Marketing vs. Pandering

Marketing & Writing

The digital space today is extremely noisy. Everyone has an opinion. 

One thing is for sure, if you have a product or service, you MUST be talking about it. Otherwise your business will be lost in a sea of obscurity. But HOW you talk about it matters a great deal, and it’s easy to get deceived into thinking it has to be a certain way. 

Rather than tell you how to avoid this trap, I’ll tell you how I fell into it, and what I am doing about it. 

I’m a marketing guy. So, I’m s’posed to talk about marketing, right? I’m the “guru” for my clients, and so, I am supposed to be the “guru” for everyone else too. At least, that’s the lie. 

I started a marketing-focused podcast earlier this year. I am proud of it…but I am also sick of it. Why?

Because I spend a lot of time telling people what they should do, rather than talking about what is actually being done.

Now, I don’t mean I am telling people to do things I am not doing myself. That’s not it at all. Rather, most people tend to think that good marketing is telling others what they want to hear. I disagree. 

I disagree because in the long-term, that is unsustainable. I unashamedly look toward Jason Fried of 37signals as my muse. For a long time, he and his fellow bloggers have “broken the rules” on their Signal vs. Noise blog (which has been retired since the launch of their Hey World blogging service). 

How did they break the rules? Instead of writing about what they thought people cared about it, they wrote about the things people actually care about (but might never tell you). 

Like, behind the scenes looks at public decisions. The daily ins and outs of running a company. Their opinions around issues—some very controversial. In other words, they shared and taught what they believed and learned vs. what they thought people wanted to hear from them. 

On the back of that observation, they have built not only an extremely successful business, but extremely successful writing and speaking careers. 

Will it work today?

That’s a fair question. The Basecamp guys began blogging in 1999, and really ramped up beginning in 2005, so they definitely had an early internet advantage. It is much harder today to be discovered online than it was back then. 

Nevertheless, the answer is yes. And why? Because there are THOUSANDS of options if what you want is the latest strategy. What’s impossible to get from anyone else is another person’s raw experience and perspective. 

Not only that, but pandering is only sustainable for so long. Pleasing the crowd is not a long-term strategy. I am seriously considering a break from my marketing podcast because it already feels like pandering to me, and that means (1) I am not as passionate about it and (2) people can sense that. 

There are boxes that this content will not check. It will be harder to rank in SEO, for example. But there are boxes that it will check it, such as the fact that I am genuinely sharing MY perspective on an issue that nobody can take away from me. 

In 10 years from now, this content will still be relevant. (If it’s 10 years from now and you’re reading this, that’s super legit, btw.) And if it’s not relevant, that’s because it will be made irrelevant by a documented change of mind rather than some random industry slap or snap like an algorithm change. 

There is tremendous power to creating content like that over the long-haul.

Here’s to real marketing instead of pandering to what others think. If you have a product or service you believe in, talk about it. Straightforwardly. Tell the truth and share your passion. 

Don’t sacrifice your ability to be genuine. That’s an unsustainable loser’s game. As Nathan Barry says, endure long enough to get noticed, and be patient for the results.

You’ll only do that if the work is sustainable and exciting.

About Me

 
Hey, I’m Steve Schramm. I write about marketing, design, business strategy, and productivity. This blog is my personal “cookbook” to help you design a healthier business through self-directed learning.

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