Having been in marketing for over 10 years, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that marketing isn’t for me.
Now before you start making assumptions, keep reading.
I started marketing back in 2005 after I created a music video for a local heavy metal band. After spending an entire summer filming and several months of editing, I started to wonder if all of my efforts would have been for nothing if people didn’t get to see it.
Though I was proud of my achievement, it didn’t take away certain fears and anxieties about sharing it with my closest friends and family. It only made matters worse when I saw that most of the people I shared the video with got antsy about 30 seconds in, and visibly uncomfortable when I forced them to watch the entire 3:29 seconds.
Was the video that bad? Had I wasted a summer? Was this band actually terrible and I just didn’t know it? Should I stop trying to do the thing I loved?
Then, one fateful night, I shared these thoughts and concerns with my best friend.
I think we each have these moments in our lives where time stops around us, where the air feels still and every detail draws us in, marking that moment as one we’ll never forget.
My best friend giving his response was such a moment for me. With a knowing smile he said, “Tommy, you’re being selfish. Just because you made this video does not mean I am going to enjoy it. It’s not that it isn’t well made. Hell, if you used a better camera, it looks like it could be on MTV.”
“It’s just that… this video isn’t for me. It’s not my kind of music, I don’t like the singer, and I probably wouldn’t pay money to see these guys live. That’s got nothing to do with you.”
“Besides, you didn’t make this video for me. You made it for the people who are already into this band. More than that, you made it so they would have something to share with their friends. You made it so they didn’t have to awkwardly invite their friends to a show, and risk wasting an evening listening to a crappy band.
“This video isn’t for you. It’s not about you. This video is about the music and the people who enjoy it. Now, instead of wasting your time showing it to me, you need to figure out how you’re going to get it in front of them.”
It was in that very moment that I realized I was sharing my achievement with the wrong people. I realized that I wanted to make the fans happy, for the video to become a part of their lives, and for it to feel like it belonged to them. I wanted them to feel like sharing my video was like sharing a part of themselves, and that doing so would make them cooler to their friends.
It’s a no-brainer now, but at the time, my friend’s advice was shocking and revelatory. It went against the “Work hard, people will take notice and reward you” mentality I had been raised with.
Nobody owed me anything just because I worked hard and getting my accomplishment in front of the right people was only going to be harder.
Now I realize true marketing is never about you. It’s about the market - their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Ego demands, “What’s in it for me?”, while real marketing asks, “What can I give?”
Soon after this conversation with my friend, I started getting the video in front of the people who would actually enjoy it. I went through the band’s Myspace page and contacted each of their 2,000 “friends” one by one.
I contacted a few local music bloggers who covered this style of music. I reconnected with friends who I hadn’t talked to in a while who I remembered listened to heavy metal. I went to other local shows, and I shared the video with fans of similar bands.
I was scared beyond belief. “What if they hate it? What if they think I’m a spammer? What if they block me? What if I’m doing it wrong? What if… What if… What if….”
Every time I started to be paralyzed by these fears, more of my friend’s advice would resonate in my head:
“Some will. Some won’t. So what, move on.”
It was only after I stepped outside my comfort zone that the doors started opening.
At first, I was approached by other bands asking me to make their music videos. Then I was getting recognized as “video guy” at local shows, and before I knew it, the original music video had earned over 5,000 views. Bear in mind, Youtube was only a year old, so this was huge!
A few months after the video started getting in front of the right people, the band launched their debut CD at a midnight release at our local independent music franchise.
On the night of the midnight release, the lines were out the door. Some fans drove for several hours just to get a CD and meet the band for the first time in person.
The band sat for 2 hours, autographing copies of the album, tee-shirts, and posters. In that moment, we all felt like total rockstars.
We later found out from the record store that the band had broken all of the local records for midnight release sales, and had outsold well established bands like Korn, Tool and U2.
The lesson, for anyone reading this article - store owner, info-marketer, or aspiring entrepreneur - is that marketing isn’t for you. Building a relationship with your market isn’t about you. Marketing is about loving the people in your market, and existing to make them happy.
Finding the market is hardest part. You might need to email 50 bloggers or partner with other companies or have drinks with a complete stranger to get access to the right people. Deep down, you already know what you need to do, you're just too scared to do it.
But capital "L" Love isn't about doing what's comfortable. It's about going out on a limb, making yourself vulnerable, and baring your soul with your most brazen creative and trusting that the market will return the favor.
Paradoxically, the more you truly love the market, the more love you receive. Not just from them, but from their friends and their family and the thousands of others you never would have met if your marketing remained self-centered.
Truly, marketing isn’t for you. It’s for others.
About The Author
Tommy Walker is a Conversion Optimization enthusiast and Content Strategist at Shopify. Get more from Tommy on Twitter.