Abraham Lincoln once said...
"If I had four hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first two hours sharpening the axe."
Now, I checked the validity of this quote and it turns out there's no genuine record of old mate Abe saying this. But the metaphor is solid and it serves us well!
I like this quote because when we look at the way most of us market, we look ahead and think about all the cool ways we can reach thousands of people, become famous and make a million dollars - we try to cut the damn tree down with one thunderous swing of the axe!
However, marketing that really works takes people one step closer to the person they want to become. On the other hand, screaming over and over again is pointless because no one will hear it. There's simply way too much horse-shit online.
Yes, that's real marketing terminology.
Instead, we have the chance to sharpen our axe.
Sharpening the marketing axe can be broken down into four categories that serve as our true-north.
1 - Purpose
Purpose is a buzzword that gets thrown around big time, but without a clear purpose, we're cooked!
The kind of purpose I'm talking about here is more practical than it is motivational. To me, being clear on your purpose is knowing exactly what you do, who it's for and why it's important to them.
Simple as that.
Almost every time I ask someone this question their answer is vague, or I get a fifteen minute long story that takes me around the world.
Knowing precisely what you do, who it's for and why is vital because, without it, our marketing efforts are directionless.
We're throwing a line into the ocean when we could be casting it into the small pond where the rainbow-trout are jumping two meters into the air.
It's also important to make sure your whole company is in alignment with its purpose, so everyone across all departments comes together to create a consistent customer experience that delivers.
Andrew Nisbet from Shift Perspectives has a great article you can read afterwards on the topic - it's listed below.
2 - Contribution
Now it's time to focus on our contribution - our product or service.
We need to make sure that what we do absolutely exceeds and over-delivers on our promise. It needs to solve our customers' problems and leave them with a kiss on the cheek from grandma.
Doing this means we build our marketing strategy right into what we do. It's remarkable as Seth Godin would say - meaning that someone will go out of their way to make a remark about you. If you get this part right, you won't be worrying about how to grow the business, you'll be worrying about all the shitty people you hired in a hurry to handle the growth.
Note - this part isn't easy, and it often takes years and years of getting better, fucking things up, and moving forward. I'm not saying that what you do needs to perfect, it just needs to give more back to the customer than what they give you.
3 - Brand
If you asked ten people what branding is, you'll get ten different answers - even if you ask people in branding!
Most of us know what branding is, but we underestimate how important it really is.
Branding is about more than a nice logo and a cool cover photo for Facebook - it's about being easy to understand, and interesting to your customer.
If someone goes to your website and can't instantly work out what you do or find the information they need, that's poor branding.
If your google business listing says your open, but you're closed...the people who drove for an hour to eat your food will tell you that's POOR FUCKING BRANDING!
Before we fire up the marketing machine, we need to be sure that the people interacting with our brand can do so easily, and that they will be engaged by how we look and feel.
If you can't say that your business can do this at a base level, then I'd suggest your money is better spent getting your branding right first.
For some light-reading on branding and your business, a good place to start after this would be here >> Merryn Paul from Four Pi (a brand and web development agency) talks about what your brand is saying about you - article listed below.
4 - Showing Up
Congratulations if you've come this far!
We can finally talk about reaching out to people, or what Seth Godin (can you handle another Seth Godin reference?) calls 'showing up'. All of the steps mentioned will be a continual work in progress, but this step is particularly on-going.
But what do we say? And where?
What you say and where will be clear if you have nailed the first three steps.
You will know what you do, who it's for and importantly, why it matters. Once you know this, the stories and information for the people who need it will come easy.
You won't be spamming. Instead, you'll be helping your customer solve a problem, taking them another step towards the person they want to be.
What you say, and what you do, is always more important than where you say it.
For sure, an outstanding social media presence with stunning photography and the funniest captions will help your business, but if your purpose, contribution and brand are out of alignment you'll only fail faster.
It's called the kiss of death - great marketing that drives prospects to a shit business...
But assuming you're continually diligent with the first three steps, it's now up to you to show up.
To show up with relevant and useful messages for the right person.
To show up every day - to market continually, drip by drip.
To show up with a product or service that changes people.
Now, it's time to sharpen the axe.
Continue the worm-hole...
Andrew Nisbet - The Importance of alignment
Merryn Paul - What is your brand saying about you
Seth Godin - Showing up
Seth Godin - How to be remarkable
And if you'd like, a book recommendation that will feel like you've been hit you over the head with a wild tuna when you're done...
Steven Pressfield - The War of Art