Look in the opposite direction or whisper to the crowd

With advancing age comes the promise of wisdom, I doubt very much that my devotion to creating my own belly-laughs at the expense of my teenager’s “cool points” counts as particularly wise.

But certainly, years of working with great people has encouraged me to think differently, enabled me to try new things and in cross-pollinating those ideas across hundreds of organisations I have learned, made mistakes, learned, made more mistakes, and eventually prospered in many endeavours.

I am now in a blessed position of finding a recipe for marketing that gives our clients a tangible return on their investment, and endeavour now to help the organisations that we work with to prioritise their purpose as well as their profits.

As we head into February I breathe a sigh of relief, January is hard. The prepending eleven months share enough seasonal change and beauty to trick me into forgetting the challenges of the post-Christmas lull, and this year in particular I was reminded by so many others around me as they all struggled to get into gear this year – maybe my peers and I are just getting a little bit older.

It’s not very hard to get behind February’s special days, they follow the theme of equality and shining a positive light on female leaders and a negative one on abusive relationships. Hear, hear to that! Unfortunately as a man, it’s hard to ignore that society (and in my opinion much of the ego-inflated modern-day political problems) stem from our dominance in society. The irony that the phrase “Hear hear”, actually evolved from the phrase “hear him”, leaves me tripping over yet another faux pas.

To shine a light in the opposite direction, some of the brightest brains at Vu have been women and despite the digital industry being hugely underrepresented by women, marketing roles seem popular and many of our clients are women-owned or operated organisations.

women in tech

The digital challenge we would like to unravel a little in February follows on from last month’s “mental unblocking” and is all about setting out on the journey. Making the aforementioned women all the more valuable for being visible in their key roles handing young women the compass to set out on a more level playing field.

If January’s “removing blockers” is about discovery, then February’s “setting out” is all about bravery. And herein lies a test of my improved wisdom. 

Back in 2020 I did a guest feature on a webinar, sharing marketing advice for those on a budget. One of the things I loved was the different challenges businesses had faced through Covid, and the range of questions I would receive. I created a series of worksheets over the 6-week series, with as much advice and free tools as I could pluck from my experience. In doing this I realised how far the systems and processes had come within Vu too.

As I look over the worksheets I see the advice is still relevant, user-centric and priority is given to the free approach over all else, which is a kindness to the pocket-pinched startup who may have just naively spent disproportionately on their logo before considering the whole marketing picture.

The advice in these sheets doesn’t directly say it, but this is how to do marketing as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and you’ve likely heard or experimented with this before.

For the uninitiated, the minimum viable product is a powerful way to find out if your solution is going to find a market. One of our favourite clients, House Of Marbles, didn’t invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in year one, their founder created nostalgic games and took them to a craft fair to test them out. 50 years later they are still serendipitously true to their brand and have established a deep-rooted following across the globe.

In This is Marketing, Seth Godin talks about the smallest viable audience. Dan Priestly talks in similar terms in Oversubcribed. This is a similar approach, the advice is to create a small segment of people that you chose to delight, so much that they’ll return and perhaps spread the word.

One of the biggest piles of crap in mainstream marketing and advertising is this “viral explosion” of business. For most, it doesn’t happen in the way these marketing stories are told and if it did organisations wouldn’t be able to supply the demand.

We have made businesses oversubscribed through our version of marketing, but this comes from being more exclusive rather than less, saying something specific rather than something broad, and helping those businesses understand the problems they solve or the value they add to others.

There was a stark revelation in my mind to the workbooks I didn’t draw at the time (is this reaffirming some later wisdom I have developed?), taking an MVP approach isn’t just for the penny-pinched startup. 

It’s for every business treading water.

Every owner slogging the battle against time. 

Every marketer lost in the noise.

You don’t need to resonate with everyone, you need to resonate with someone. 

And, to do that, you need to be brave now, to speak to someone and hear “it’s not for me.” And when you do, greet it with a warm smile and not an ounce of disenchantment, just the reality that you need to find the customer for you, your tribe.

When we consider creating the smallest possible thing with the largest possible impact we can avoid the cookie-cutter approach of business 101 “I need a logo, I need a website, now I do some networking, next I do some advertising… hold on… the rule book says I should be making money now?”

Talking intimately to a small community makes more sense than whispering to a crowd. 

If you are now looking over your client list and wondering if you have found your tribe, here’s some useful questions to ponder. Do you always say yes to clients? Do you really know your customers? If you stripped back the aesthetics and took your product to a new customer, could they tell yours from a competitor?

We’re used to the increasing pace of change in just about everything around us: Overnight success is too slow for many of us now.

So, find your voice, be proud of it, and embrace going authentically in the other direction.

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