In order to be able to do marketing and selling consciously (with awareness of how our actions impact others’ emotions, as well as our own psyche), it is helpful to look at the foundational metaphors we use in marketing.
Here are the typical metaphors…
Marketing as War.
You are waging a campaign to crush the competition, undercut them with lower prices, and dominate market share.
Many corporations use this metaphor.
Marketing as Hunting.
You are baiting your target audience into capturing their email address. As they buy a low price item, it is a tripwire that triggers your marketing funnel to sell them more, and hopefully, you’ll make a killing!
This is the common metaphor used by digital marketers or internet marketers.
Marketing as Religion.
Structure your content to indoctrinate your new followers into your worldview, and eventually convert them into buyers. You’ll have control over them when you become their guru.
This is essentially cult-building, trying to mind-control one’s audience through hypnotic and persuasion techniques.
Marketing as Science.
Each piece of your content is an experiment to test the market for their reactions so you can keep adjusting for more predictable results. Don’t get emotional about the ups or the downs. Stay objective.
I like this metaphor better than the others above, but using it exclusively means ignoring the heart, which will tend to erode a true relationship with your audience.
Marketing as Dating.
Just like it would be inappropriate to ask someone to marry you the first time you meet them, you don’t ask your potential client to buy your biggest service package when they’re just getting to know you. Ease them in, as you would in dating, through content and low-priced offers first.
This is a decent metaphor, because it’s about human relationships. However, there are too many unethical or inauthentic dating methods out there. I’ll offer a better metaphor below.
So many marketers are unconscious of the metaphors they’re using. They don’t realize that they are spreading values in the world that they would consciously disagree with!
If there’s dissonance between the marketer’s higher values and their actions, the audience can sense it, making it difficult to build long-term trust.
Also, the more that the marketer becomes conscious of this inner discord, the more he will sabotage his efforts, eventually causing a crisis in his business.
This is what happened to me in 2013. From 2009–2013, I was doing marketing actions that didn’t align with my higher values. As I became more conscious of it, I began (unknowingly) to sabotage my own marketing efforts.
Eventually, I had to stop my business altogether. In 2014, I started over with a new way of being in business, a new metaphor for working with marketing that aligned with my higher values.
No longer was I doing war, hunting, or religion. I came to see marketing as education, service, and a cause — to help others (at scale) regardless of whether they bought from me.
I began to use a new metaphor:
Marketing as Friendship.
I see myself building a friendship with my audience as a whole.
I start that friendship by connecting on common things, for example, our interest in business based on higher values.
As a friend might do, I will keep in touch with you respectfully and only send you content that I truly believe you’ll find helpful or interesting.
To know what is interesting for you, I stay observant in our interactions about your needs and wants. I learn about you more deeply so that I can better help you.
If I think you are misguided about something, I’m not going to judge you. I will still respect and care for you. Of course, I will try to share my way of thinking, to see if it also resonates with you.
Importantly, I also listen to your opinions and allow the possibility for you to change my perspective, to modify or upgrade my point of view.
Growing up, my mother told me “Everyone will say nice things to you. Your real friends are willing to tell you the hard truths, in hopes that it may help you.” Similarly, I sometimes ask you to be honest with me on how I can improve. I am observant of any suggestions I get from you.
Of course, not everyone will resonate with me as a friend, and similarly, I don’t expect everyone to resonate with my marketing.
A compatible friend would totally accept me as I am. Similarly, I feel liberated in my marketing to be myself, knowing that the audiences that are meant for me will resonate with my content and style. I encourage you to think that way about your own content and style as well.
I can only have a limited number of friends before I start forgetting important details about them. Similarly, I am not looking to become a celebrity. I just want a sustainable number of clients, and an organically growing number of readers that I can keep up with. I might gradually build a small team of assistants, but I will always try to personally get to know at least some of my fans, as representatives of my audience, so I can keep being as relevant and helpful to my audience as I can.
Friends meet new friends through introductions. This is the best way that marketing happens as well: spreading goodness through word-of-mouth.
Friendship is based on trust. So in my marketing I will always work to maintain your trust, never trying to “get” you to do something that feels off to you or to me.
Just like you would start to distance yourself from a friend who was always trying to sell stuff to you, I will always serve more with free content, and only occasionally sell.
In my selling, it’s more like I’m inviting a friend to a party, an experience together. It’s something we do to bond more, and to further our growth.
Also, sometimes friends drift apart for awhile. Similarly, I’m ok if you stop reading my stuff and go hang out with other marketers you resonate with. When you do come back to our friendship, you’ll be the richer for it. The bottom line is that I don’t try to keep you as a friend, because good friends are not pushy or needy.
This old saying is so true, even in marketing: “If you love them, let them go.”
I hold loosely to having to get and keep your attention. I simply serve as a loyal friend, continually learning more about you (my audience) and bonding with you through our interactions.
These are ideas that I’m not yet perfect at implementing, yet I practice and aspire to be.
Thank you for your support and friendship.