Thursday, 3 November 2011

Redundant, implausible and unattractive

I have three ‘what ifs’ that shape how I think about my business:

  • What if I said ‘look, the basics of what I do are not so hard, you could do that if you wanted to?’
  • What if you with a small businesses had an advantage over big companies?
  • What if you needed to work a little to realise that advantage?

On cursory inspection the first might make me seem redundant, the second implausible and the third unattractive. Instead I am hoping that I will attract thoughtful customers who will see that I’m open, have interesting thoughts and am realistic.
I consider that I’m in a marketing marathon not an advertising sprint. I know I have to spend time building up a relationship over time; indeed hopefully this blog is part of that processes.
The other day I was talking about how spam isn’t just the email kind; it’s just as easy find spam on facebook or twitter. A relentless stream of promotional messages are as unwelcome as Nigerian scam inheritances. But as I was trying to explain that, I was interrupted with the question
‘What if you don’t have time to slowly build an audience that wants to hear what you have to say?’
After a century of newspaper, magazine, billboards and tv advertising we now believe the clever slogan and nice design is all we need to provide a fruitful stream of customers. It appears the Internet doesn’t work like that.
My questioner implies shouting at lot of people is a valid alternative. I don’t think it is. I think your choice is something which is slow and might work or something quick (probably expensive) that will fail.
On the Internet distance is no object, it is also pretty cheap to speak, as a consequence you are competing with billions of people to be heard. You have to have something unique to offer to have people want to listen. I bet it is nigh on impossible to convey anything unique with a slogan and or a clever image.
It’s not that we have to learn new things is that we have to unlearn old things. In the old days with a lot of money you could buy people’s attention. This gave big companies an advantage. These days you will earn attention if you are of interest, I’m not so sure big companies have any advantage in that. In fact isn’t the cliche of the faceless corporation quite the disadvantage?
I recently read the autobiography of Stewart Lee, a stand up comedian who ‘doesn’t do jokes’, he has his own take on his art. Unfortunately there’s only a small proportion of the comedy going audience that can really get it. Stewart chronicles how after giving up on stand up he returns to it but focuses on building a following those audiences that will get it, not doing the mega gigs that the comedy is the new rock and roll stars enjoy.
You might argue that bland lowest common denominator Michael Macintyre doing the o2 is a far better position to be in rather than obscure abstract Stewart Lee doing small theatres. But if you were looking for an audience as a new stand up I’d say the middle of the road is pretty full and you’d be better off looking for a smaller audience that isn’t being fulfilled. I don’t think those discerning customers would realise you were right for them without a long slow marketing marathon. I wonder if Stewart Lee does posters on the underground escalators, I bet not.

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