Heath Evans is a marketing and communications strategist, innovator, entrepreneur and Coach.
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Stuff I write

What separates the greatest marketing minds from the sharks. The critical mindset of every great marketer.

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I could draw this out, but I’m certain you’ve clicked this article to get to the point.

These days everyone thinks they are a marketer. They’ve built up their social networks, they know a few influencers, they’ve completed a Facebook advertising course, and they’ve mastered the art of coming up with new markets who might actually want to buy your product.

They throw out idea after idea, showing you just how easy it would be to reach this market through some digital advertising, and before you know it you’ve committed to changing your homepage, invested in new advertisements, adjusted your packaging and begun diluting your brand offering to chase the new big fish.

The allure of doubling your target audience is just too tantalising (especially for small business owners), and your left feeling vindicated having been convinced of what you’ve always suspected, your product is perfect for everybody, those people just don’t know it yet.

And this final point is where I want to focus our attention as I believe this is the critical mindset that separates the greatest marketing minds, from the sharks preying on those who don’t know any better.

Your product isn’t for everybody and that’s the point. If you think it is then it’s time to go back to the drawing board before you spend another cent.

In an age where we have become so obsessed with breadth as the perfect growth strategy, we are missing the greatest opportunity that the digital environment allows us and that is depth.

In this brilliant interview with Seth Godin he speaks to this exact opportunity. He was asked how would he launch a business with $1000 and 90 days to spare. His immediate response was to focus on finding the tiniest possible audience whose problem he could solve better than anyone else.

The digital environment enables people to connect with others who share their same needs, desires, pain-points, jobs-to-be-done, and when we understand this we see the incredible opportunity to meet these people where they are and build the ultimate solution for them.

We don’t need to reach a million of these people, we just need to ensure we satisfy a small group who can leverage the power of peer endorsement to scale the business for us within these boundaries.

The beauty of the digital environment is that no longer are these niche communities meeting in the shed in their backyard, they are connecting globally and whilst their interests may be niche, their reach has become enormous.

This approach from Seth reminds me that this is as much about a mindset, as it is a skillset, and requires intense discipline to remain focused — especially in the early-stages when you’re targeting such a small group.

Using the business model canvas, this approach requires just one customer segment and a clear value proposition — not five broad segments, and not a vague way you think they might like your product.

This approach requires you to invest in knowing your customer, and whilst this investment is very scary for many, the liberation that comes from this clarity becomes incredibly empowering.

Take this example of Snowbird ski resort that received a 1-star rating from a customer review. For many businesses this review would leave them running in fear, either desperately trying to hide the comment or changing their product to meet the needs of this individual. But not Snowbird.

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Through their deep understanding of their customers and their value proposition they’re able to understand not only who their resort is for, but just as importantly, who it is NOT for.

They understand the worldview of their customer segment, who thrive off the notion that they ski where others fear to tread, and therefore were able to use this review as a marketing tool that speaks to the heart of those they are aiming to attract.

Gaining this depth of understanding of your customer segment doesn’t come easy. It’s not tattooed on their forehead, so it requires you to embrace the practice of empathy, to deeply understand what makes these people tick, what is their worldview, so that ultimately you can frame the solution you’re offering in a way that shows your customers that you understand them and can meet their needs and desires.

To do this successfully you’ve probably already connected the critical dots to realise that the moment you start designing your product or service to meet the needs of everyone, you start making compromises, and eventually your product isn’t for anyone.

This is really at the core of my message, so I want to just take a moment and look at it another way to make sure it sinks in.

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We’ve all got a best friend. That person who makes us feel like we’re the only person for them. They are always there when we need them, they understand us, they know how we think and because of this they get our jokes, and ultimately we love them because we trust them and we know that they will never make a decision which would jeopardise how committed they are to serving us (and our special BFF friendship).

In contrast, we’ve also all got that friend who is obsessed with being friends with everyone. We like them, but they’re a bit of a chameleon, morphing as they move through different circles and whilst they try to do this discretely — we all notice.

Over time whilst this person is super fun, we start to question whether they actually stand for anything. When we need them they’re too busy with their new exciting friends, and it’s become clear to us that our primary school friendship is no longer as important to them. It’s reached a point where they don’t really know us anymore, and even though they think we are still as close ever, we know they’re nothing like our BFF.

It’s a simple analogy, but it’s at the core of the mindset of the greatest marketing minds in the world. Be the BFF and you’ll have loyal friends for life.

So finally I wanted to leave you with a challenge.

Think about your own business, your blog, your personal brand and allow yourself to delve deep. Do you really know who it is for, or more importantly who it is not for, and where have you made compromises along the way as try to become the popular kid in school when ultimately your BFF is just waiting for you to remember why you built that friendship in the first place.

What might you do differently tomorrow to get back to what this thing is all about?

Thankyou for taking the time to read this perspective, and I hope it resonated with you, and hope it helps you avoid the sharks in the future.

Ultimately we are all just trying to become better marketers, produce better products, and in a Utopian view — mark the world a better place — but the only way to do that is through connecting with those around us, so please connect, share your perspective, leave a comment and it might just be the spark that allows us to continue this learning journey together. Thankyou.

Heath EvansComment