Instead, we need to be people interacting with other people, following the norms of human behavior. "Would I do this or say this to my best friend?" If the answer is NO, then don't do it or say it to anyone. Don't come uninvited between people and the things they want, even if those people are in the "highly-sought-after millennials demographic." When someone is listening to Bob Dylan or watching their favorite TV show, don't jump in and interrupt them with a 60-second mouthwash commercial. Sounds obvious, but why is it less obvious to marketers? Like so many people today, I just fast-forward past the marketing.
Ok, it's time to declare what we stand for as people who do marketing, so here are my 6 Principles of Effective Marketing:
1. I say this to my fellow marketing professionals: Can we stop with the marketing mumbo-jumbo about funnels and conversion steps and prime demgraphics and segmentation strategies and click-thru rates. We are people trying to engage other people, and speaking mumbo-jumbo doesn't help us or make us sound important/profound/whatever. I want to run away from every marketer who talks to me about funnels. Would you put your best friend down a funnel? I didn't think so. Stop putting people in funnels and "converting them" with CTAs. Let's talk like people talking to other people.
2. Forget B2B (Business-to-Business) and B2C (Business-to-Consumer) and focus instead on H2H (Human-to-Human). Business entities or brands cannot talk or cry or pick a friend up from the airport, but people can. If a friend took you aside and told you "you're starting to talk like an insurance company or a brand of toothpaste," would you think that's a compliment? People work for insurance companies, people write for insurance companies, people buy insurance from insurance companies, but nobody should be "talking like an insurance company." Let's talk like people talking to other people.
3. "It's Always About Them, Not You." This is the most important concept in marketing. All marketing starts from the perspective of people who might buy your product or service. Life is filled with challenges, and people buy when you help them with their challenges. Nobody cares about your product or service, nobody cares about your company or your shareholders, nobody cares how much money you make or your financial goals. You sell when YOU show you care about THEM and can offer people help. Find a need, solve a problem, offer help -- if you do these things, you are marketing. Stop talking about yourself, and listen for what people need in life (belonging, emotional connection, stories that move them, help in a pinch). Anyone who tells you they "just sell toothpaste" isn't doing things right.
So care more about the challenges your customers are facing, and care less about your needs (we gotta ship 25,000 units this quarter). Care about THEM, talk about THEM, make emotional connections with THEM. The result? YOU will build a loyal customer base who cares about YOU because you put THEM first. How many friends do you have who talk about themselves all the time? Not many, I bet. But marketers feel they can talk about themselves and their products all the time, and that people will like it. Wrong.
4. Stop the "hard sell." Don't make our relationship contingent on my ability to "Act Now!" I'm tired and want to take a nap. I don't want to "act now!" or perform the particular calls to action (CTAs) you are asking me to perform. I'm not your pet, so stop asking me to do tricks for you. Stop trying to trick me, pressure me, lie to me, take advantage of my vulnerabilities. Marketers too often prey upon the weak and make people feel worse off in the end. Maybe try making me feel better about myself, and maybe then I'll feel better about you.
I'd ask my marketing colleagues to stop going to dive bars and looking for one-night stands with the desperate and the lost. Too often, marketers put on their shiniest suit, don cheap aftershave, and lie their way into people's beds with sleazy pick-up lines. No wonder marketing professionals are viewed as believable as members of Congress. You have every reason to assume that anything and everything they say is a lie, and exaggeration, or at minimum self-serving. Like Public Enemy once rapped "don't believe the hype!"
5. Let's build long-term relationships in the way that friends do, based upon mutual respect, trust, understanding, emotional connections, shared stories, truth-telling and reciprocal value creation. I don't have friends who lie to me, or exploit my vulnerabilities, or who talk about themselves all the time, or who pull surprises on me ("Chuck, I need to inform you about the hidden fees you need to pay me."). My friends listen, help, care, and make me feel better about myself. They share their stories, and listen to mine. Marketers must do the same.
By the way, people are not stupid, no matter what marketers may assume, and they can spot a "fake friend" in the wink of an eye. So better to be real and mean what you say if you want a sustainable relationship. Even in a world awash in "alternative facts," people know the difference between truth, lies, and bullshit.
6. Connect to human emotions through stories. The stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and the stories we share with others about the world we live in -- these are the things that make us human and connect us to others. We are, above all, living organisms that seek to make meaning out of our existence. Stories help do that.
Our stories have characters (you, me, the baker and candlestick maker); they have conflict (I wanted to take a nap, but there's a loud construction crew outside my window), and resolution (I put in earplugs and take my nap). Stories engage our emotions, they pull us into different worlds and experiences, the lives of others, they make us more empathetic. When we hear a story, our brains actually act like the story is happening to us. I'm not sure we'd be human without stories, and I know we wouldn't be humans with much empathy or decency.
Stories are the best way for people who market to connect with other people. We choose the people and causes we care about because of the stories they tell and the way those stories make us feel. Data doesn't connect to emotion, information does not connect, but stories do -- and they can make the data and information memorable.
To conclude this manifesto for marketers, I want to suggest that you be human first, put the needs of others first, stop interrupting people and pressurizing them, stop acting like jerks who constantly talk about yourselves (nobody cares!), and start acting more like a friend to the people you seek to engage. People will reward people who are good to them, who show they care about them, with the most valuable gift in life, their attention and their emotional connection. Let's stop thinking of ourselves as marketers seeking to trick, manipulate, etc., and more as people (who market) talking to other people, trying to turn interactions into long-term relationships.