The Marketer’s Biggest Mistake

Chris Brogan

What we tend to do wrong when we market is we think we’re selling to ourselves. We think our buyer thinks like us. We believe that our buyer is us. Now, sometimes, that’s true to an extent. When Josh makes superhero tee shirts, he’s making shirts that he (and I) think are cool and that we like. But even then, does that mean we’ll know what a buyer who isn’t us will like? Does it mean we’ll understand why he or she won’t buy a certain shirt, or what assurances he or she needs? No.

You Can Always Ask

One way to know your buyer is to ask. At Kitchen Table Companies, Joe Sorge and I have started asking people who they are and what they want from us as often as possible. We’re relentless, because in so doing, we will have the chance to better serve those buyers. But remember that sometimes your buyers and your customers don’t really understand why they buy what they buy. Sometimes, what they say out of their mouth is the justification versus the underlying emotion. So even that can’t always work.

You Can Measure

Have you ever used Crazy Egg? It does a great job of showing you what people linger on with regards to your website. I know this doesn’t help you understand how people act in the real world with your things, but it at least tells you how they spend time on your site.

Are you really spending enough time poring over your Google Analytics? You’re not using them? Well, how will you know what people are clicking or not clicking? How do you know what catches their attention?

Measuring is another way to better understand how you are not your buyer.

You Can Experiment

We don’t do a lot of A/B split testing in the blogging and new media world, do we? And yet, that’s how marketers have tried and improved their efforts for the longest times. You don’t have to do a LOT of it to understand what works and doesn’t, but you can always explore. Switching between whether or not you should do a partial RSS feed (I prefer full feeds) is one way to test. Switching your ads from the bottom to the top of your site. Using an email capture lightbox when people first land on your site. There are all kinds of things you can experiment with and see what that’s going to do for you.

You’re Not The Buyer

We’re not always who we sell to, and even then, there are some differences when we’re the ones creating the thing we’re selling. We might be “of” that culture, but we’re still just one component of it, and as someone vending a product or service into the culture, we’re still a bit “apart” from those who are participating differently. Does that make sense?

How do you combat that?

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  • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylereed

    In some ways I struggle with this. I speak to a lot of 20 somethings about being a 20 something. So I often apply a lot of what I have struggled with or am going through to my writing and speaking. But I have to remind myself that everyone is not like me, in fact very few are. 

    I think it is a control thing. We like to control our market, control our customers and believe that if we put our product out there we know best in regards of how to use it, or what it is for. 

    I try and let go of some of my controlling issues to allow it to have freedom to breathe. 

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Right. That makes sense. And then again, the 20somethings are your audience, but are they also your buyer? Do you sell to them, or do you sell to companies that work with them? 

      As for controlling, well, that’s always a tricky business, isn’t it? 

      • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylereed

        I am working on selling to them. 
        Right now I would say yes, not in the traditional sense of selling (i make a very small amount) but that I am working on the “tribe” of 20 somethings through writing on my blog, speaking in person, and connecting with influencers. 
        But what I often wonder is the unpredictability of 20 somethings, more specifically college students. Trying to study their movements and predictability is tough. Because at one point you think you know where they will be at and then they do not show up. So I have struggled in the idea of selling to an older generation (in terms of talking about mentoring 20 somethings and the issues that are being faced) or do I go after 20 somethings and work on business ideas, spiritual ideas, and life ideas. 

        And yes, for someone who likes to be in control, it becomes very tricky

  • http://www.carlstips.com Carl

    I also think that Alexa does a great job of showing user stats.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      I tend to forget about them. Hmmm. Should pay more attention. 

    • http://rickmanelius.com Rick Manelius

      Hey Carl, do you know if Alexa allows one to have reports emailed out weekly (or whatever frequency) like google analytics?

      I maintain 5-6 websites, and I like when reports can be pushed to me versus having to login and pull the content in. I google’d around but wasn’t able to see such a feature.

    • http://rickmanelius.com Rick Manelius

      Hey Carl, do you know if Alexa allows one to have reports emailed out weekly (or whatever frequency) like google analytics?

      I maintain 5-6 websites, and I like when reports can be pushed to me versus having to login and pull the content in. I google’d around but wasn’t able to see such a feature.

  • http://www.carlstips.com Carl

    I also think that Alexa does a great job of showing user stats.

  • http://www.facebook.com/terricamp Terri Sween Camp

    Does this mean I need to stop saying, “I am my market?” Oh – you have given me some great things to think about. Thank you!

  • http://rickmanelius.com Rick Manelius

    This is not easy because even when you ask specifically what people want, you may not get an accurate answer. Not because people are trying to be dishonest, but they are not always aware of what makes them make decisions.

    Example: long versus short copy. People will always say that they prefer you getting right to the point. But some stats show that for new products, longer copy just pulls better because you can cover every facet and every counter argument in one piece.

    Personal example: Chris, you always ask us questions, but sometimes I don’t know enough to formulate an accurate answer. Sometimes you already have to know a lot before you can ask an intelligent question on a topic.

    For this latter example, perhaps the best strategy is just a continual asking of questions. In doing so, at least the reader is forced to really think about and reveal their blind spots.

    I guess my answer can be summarized by: ask a lot of questions, but don’t take all the answers as gospel because the person may not really know themselves or their situation as much as they think they do!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      True that, sir. You dont’ always get what you need for an answer. I agree.

      I totally agree that asking questions can be tricky, but I also think it’s a practice thing, don’t you agree? 

      • http://rickmanelius.com Rick Manelius

        Absolutely! It’s not that one shouldn’t ask questions. It’s trying and trying again to find the right questions, and then being able to interpret the data accurately.

        When I was still in academia and reviewing papers, this was always the most important part. Data is just data… but what does it mean? That’s where good questioning via the socratic method is invaluable.

        So keep asking us questions, Chris. I love how you’re forcing us (in a good way) to challenge our beliefs, assumptions, etc.

        So I guess my question to you is… have you figured out your best way of interpreting the data you get?

    • http://mogostyle.com Raiman Au

      Long copy versus short copy… there’s another trap for marketers. We’re so familiar with our product that it’s not “new” to us anymore, and we think we need short copy.

      • http://rickmanelius.com Rick Manelius

        I’m actually experiencing this exact same thing. We have a solution to a big problem for many people in an industry. Therefore my partners and I assume people will sign up the second they hear what we have to sell. 

        The reality is quite different. Even people that we think should know exactly what we’re doing need tons of explanation and multiple exposures. We assume too much, and thus don’t explain things clearly enough.

        We keep thinking it’s obvious to everyone. We’re wrong. It’s a lesson we’re still learning! 

        • http://mogostyle.com Raiman Au

          We marketers have great imaginations, don’t we? We even imagine up realities that aren’t real =D

  • Wilfredo

    The biggest mistake is putting your product out there and not utilizing all the tools available for monitoring and improvement.

    I think that planning should also be up there since it is hard to remember these awesome tips when you are juggling different tasks. What do you all think?

    Thanks for the friendly reminder Chris.

  • Guest

    Great idea. Too bad there is not a free trial.

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Another way to refine this is to set conversion goals in Google Analytics. 

    Visitors are not customers but… you can see how far they go down the sales funnel if you map goals across the buyer experience. 

  • Lizz

    Makes so much sense. You can ask, but the key is to really listen to the answers.

    Thank you for the reminder, and for recommending Crazy Egg.

  • Daniel

    Good one Chris. The best marketers i have ever met have been highly empathetic…

  • commoncents

    If I knew marketing I’d be a whole lot richer than I am. I do happen to be my customer — right or wrong. It’s all I know. I buy what I like and I buy what my taste is and hope the   - likesame-  customers find me.  How’s that for ‘doesn’t play well with others’? 

    I think marketing will be bigger to the cottage industries for the next several years. There are hundreds of small business people off the books making a living right now. They will grow.
     
    We could be vacationing in the Seychelles if I had bought little signs with I heart my home, and wreaths with dried flower frames. Who knew the shabby/country look would last for 20 years?  China did well with it too.  

     This is off topic, but I’m sitting here waiting for family to come and can’t keep my thoughts to myself.  Have a fun and family day Chris.

  • commoncents

    If I knew marketing I’d be a whole lot richer than I am. I do happen to be my customer — right or wrong. It’s all I know. I buy what I like and I buy what my taste is and hope the   - likesame-  customers find me.  How’s that for ‘doesn’t play well with others’? 

    I think marketing will be bigger to the cottage industries for the next several years. There are hundreds of small business people off the books making a living right now. They will grow.
     
    We could be vacationing in the Seychelles if I had bought little signs with I heart my home, and wreaths with dried flower frames. Who knew the shabby/country look would last for 20 years?  China did well with it too.  

     This is off topic, but I’m sitting here waiting for family to come and can’t keep my thoughts to myself.  Have a fun and family day Chris.

  • http://www.k9stud.com Puppies

    Thanks for the information. You have a very good sense of business.

  • http://heartpress.com/ SL Clark

    Asking how to go into combat on Memorial Day is a curious question. Isn’t the product the most important component and letting word of mouth drive the sales? The publishing industry is coming back to this, having been in the produce business for decades. Limited shelf space caused this; but that is no longer a Legacy Publishing issue, IF they fully embrace digital.

    Making a great product without understanding your market is nearly impossible. For my business, when women tell me it is a good read, I can confidently ignore my doubts. When they say it is passable, then why would I push ahead without refinement?

    IMO, make an AMAZING product, let the market decide, you can’t combat this. Case in point, the simple book “Go The F**k To Sleep” by Adam Mansbach. Brilliantly done, amazing 2 paragraph “release”, then the full book in PDF leaked by bookstores, WHAM, bestseller before publication date. Awesome gift for any parent.

  • http://www.automatedsocialnetworking.com Treb072410

    great post! it was a good read and a great source of information. thaks for sharing your post.

  • http://twitter.com/RichardKrawczyk Richard M. Krawczyk

    It doesn’t matter what “we” think as a marketer. Simply find out what people want and see that they get it.

  • http://raulcolon.net Raul Colon

    Ok it makes three of us that like Josh’s t-shirts (four counting Lucy). 
    On the other side I think like @rickmanelius:disqus said it is very difficult to harvest they right answer especially when you ask direct questions. 

    I saw your keynote at New England XPO yesterday and that makes me think the method the telephone operator used to get your email and phone number was an indirect way for her to build her database and to serve you as a customer. 

    Maybe asking the questions in an indirect way is the best way to get an answer. Working as an IT Auditor as a Rookie I would not get the info I needed most of the time because people would resist. On the other side with time I would ask indirect questions that would get me the answers I needed to identify what needed improvement or needed to be flagged. 

    Maybe finding a way to harvest information from your customers in an indirect and non-intrusive way is the best art. 

    Again this makes sense to me when I write it but putting in practice is another story! I hope this makes sense. 

  • http://www.pokeronlineromania.net Poker Online

    Nice article. After reading it my thought about business had changed !

  • http://www.remionline.org Remi Online

    I have learned a lot about business mistakes after reading this article ! I own you !

  • http://mogostyle.com Raiman Au

    Based on this, it’s absolutely fantastic to market an item where you also are the customer =D

  • paul martin

    As luck would have it Google Reader juxtaposed your post with one from my other fave, GigaOm.  The latter was highlighting Instagram’s (flickr lookalike) new app addons which make photo editing easier.  I was wondering if Instagram, being a computer program is a different beast to market at than say me personally – a Picassa fan.  Specifically how different should I think if my new app fits someone else’s universe as opposed to if I am creating something brand new.  Should I be deterred if I cannot get into the mindset of a T-shirt designer/creative, ought I focus my attention on those that have a similar background …..   Clearly, having gone Google, I am genetically pre-disposed to not dealing with i-apps but where does such innate bias end.  I would love to do a Pixar something or other and that has had the Steve Jobs magic (computery) dust.   

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    I seen the Post of Marketer ‘s Big Mistake, and i am Really Impressed by this Marketer ‘s Big Mistake Post. Such a Wonderful and Informative Post for us.

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

     Measuring our work will always help us to do things in a right way. It tells us where we have to improve so that we are”balancing our act”.Thanks for this great share.

  • http://twitter.com/zemogalejo Alejandro Gomez

    Chris. Thanks for the post. Insightful and valuable as always. I am reading a book called “Deep Dive, The Proven Method For Building Strategy, Focusing Your Resources, And Taking Smart Action” by Rich Horwath, and came across this sentence right after I read your blog post: “The investment in ethnography is built on the premise that while customers aren’t able to articulate their latent needs, their behaviors often provide they key insights that uncover them.” Very timely and precise to what you just taught me. Great book, I recommend it. Cheers!

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    Excellent post on the Marketer ‘s Big Mistake. This Articles is very good to read, and This Articles prove to be of a high value and quality for readers.

  • http://investinsocial.com Jason Keath

    Too true. Great advice Chris. On Social Fresh we have avoided certain 101 topics in social media, focusing on intermediate to advanced social media training. But a recent survey from our community surfaced two very basic, 101 topics that nearly half of our community was looking for answers on. These were topics that are written about way too much already so we avoided them, but what we didn’t realize is that while these topics were saturated, most of the articles referencing them were not truly helping social media professionals. The advice was speculation, unclear or just plain wrong. 

    That being said. Asking your community or customer base what they think or what they want is an artform in itself. 

  • Anonymous

    I’ve not used A/B tests yet, although have thought of it. Too many decisions are based on assumptions which can be very dangerous. At least with software like Crazy egg you know for sure.  To be honest, I used to have Crazy Egg and I thought it was good, but I let the subscription lapse. I think I’ll re-look at it. Thanks for inspiration Chris.

  • http://declandunn.com Declan Dunn

    Great examples Chris, and by the act of marketing and building a business, your viewpoint gets skewed…one thing I’ve learned is to also talk to those who don’t like you, or return your product, and ask what you could have done….

    Those who are not satisfied will often share the key triggers, the key motivational drivers, that pushed them to your site and which you didn’t fulfill on. So if someone returns a product, call them and thank them, and ask what you could have done better.

    If someone doesn’t like what you are doing via social media, a comment or bad word about you, don’t dismiss it…listen to it, read it, and integrate it. Because in business, it’s a lower percentage of people who get what you are doing, and those who don’t collectively show you more than those who do (they think you are great of course!). Put aside your ego and even when a comment is negative, maybe too negative, ask what you could have done to turn that disappointment into something positive. 

    Remember, if you don’t get negative comments or returns of your product, you are not reaching enough people…it’s the truth in numbers and feedback!

  • http://eoalchemy.com Peggye

    Great blog.  Possibly one of the first mistakes marketers can make today is not asking and listening to what the consumer wants.  With PR and Marketing now being a two-way conversation (instead of the one-way it used to be) one of the first thing that needs to be done is ask and listen and not assume you are the consumer or knows what the consumer wants.  Thanks for this!

  • http://eoalchemy.com Peggye

    Great blog.  Possibly one of the first mistakes marketers can make today is not asking and listening to what the consumer wants.  With PR and Marketing now being a two-way conversation (instead of the one-way it used to be) one of the first thing that needs to be done is ask and listen and not assume you are the consumer or knows what the consumer wants.  Thanks for this!

  • http://twitter.com/RyanCritchett Ryan Critchett

    I like these little critical identifications you post about Chris. Super imperative. Thanks for the reinforcement. 

  • Anonymous

    As a career-marketer, these are some of the steps I’d go through to improve marketing results, and what every blogger should, as well, to improve results. Identifying your
    target audience is one thing, but you may find that your real audience is
    someone else, like I have at Feed Our Families – then you decide which relationships you cultivate, which audience you pursue. Sometimes it’s worth the effort to tweak your tactics or message to go after your target audience, other times you learn more about what you’re really offering and who sees the most value.

    For bloggers, there are a number of resources available to better understand
    who’s visiting & reading your site. Google Analytics is free & incredibly easy so there’s no excuse to not know those metrics. Once you can better define your audience, you
    can look to other places they hang out, brands they like, people they follow, etc. to
    engage with them in other places and develop relationships.

    But it starts with knowing who they are.

  • http://hobbyarticledirectory.net/ Nabeelshaukat

    I am 100% agree, that every companies make these mistake,before lunching a new product pre-lunching servey is the gurantee of sucess,in these survey you can prepare a questionare contain different type of question to ask from the targeted area customer.

  • http://www.salesroles.com Thejobboarder

    marketing always equals conversions

  • http://fusionmarketingpartners.com/ Myron

    Ask, test (or experiment), and measure.  It seems that when I spend some time studying analytics, I learn something new and valuable.  Good reminder about constantly trying different things to improve.  

  • http://www.invgate.com Amelia Stevenson

    Failure to listen to customers is one of the mistakes many marketers make.

    Yes, asking customers on what they want is a step in knowing what customers want. But after the asking, sellers should engage in listening to know how their customers want the offers delivered. Of course, there are other things that you have to listen to as long as marketers know that the customers are really paying.

     

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  • espressomedic

    I have been a successful entrepreneur for many years now and a few things I have learned are – Give people what they want, not what you want to give and as quoted by a successful salesman,  people want to buy, not be sold (Jeffrey Gittomer).  People tells us all of the time what they want, all we have to do is tune in and listen – not just with our ears, but our eyes, habits, gestures…. they say more without words then they do with most of the time… 

  • http://www.gdidiary.com/ Global Domains International

    I had my ups and downs in internet marketing and I gotta say, I love the saying “we think we’re selling to ourselves” – that is so true. That was my first mistake. First you need to find out what people want and than go out there and find it – interact with people, ask, listen, experiment,…
    Great post and advice, thank you for this

  • http://www.skinnydipcandle.com Karen

    Fortunately, I learned early on that “selling to myself” wouldn’t increase the bottom line. As a company making specialty candles, we make scents that we personally can’t stand. That said, some of those scents that bring out the dread when we see them in the production queue, are some of our best selling scents.

    If left to our own preferences, we’d be missing huge opportunities to meet the desires of our market. It’s tough to pull yourself out of the mix sometimes, but it’s definitely in your best interests to keep the focus where it truly belongs — on what your customers want.

  • http://www.goingpublic.us/ going public

    This is really heat touching post! practice of these mistake is very common in companies,before lunching a new product, pre-lunching survey is very important,demographic survey should conduct in targeted area,then on the base of preliminary data and secondary data report should analyse then take a decision of lunching a new product.

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  • Pingback: We’re not always who we sell to, and even then, there are some differences when we’re the ones creating the thing we’re selling. We might be “of” that culture, but we’re still just one component of it, and as someon

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    The easiest way to making mistakes is not being relevant and not communicating to the right people at the right time!