When we speak as one human to another, the communication is better. That's why we don't fire people or propose marriage via text messaging. There's still an important place for face-to-face, analog conversation. If you want to confirm this in business, just visit your local farmer's market. I have. You can see a customer pick up a green pepper; you can see them ask the farmer some questions. "When did you harvest it? Did you use chemical fertilizers? How much does it cost?" The farmer looks the customer in the eye, and answers. If the customer is happy with the product and service, they'll come back and tell their friends. It's a very human interaction, or what I like to call MARKETING. No funnels, no conversion metrics, just H2H marketing.
In fact, both the customers and the farmers/sellers learn something valuable during their interaction. It's not just commerce or community, it's also how empathy and accountability happen. If a farmer exaggerates or lies, she'll pay a price. The customer will rely upon the farmer's word and, if he is "burned" in the process, will not return. Yes, accountability happens. On the other hand, the integrity and personality of the farmer matters a LOT. We as consumers want to support people and businesses we like. We want commerce, but we want real community and human connection too.
When a business scales up too fast, it loses the human touch. Speaking to one person is different from speaking to a million, and much is lost in scaling. So much of today's marketing is SAFE, appealing to the lowest-common denominator. Too often, marketers feel that "playing it safe" scales better than having a real, human conversation. To appeal to all, marketers remove all the edges and eliminate the personality. As a certain occupant of the White House has shown us all (and God help us), people are hungry for some edge and strong personality. We've grown sick of communicators who play it safe and group-test every syllable before it gets uttered in public. We seem to like the jerk who seems real than the person playing it safe, saying what they think we want to hear.
I'm not telling you to be too REAL, like a certain narcissistic, bullying jerk we all know, but at least high-profile jerks in power aren't afraid to be themselves (and I repeat, may God protect us all). Whether you're speaking to one person or a million, what gets remembered is who you are and how authentically you present yourself. When you seek to "play it safe" or "act inoffensively," you might as well be invisible. So much of today's marketing is safe and formulaic that we turn it off automatically.
To businesses of all sizes, I say "please stop caring about scaling up your communications, and God forbid, stop trying to play to the lowest common denominator." When you do this, you surrender what makes you different and special, and give up before first shot of the battle. Be you. In fact, build your marketing and your business model around who you are, your authentic self. Playing it safe is the most risky marketing and business strategy in the world.
You can't be all things to all people. You need to say "no" to people, because in that way you define who you are and what you value. One of the keys to my success as a marketing writer has been my client strategy, which is simple: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I've dropped three clients over the last year, and that has helped my business a LOT. I need to live my values, especially around respect for others, communication, collaboration, and a laser-like focus on delivering quality. Clients who don't share those values won't work with me for long. Those who do share them are the clients I cherish and we help each other grow.
It's always safer to be yourself than to appease the lowest common-denominator. I'm not a content factory, nor do I want to be one. I'm a niche business, not for everyone. I say "no" to work on a regular basis, and not because I'm lazy or risk-averse. I'm living a life as a human being, just as the farmer is when he boxes up his onions and carries them to the farmers market. Just because I'm not producing for 10 million people doesn't make me a failure. Quite the opposite, actually.
I need to keep having human conversations. I need to practice empathy and creativity and being myself every single day. That's actually the only business model I have, and it's the value I'm able to deliver to my clients. Maybe in 20 years, a robot or a software program fueled by artificial intelligence will be able to do what I do now. I wouldn't be the only human whose work is replaced by automation. But I see my job as being fully human. As a marketer, I think of myself as someone who's just trying to chat across the back fence with a neighbor. My goals are simple ones: connect, help, and engage in human conversations. When robots are able to do that, then maybe we're all doomed.