In today’s hyper-connected world, there are an abundance of great opportunities to develop our personal brands and even start our own businesses. Unlike ten, or even five years ago, there are thousands of affordable tools and avenues to aid us in developing our products and services, as well as raise awareness with audiences all around the world. From easy-to-use website development platforms and email distribution systems, to an abundance of social media channels for delivering our messages, reaching a wide range of people has never been easier than right now.
So, why does the mere term of “marketing” generate stress and overwhelm for so many people? Why do so many of us have angst when it comes to actually converting brand onlookers into real customers? With so many promotional avenues right at our fingertips, it’s no surprise that many of us feel a little stifled with where to begin, and in the process, we often overcomplicate marketing by forgetting its root principles.
Unlike what so many of us have programmed ourselves to believe, marketing is really not that complicated, and you don’t have to be an “expert” to get good at it. In fact, marketing is actually a very natural exchange of connecting a quality product or service with an audience who could benefit from whatever we have to offer. So where is the hang-up? Well, it seems that more often than not, many of us have forgotten, or simply don’t know, that there is more to marketing than just promoting ourselves and our products and services.
Let’s dust-off a page from E. Jerome McCarthy and his principle of “the 4 Ps,” which he introduced in the 1960’s, and which is also taught in just about every Marketing 101 class around the world. In reviewing the 4 Ps, we are reminded that marketing mix is, in fact, comprised of “4 Ps,” which are “product,” “price,” “placement,” and “promotion.” Note that “promotion” is just one factor of marketing, and not the foundational element either.
In my experience of working with all sorts of professionals to develop their personal and business brands, too many people get hung-up on the one “P” of “promotion,” which is actually the “forth P” of McCarthy’s principle, and not the first. This confusion actually makes the process of promotion really tricky because it’s hard to develop strong messaging, or identify the right channels in which to place our messages, when we don’t clearly know what our brand delivers, how it fits into peoples’ lives, or its overall reason for being. That’s right, when we completely step over the first principle of “product” development and branding, as well as put little thought into the “price” and “placement” factors, we find ourselves trying to communicate something that we really don’t understand ourselves. Who wouldn’t struggle with this?
We have very little to promote until we’ve taken the time to develop a solid brand. So, before we jump into the sea of what I call “passionless promotion,” by starting the process with questions like, “how am I going to promote myself,” let’s take some time to think about the five best questions to ask when developing a brand. From there, figuring-out our sales and promotional funnels becomes much easier.
Question # 1: Have I developed a quality product?
At the root of any promotional offer is a quality, or not-so-quality product or service. Quality products are created to offer a true value or solution to a customer’s needs. This means that the creators of that product or service must have a true understanding for how their offering actually benefits the end-user’s real life needs and desires.
All too often I hear people speak of the “book they want to write,” “the product they want to market,” or “the program they want to develop,” in order to build an audience to which they can promote. Yet upon asking some of these very same people about the details of their books, products or programs, they don’t have many answers. In other words, they don’t really know what they want to build or create just yet, and have simply fixated on the idea that they have to market something, anything, in order to generate awareness for their brand, and ultimately, drive revenue.
Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize how backwards this train of thought is. Why on earth would any customer want to spend time or money on a product or service that serves no other purpose than to promote itself? It’s actually quite an absurd proposition when you stop to think about it, isn’t it?
Yet so many brands do just that, only to wonder why they aren’t building a loyal following of paying customers. While it may seem like an obvious point, we often need to remind ourselves that its time-consuming, expensive and sometimes even damaging, when we delve into promotional activity too early. It’s worth it to take the time to ensure we are creating a quality product first.
Question # 2 / Do I understand the true purpose or value that my product / service will deliver?
Before building a program, writing content and developing a product, it’s worth taking the time to understand what sort of purpose it will serve. If the sole existence of a product is grounded in promoting itself, then it’s probably worth reconsidering whether or not investing time and money into it is worth it at all.
On the other hand, when we can answer all of these questions without “promotion” as our primary answer, then we may be onto something:
· What solutions can I serve that deliver a clear purpose to the world?
· How can my brand benefit others in a unique and relevant way?
· What makes me most passionate about offering this idea?
Not only does taking the time to answer these questions aid in delivering something that people will actually want to buy, it also helps us gain a deeper understanding for the value we are bringing to the world. This ignites a true passion to deliver a quality and easy-to-sell idea.
Question # 3 / Does my passion for what I’m doing precede my desire to get rich?
Most of us have a keen radar for “get rich quick schemes,” and it always rings loudly when a promotional offer is backed more by someone’s desire to make a quick buck, than their genuine passion to deliver something useful, meaningful, and heck, let’s throw awesome on that list! Ironically, it’s the people who lack true passion for what they are doing who feel stuck and awkward when it comes to sales and marketing.
Why? It’s just plain hard to convince someone of something that we aren’t completely sold-on ourselves. And, converting people into paying customers requires that we convince them with a truthful and compelling message. Otherwise, we are simply promoting for promotion’s sake. The outcome might lead to raising awareness for an endeavor in the short-term, yet it will rarely lead to consistent conversions and sales generation in the long-term.
On the flip side, when we have taken the time to cultivate a passion for whatever we are selling, we also have a natural tendency to want to talk about it. Suddenly, selling someone our ideas flows more freely and naturally because we are no longer experiencing the resistance of trying to “convince” someone of anything at all. We are already 100% convinced ourselves, which makes us excited to tell the world about what we have to offer. Passion transcends the sales pitch into a quality conversation, at which point, our sales and promotional ideas become clear, abundant and obvious.
Question # 4 / How excited am I about the customer experience?
So, how do we know if we are truly passionate about the service, product, or content we are creating? It really boils down to how excited we are about delivering our brand promise where the rubber hits the road – when paying customers actually experience what we have to offer.
Many years back after a visit to Europe, I thought it would be a great idea to introduce delicious Turkish cuisine, which is so popular there, to my own city with a food truck. I thought to myself, “wow – this food is so popular all over Europe, and it is so delicious and inexpensive, so surely everyone in Denver will go crazy for this stuff, just like me!”
I began to get really excited about this idea. I threw myself into many grandiose promotional plans for making this Turkish food truck concept explode! Here I was lured into the temptations of promotional planning, just for promotion’s sake, only to find that promoting and making money were my product’s only reason for being. I knew this definitively, because when the reality sunk-in of spending my days inside a hot food truck, preparing foods that I knew little about, and wasn’t really excited to learn how to cook, my lack luster passion was hard to avoid.
After all, was this really a life I was excited about? Was I really prepared to do whatever it takes to learn how to cook amazing Turkish food? Was I excited about the actual process of delivering my concept to people? Since my answers to these questions were… no… no, and um let’s see here… no, I quickly got my head out of the gutter of “passionless promotion,” and spared myself a lot of time, energy and money in return.
Question # 5 / How dedicated am I to becoming an expert in my field?
How interested are we about getting ourselves out in the frontlines of our fields or categories, in order to hone-in our skills and offerings with complete dedication of becoming experts? The best way to start building a loyal client base is to starting working with people right away, even while our ideas are still in development mode. And, there’s no need to pretend that you are further along than you really are.
It’s okay to take your time and discover what your product or service can & cannot deliver, who it connects with and who it doesn’t, and how it can be even better than it already is today, prior to creating a website, email campaign, social media promotion, brochure, or heck, even business cards! Give yourself and potential customers a little space to test, sample, play with and question your products and services before you set them in stone. This can happen in the form of complimentary sessions, simple sampling and surveying, or trying something out on a small scale to see if it works first, prior to building its full-blown scale. Remember the old saying, fail and learn fast and cheaply.
Again, there’s a reason why “product” is the first of McCarthy’s “P’s” and “promotion” is the forth. Taking the time to practice and test our ideas will not only make our products better, it will also help us gain the first conversations with our first loyal customers. These people will appreciate our attention to what is and isn’t working, and fine-tuning of offerings, and they will become advocates who promote our messages for us, simply because we took the time to deliver something awesome.
So, let’s remember that a passionate product will make marketing easy! Resist the temptation to ignore the “4P’s” by jumping solely into “passionless promotion,” and remember that without taking the time to develop a quality product, we will always be banging our heads against walls when it comes to marketing. It will feel so unnatural, awkward, overwhelming and even draining. For sales and marketing to become effortless and straightforward, as they were intended, then it’s important to focus on developing a great product or service before trying to figure-out how to promote it. I promise that taking your time with the first “P” will make promoting and selling your message so much easier. After all, great products sell themselves – period.