to imagine that I might be in your shoes?

It explains why your story of self is relevant to us, and how we will benefit when we’re part of people like us.

And the story of now is the critical pivot.

The story of now enlists the tribe on your journey. It’s the peer opportunity/peer pressure of the tribe that will provide the tension for all of us to move forward, together.

Good enough isn’t an excuse or a shortcut. Good enough leads to engagement. Engagement leads to trust. Trust gives us a chance to see (if we choose to look). And seeing allows us to learn. Learning allows us to make a promise. And a promise might earn enrollment. And enrollment is precisely what we need to achieve better. Ship your work. It’s good enough. Then make it better.