Why Give a Damn:

Many social entrepreneurs have an ambivalent attitude towards marketing. They may think that marketing is all about deceptive advertising, but marketing doesn’t have to be sleazy. In fact, developing the marketing mindset will help you and your customers.

The author of this post, Chris Yeh, has been building internet businesses since 1995 and currently serves as the VP of Marketing for PBworks, as well as a General Partner at Wasabi Ventures.

I’ve worked in marketing my entire career. During that time, I’ve heard it all. Back in my first job, my IT person, Deb, would comment, “Here come the weasels!” when the members of my department showed up. Later, she complimented me by telling me, “For a marketing guy, you’re not that weaselly.” High praise indeed!

‘For a marketing guy, you’re not that weaselly.’ That was high praise, indeed!  Tweet This Quote

But the negative attitude many have towards marketing reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what marketing is all about. We’re now smart enough to know that design isn’t just adding a coat of paint to make things look nice, and that engineer isn’t just turning the crank until the product meets the spec. So why should we still think of marketing as pure spin?

When entrepreneurs ask me for marketing help, they usually want me to get them coverage in TechCrunch, or to help them figure out a search engine marketing (SEM) campaign. These are important tactics, but focusing on tactics as the first, last, and only aspect of marketing is terribly inefficient.

Instead, I tell them to slow down, and then explain the Marketing Mindset.

These fundamental principles offer an overarching philosophy that can guide all your marketing activities. The Marketing Mindset stands on three pillars.

  1. Define your audience. I can’t tell you how many times I see pitches where entrepreneurs proudly note that “everyone” is in their target market. No, no, no. You need to figure out what audience you’re trying to reach. What are they like? What publications and information sources influence them?
  2. What kind stories does your audience want to hear? People think in stories, not facts. GEICO doesn’t say, “Save 15% or more on car insurance.” It says, “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on your car insurance.” That subtle difference turns a fact into a narrative. Notice how the language puts the audience into the story.
  3. If you think “everyone” is your target market, you are wrong.  Tweet This Quote

  4. Tell honest stories about your product that your audience wants to hear. I like using Harley Davidson as an example. Most Harleys are sold to middle-aged dentists. But Harley’s marketing focuses on how riding a Harley makes you an outlaw biker rebel. This story works because 1) it appeals to the middle aged dentist and 2) Harley’s history with outlaw biker gangs like the Hell’s Angels makes the story credible. Harley doesn’t run ads that say, “Get 100 MPG. Ride a Harley”

Adopt the 3 pillars of the Marketing Mindset, and you’ll be able to market to your customers in an authentic way that benefits both you and them.

This article is being re-featured today as a special “Throwback Thursday” post. We loved it so much, we wanted to make sure all of our new readers had a chance to read this article, (and share in the conversation).

An Unreasonable Challenge:

Define each of your key audiences and what stories appeal to them. Write this information down, complete with telling details. Then conduct a marketing audit on all your current marketing activities (this includes things like your website). Does each program tell an authentic story that will appeal to a key audience? If not, you now know what to do!

Chris Yeh

Author Chris Yeh

Chris is the VP Marketing for PBworks, partner at Wasabi Ventures, and an avid startup investor and advisor. He is also a co-author of The Alliance and serial tech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.

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