Marketing isn’t just selling, it’s connecting people

Have you ever set two people up you thought would be perfect for each other? Then you see them meet. You see the spark. The human connection.  Have you ever seen a meme and thought about someone, sent it to them, and they message you back saying they are so happy because it made their day because it said exactly what they had been thinking. 

For me, that’s what marketing is. It’s about helping bring people together. It’s about human connection and community.  Within the indie creative community, it’s about helping people connect over the expression of the majesty of the human experience. It’s the moment where people say in concert, I get you/you get me. For the small business, it’s about connecting people with products and services that will make a positive impact on their lives that they may not have known about without marketing.   

To help bring people together in a sea of possibilities, you have to understand how people navigate this life and the world of communication in order to help soul mates (writer and reader, product and customer, service provider and client) together.

In my work, I do this in two ways. I’m building a community of creatives to help them know that they are not shouting into an empty and uncaring void. I want to help expand the stage for voices that have gone unheard. I want to build a community of collaboration and cooperation to help in this endeavor. I plan to turn this community into a nonprofit to be able to do more to expand the stage and develop indie creatives and their careers.  

The other way is helping sole proprietors, freelancers, and indie creatives. I want to help these people who are trying to build a business make the most out of their endeavors. I want to help people who serve others through their products, services, and creative endeavors to make the most out of their business and find those who will benefit from what they have to offer.  You. 

When I help people clarify their vision for their business, and thus their brand, and crystallize what they want to say to their potential customers, I get a great joy out of that. It’s helping people to find, even re-discover, what they are trying to do in the world. I take extraordinary joy in helping them figure out how to communicate that vision to their potential customers through storytelling in social media, advertising, customer service, and even pricing. If a person and their brand is about compassion, then they tell that story in how they handle their customers. If their brand is about service, then price gouge. The brand isn’t in harmony with their pricing. An honest price for an honest, quality product. If their brand is about innovation, then the visuals that they use should be edgy and innovative, even if the visuals aren’t talking directly about their products, only their company. 

Marketing is a way for the proprietor to tell the story of the business. Marketing, though, hasn’t always been about telling stories. Marketing has also been used to manipulate. For example, the origins of guerilla marketing tell a different kind of story than mine.

During the 1960s a famous marketer coined the term guerilla marketing to describe a strategy and collection of tactics that radically shifted how marketing was done. The term itself was borrowed from psychological warfare used during the Vietnam War.  This term coming from war makes my heart ache, because it is the exact opposite intention for relationship building that I endeavor to pursue. It makes the consumer the enemy to trick into betraying their country, their homeland, their people, their values, themselves. That’s not the kind of relationship that I want to foster.

I think that if your focus is on gaining money through deception, manipulation, fraud, and theft is immoral. I don’t think that a fair exchange of resources, be it barter of product and services or for currency, is bad. Money isn’t the problem. Money represents resources.  It makes it easier in exchanges of resources. Pay your landlord rent in chickens or money. If the landlord doesn’t need chickens, but actually needs something else, converting chickens to the something else isn’t as easy as converting money to that something else. If the exchange of resources is fair, then that exchange isn’t immoral. It’s just an exchange. It’s a way to live in the world without having to be a hunter/gatherer.  

Marketing to me is not what the Mad Men did or the promoters of the Fyre Festival. It’s not engaging in infiltrating the consumers private space as an enemy combatant. It’s about understanding one sliver of what it means to be human. And it is the human experience in action, where humans can connect with their soul mates.  I don’t want to add to conspicuous consumption. I just want to help people find things they will cherish or that will add to their lives. I’m a connector.  

I’m also a guide for those who don’t have the education, fascination, and experience to understand consumer behavior. To DIY a marketing plan, I’ve known sole proprietors, freelancers, and creatives who have turned to advice books, only to be confused by the advice that they are given.

I have read marketing advice books like a person who had been trapped in the desert drinks water.  I hoped that the marketing book will give me some insight that I hadn’t thought of or hadn’t run across in the behavioral science literature that I have found in textbooks and journal articles I found through Google Scholar. 

To my dismay, the advice is not always that good in the advice books. Ranging from problematic application to advice based on a faulty understanding of behavior to contradicting itself to the point of being nonsensical advice. The only marketing books that I have read recently that I find at all solid is the Cambridge’s Handbook on Consumer Behavior and (author) Buy-ology, which is about the neuroscience of marketing, and the 1-Page Marketing Plan.

The problem with the first book is that it’s not written for the layperson. It’s written for the advanced marketing scholar, who has had at least some coursework in psychology.  So, there’s a lot of theory to sift through and little to no application. 

The second book is readable for the well-read layperson, but there’s really no application there either. 

I did find one book that did a pretty decent job of explaining marketing for a general audience. I wrote about this. Allan Dib, author of  the 1-Page Marketing Plan, does a good job defining marketing jargon, like the differences between marketing, promotion, publicity, and tactics. He also does an excellent job giving examples of various kinds of tactics. He touches on strategy as well. 

He didn’t really delve into how tactics would be implemented in different spaces, because he wrote it for a general audience. In my research and experience, the way that tactics are employed need to be tweaked depending on what industry you’re in. Tactics also need to be chosen based on the stage of your career. If you’ve been in business for a while and have some repeat customers but want new ones, you’ll implement your tactics differently than someone starting from scratch.

As a side note, how well a single tactic leads to sales depends on a lot of factors: has the tactic been overused, are there changes in the market, or changes in how people engage in marketing (like moving towards a particular social media platform over another).  

For those who are needing clarity on the different aspects of marketing, this is a great book to read. 

I think though that choosing tactics comes down to using the tactics in service of reaching people and not just making sales. Yes, the end goal is to make a living, which requires making sales, but it’s a matter of focus. In my research and experience, focusing on people and not just sales leads to long-term customers, clients, and readers rather than just reaching short-term goals. I have also read that retaining customers costs less than getting new customers. I’ll write another post about that, after I do a rabbit hole dive. In my mind, it makes more sense to be people focused than just sale focused, both from an ethics perspective and overall profit perspective.

Marketing isn’t just about selling, it’s about connection. Connection between those who serve through their products and services and their customers. Connection of people with their own story and how to tell their story through their messaging. Connection between science and practical application of that science. And, connection between myself and those I serve. You.

© 2020 Michelle Raab, PhD.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: You may copy up to 50 words without permission, provided that you give attribution, link back to the original post, and do not change the meaning or message.

Originally posted in michelleraabwrites.com on February 10, 2020.

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Published by Michelle Raab

Branding&Marketing Strategist for the Quirky and Creative Entrepreneurs | Research Psychologist | Writer | Photographer | Dabbler in the Visual Arts

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