Every year I watch the Super Bowl, I keep my eyes out for the latest Doritos ad. The executives at Frito-Lay make sure their commercials compete with the best. This year’s ad, “Now It’s Hot,” involved Chance the Rapper and the Backstreet Boys, and it received good reviews.
It’s not because I love Doritos (I have a stomach to take care of). I tend to follow Frito-Lay, and maybe I do this because my dad once worked for what was then The Frito Company. Today, Frito-Lay is one of the dominant players, if not the leading maker, in the world of snacks. But back in the ’50s and ’60s, The Frito Company was an upstart with one product—corn chips. And during those years, my most formative years, my dad took me to work on the routes with him each summer.
My dad was a great salesman. I still remember him walking in the house with a plaque that had a Fritos logo and the words underneath, “Salesman of the Year.” He was that good. He knew how to market; build displays that attracted customers; and position items on the shelf for maximum exposure. Most of all, he knew how to sell himself.
None of us gets a pass from this. Not if we want to make a difference. We may not be selling chips—it may be ideas. It may be something we have posted on Facebook, hoping to get a thumbs up. Every time a preacher steps up to preach, one is asking—will this connect? Will my introduction get one’s interest? How do I captivate the minds of people, whose attention span is less than a goldfish?
I spent much of this past week sorting out the cover design for my latest book, Missing Voices. It has to be the right cover if people will take notice. I had choices. Which one will catch the eye of a global leader? Can this book shove others over and find space on a shelf already awash with leadership books? You might be facing a presentation of your own, in which you are asking—how can I promote this concept? How do I convince a skeptical heart that this design will hold up during an earthquake? How can I persuade people that this class will change their lives? How can I get the coach’s attention? To a certain extent, you have to sell yourself.
Seth Godin talks a lot about this in his latest book, This is Marketing. He’s a good, creative writer, whose practical insights apply to just about all of us. Here are five—
1-Marketing is about making change happen—about changing the world. The best ideas require significant change. They confront the status quo. The first question I must ask is—what change do I seek to make? It has to be something real—not so grandiose, so impossible that is not credible. But big enough that it matters. Am I simply telling people what they already know? Providing something they already have? Am I persuading others that I can bring change?
2-Market to those who want change. Not everyone wants to be transformed. Some are still in in love with typewriters, Reader’s Digest, and VCRs. They still have stock in Kodak and Sears, shouting “Come weal, come woe, our status is quo.” Don’t try to reach them. If someone is satisfied with what they have, marketing to them is a waste of time. Go after those who want to change, people who are ruined by the same things that ruin you.
3-What I am communicating has to resonate. It has to make a promise—which is related to the change I want to make. It has to help someone solve a problem. It has to provide opportunities, helping others become who they seek to become—better versions of themselves. It’s why I love Jesus. Is there any better promise than the one made by the gospel?
4-I need to focus—who’s it for and what’s it for? I have no chance of changing everyone—but I need to change someone. Mass marketing changes very few. As Godin puts it, “…mass will make you boring.” Mass means average. It’s like the phone call I just received by some nameless, automated voice from New York, beginning with, “Hi, are you looking for insurance?” Short answer…NO!!! If you seek to serve the largest possible audience, they will turn you down. If you hope to please everyone with your message, chances are you will please no one. Too often, I think I have a propensity to aim for the ocean (this book is for everyone) when I need to target the pool (this book is for global leaders who are devoted to discerning the mind of God). Walk away from the ocean and look for the swimming pool. Choose the smallest viable market—those I want to serve. Scripture reveals that from remnants God creates multitudes.
4-Offer what people are desperate for. Avoid selling sand to those who live in a desert. If you offer a life buoy for a drowning person, you won’t have to run continuous ads. If you offer a bargain, people will respond; they will always pay for something that’s worth more than what they paid. Otherwise, they won’t buy it.
5-If what you are marketing satisfies no real demand nor meets a real need, blow it up. Start over. Develop something that will bring real change. Bring an idea that will make a contribution. Preach a sermon that can turn a life upside down. If you don’t know why you are preaching this message or writing this book or selling this product, start over.
In the end, marketing matters. As Godin notes, “If you bring your best self to the world, your best work, and the real world doesn’t receive it, it’s entirely possible that your marketing sucked.” So work at it. We bring value to the world when we market. How will people know otherwise?
Maybe marketing does not matter to you. But Godin warns, “If you don’t market the change you’d like to contribute, then you are stealing.” There’s a student who needs your course, a traveler who needs your guidance, a client who needs your counsel, but if you are unwilling to invest in being seen or heard, it will likely not happen. Loss will have happened–their loss, and yours.