Marketing is difficult, emotional work.
It’s hard to say, “this isn’t for you – it’s for these other people.” But that’s the essence of positioning.
It’s hard to listen to someone on Zoom for an hour with intensity.
It’s hard to go all the way back to your values, your beliefs, and then ask yourself, “what future state do I want to create that reflects my values?“. But you have to do that work to know the mission of your business. This is half the work of brand messaging.
The other half is also hard – listening to your customers. Yesterday, we talked about uncovering pain points by asking, “what’s your favorite workaround“? But how do you that – it takes time from your busy days and theirs. There’s no endless well of hour-long Zoom calls and no easy answer.
Philip Morgan systematizes his listening as a core business process; research. As a result, he can easily point you to the questions he’s researching.
Probably every single Fortune 1000 company does something similar; a function of corporate marketing is market research. (This is actually how the term and concept of marketing became popular during the 60s and 70s ). And/or they outsource the work to Gartner or other market research firms.
But it’s hard to do this for your own independent business. As with content marketing, regularity is the ultimate value add. It probably needs to be a business process, not a project.
In the Bootstrapper’s Bible, the author calls for a “formal reinvention process”.
You need a formal business reinvention process. Put it in your calendar. Every three months, take your most trusted advisors, employees, backers, and even customers and get away from the phones for a little while.
Start from scratch. “If we were starting over – no office, no employees, no customers – would we choose to be where we are today?”. If the answer isn’t yes, then it’s time to take a hard look at the path you took and the impact it has had on your business.
That book was written in 1998. Its successor, The Bootstrapper’s Workshop, continues to ask for an “emotional effort” to figure out what people are happy to pay you to do for them. Not because they need you to do it for them, but because they want you to.
The alternative is to spend your hard-earned money at random hoping you’ll make someone happy; often this has the opposite effect.
Case study in unhappiness: Postmates
There’s a pandemic on and we’re on lockdown, so you must have heard about Postmates, the online ordering app for local restaurant delivery and takeout? I’m surprised you haven’t heard of them, given that they have 903 million dollars in venture capital funding.
Let’s listen to what Amanda, a customer, has to say about Postmates two days ago:
This is what, “getting market share” looks like, folks – disrespect and outright theft.
You raise almost a billion dollars, to do the same thing GrubHub has been doing for a decade, and your net accomplishment is making people miserable. Why?
Partly it’s that money tempts you to spend on something – and you can’t figure out more ways to spend money on product.
But the real reason is you haven’t done the emotional work of regularly determining what people really want – and don’t want. Advertising can be a helpful tool in your marketing but you can’t put lipstick on a pig.
Postmates-scale advertising (probably in the hundreds of millions) is out of reach for most of us but with even a modest financial investment, you can mimic them in miniature – you can purchase cold ads and emails from a business like CallBox, with its dozens of fake LinkedIn profiles sending messages on your behalf. 
It’s hard to pick up the phone and call someone – or it seems hard. That’s why you hire CallBox. They’re not selling expertise; in fact, they are pretty terrible at advertising. They’re selling emotional effort.
But is that something you can buy and sell, or is it something you just have to do for yourself?
Footnotes & Errata
- In the superbly written Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy’s description of marketing helps you realize it used to be a “weird science” ↩
- A better way to do LinkedIn outreach is LeadCookie, which actually does a pretty artful job of cold outreach because it stipulates good positioning and messaging, at least on LinkedIn. ↩