Marketing is the promise land of opportunity, and people know this deeply. They've seen their favorite brands captivate their hearts, wallets, and weekends. They've watched other companies publicly crash and burn. And they've scrolled passed every brand in between. Every quiet small business that didn't get their messaging right. Every product they didn't have a need, want, or longing for.
Yet every business owner, no matter what industry, dreams of captivating the people they are seeking to change. No one builds a business with hopes of people walking right passed. Brands want to be seen. The good ones want people to buy what they are selling, because they see the value in it.
The key to selling is understanding the human side of business. If you want to be seen, you need to recognize the people you are trying to reach as human and understand them deeply.
Think about marketing like a treasure map.
Your objective is to get to the X--the place where your target audience is waiting for you, listening, and ready to buy. Getting there will be a journey; there are no one-stop, fast tracks (no matter how many online "get rich quick" gurus will try to tell you).
Finding X will take time, but the good news is that there are hundreds of clues surrounding you right now. These nuggets of knowledge are everywhere. They are like a compass, showing you where to go next. They are waiting in books, people, and fresh Google Chrome tabs.
Use research as your magnifying glass.
If you want to find clues, you must be deliberate. You need a strategy and a general idea of which direction you are going. Can you articulate who your target audience is in human terms? How can you test your assumptions? What might X look like when you get there? How will you positively impact people's lives?
Realize that data is everywhere on everyone. Your first mission is to use what others have already compiled to better understand your industry.
Secondary data will show you the landscape.
There are thousands upon thousands of organizations collecting, analyzing, and using data. Take advantage of high quality data sources as they will help define the landscape of your treasure map.
Here's my process for secondary data collection:
Poking around on the internet is not the most fun, but keep your head up and keep searching. The process can be mega-insightful if you land on a jackpot study.
Primary data will show you the way.
After you've found some good information on your target audience and industry, you are ready to embark on primary data collection. This is the human side of marketing, and the most important! Data doesn't matter if you can't translate it in human terms.
Here's my process for primary data collection:
My favorite tool for plotting insights is RealTimeBoard. It's a virtual whiteboard that allows you plot all your golden nuggets on post-it notes. During primary research is where the real marketing magic clues lie.
When you find patterns, you're getting warmer.
Similar to improvisational comedy, if you hear someone mention something once, it's a data point. If you hear another person mention the same thing, it's a coincidence. If you hear a third person mention the same thing, it's a pattern.
Great marketing resonates with people because it hits on the elements of the shared human experience. To get to X, you must identify critical patterns in your target audience. Maybe they all use the same phrase to talk about their worries. Or perhaps they all feel frustrated by the same annoyances.
The more intimately you can understand the commonalities they stress over, love, worry about, talk about, need, fear, and desire, the more targeted your marketing will become.
The more you can empathize, the closer you will get to X.
Remember, the humans carry the magic.
Your goal is to get close enough to see it, and quiet enough to hear it.