The hardest part about marketing is convincing people to do what you want them to do: "sign-up for my mailing list!", "buy my iOS app!", "register for an account!"
Here's the challenge: people only care about the things they want. They don't wake up in the morning and say: "I feel like helping a software team gain some traction today".
People are obsessed with their own problems. That's why it's hard to convince them to do anything else. Instead of thinking: "Here's what I want people to do" you have to think about what your target market wants and needs.
Think about the roadside fruit stand vendor. He's probably watching all those cars drive by, saying: "I wish they would just stop and buy some fruit." The drivers, on the other hand, aren't thinking about the fruit vendor at all. They're thinking about their stressful day at the office, the horrible traffic, and how their air conditioning doesn't work. The only reason a driver pulls over to buy fruit is if they're hungry. The drivers just care about their own problems; they're not thinking about what the fruit vendor wants at all.
I see a lot of SaaS businesses behaving like fruit vendors: just waiting on the internet for traffic, hoping that customers come and solve their problems.
Too often, we build our marketing strategies out of what we want for our business. We write copy and calls-to-action that are self-focused: "Look at what I built! Isn't it wonderful? I want you to use it!" When no one responds, we have to engage in cheap tricks, expensive ad campaigns, and other manipulations just to get anyone in the door.
"Why talk about what we want? That is childish. Absurd. Of course, you are interested in what you want. But no one else is. The rest of us are just like you: we are interested in what we want."
- Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People
A simple alternative: don't try to convince people to do what you want. Instead, find out what they want, and offer that to them instead.
Here's an example from the farm: if you've ever tried pushing a goat into its pen, you know it's pretty much impossible. You can push, prod and pull, but if that stubborn goat doesn't want to move, he won't. However, if you offer the goat something he wants, like a treat, he'll gladly walk into the pen without any hassle.
"If you can describe the problem better than your customer they will assume you have the solution."
- Pat Flynn
Start your marketing with other people in mind. Brennan Dunn recently shared with me where he gets his great headlines for Double Your Freelancing Rate and Planscope: "They all come from real emails that people have sent me. I ask people what they're struggling with in their freelance business, and they tell me about their real problems."
Here's what I would do if I owned the aforementioned fruit stand: every time someone did stop and buy something, I'd ask them why. And then I'd listen. I might notice some trends: maybe the folks who stopped felt like fruit stands have fresher fruit. In that case, I'd change my sign to say: "Fresh fruit picked today!" If people thought my fruit stand would be less costly than going somewhere else, then I'd make a sign that said: "A better deal than your supermarket!".
This is the key to good marketing: take the time to discover people's needs, and turn those pain points into marketing headlines, blog posts, and better products.
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