Not Marketing Driven, But Market Driven

I’m 2/3 of the way through Seth Godin’s new book, This is Marketing. It’s an excellent build on top of his prior works, and I’m particularly struck by this concept: we shouldn’t be marketing driven, but we should be market driven. Let’s unpack that statement, it’s really important for how we think and talk about our businesses.

The old way of being marketing-driven is to go out and make sales. Point at the brand. Push product. Know the used car lot tricks and broker the transaction. The new(er) way of being market driven is to go out and listen first. Identify ways to help. Forge relationships. Gain permission. Create special products that people want and can only get from limited sources (i.e. you) Know the psychological circumstances under which people will see our value.

In our not-so-distant industrial past, factories stamped out products that were sold at an attractive price and profit point where both parties agreed to trade. Repeat customers existed, and brands became the primary signal to help people choose between commodities. There was a continuum that stretched from “choosy moms choose Jif,” to “a diamond is forever,” but all products sought to be trusted as “household brands.” Being marketing driven is centered on building that level of brand awareness.

And then the internet changed everything. 

It’s never been easier to build a prototype, and it’s never been easier to find an audience. The mass-produced sale isn’t what it used to be, because the custom/craft/limited item is the new gold standard. People don’t want one of a million, they want one in a million. Instead of a big brand as a signal of trust, micro-brands can build much smaller relationships with just as much, if not more power. The internet made it far easier for us to listen and connect with our clients, and that’s what being market driven means.  You can now directly compete with everyone from Jif to De Beers. The playing field has been leveled.

Professionally, we may still be marketing under a big, old brand, but make no mistake about it – we are marketing ourselves, our teams, and our values in the client’s eyes. Our focus should not be to commoditize our products and services but to individualize them around our market’s wants, desires, and dreams. Plans and strategies must start and end with the individual. They must feel one of a kind. They must feel personal. If we get this right while the world is still transitioning, we can create a truly durable small business. That’s the essence of Godin’s new book. Do check it out.

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