Modern marketing is less than 60 years old, but in that fairly brief time, it has become a pervasive factor in our lives. Researchers estimate we see around 3,000 advertising messages a day—all of them the result of someone’s effort to market to us. In the process, marketing has become increasingly sophisticated and targeted in its ability to identify who it wants to reach, and increasingly sophisticated in its ability to do so.
But for all those advances, the notion of marketing remains largely foreign to our daily lives. The area of “personal branding” is a notable exception, but there are many other ways in which we might apply the principles of marketing outside of business, yet we rarely think that way. We might talk about “selling” a project to our boss or “selling” an idea to our spouse, but we would rarely talk about “marketing” to them. Yet sales, if it is to be predictably successful, must be preceded by marketing.
We don’t think this way because “marketing” tends to be about communicating to broad groups of people, yet in our personal lives we are “marketing” to individuals or very small groups of people whom we know (or think we know) very well. But the Internet is radically changing that conventional meaning of marketing, and with it, the principles of marketing can take on even more relevance to the business of daily life.
So what does it look like to “market” a project to your boss? Or market a proposal to a client? Or “market” doing the dishes to your kids? This exercise is more about mindset than technique: You don’t need to conduct a focus group to find out what to fix for dinner. But you’d be surprised at what you might discover if you let go of what you already “know” about any of the “customers” in your life—spouse, children, poker club, business associates, whatever—and apply some of the principles of marketing to get what you want out of those relationships.
The rage in marketing today is developing composite customer identities, called personas, that are equipped with mythical names, birthdays, pets, spouses, kids, cars, houses, etc., in order to help make them as “real” to you as possible. Personas are the new version of the old standbys, “segmentation” and “targeting.” By developing these fully fleshed identities, you can come to “know” these proto-customers so you can accurately engage that “person” on an emotional level with your marketing.
Try using this approach in your “personal marketing” by applying personas in reverse. Since you generally already know the person you are dealing with, look beyond their “persona” and see them in the abstract. Or, pretend it is only the persona you know and ask yourself how you would deliver a message that would make sense to that “persona.” You may often find that your assumptions get in the way of delivering the right message.
Listen to Your “Customers”
Listening in some sense is the foundation of marketing. It was the notion of listening to customers that created the watershed in marketing a few decades ago and it is still done with mixed results, even by the best marketers. So how well do you listen? When your boss loads on one more assignment, do you hear the customer speaking, giving you the ammunition to suggest another approach? Or do you just hear the frustration in your own head?
Build the Buzz…
Another current megatrend in marketing is word-of-mouth. Many consumers, particularly younger ones, are so saturated with advertising messages that they no longer take them in. But they are more likely to respond to someone “independent” who gives a personal testimonial for a product. A related process is endorsements and testimonials. If you want the nonprofit you volunteer for to heed your fundraising advice, give the director some written comments from clients, work colleagues or a previous nonprofit—any of whom can testify to your knowledge and experience in raising money.
…Then Build Trust
One of the ways the Internet has forever changed marketing is by introducing the notion of “permission” marketing, which is really about building an ongoing, two-way communication that is based on, and built upon, trust. While we are still trying to weather the waves of spammers (who somehow skipped this lesson), permission marketing has a unique application in our personal lives. If good marketing depends upon listening, then great marketing depends upon listening over and over again. Demonstrate that you can be trusted with the “permission to market” to those with whom you have a personal relationship by consistently paying attention to what they say and then communicating honestly in exchange.