For years, I've used the following questions to guide all of my marketing work.
- Who is it for?
- Why should they care?
Asking who it’s for leads you to a specific niche, subculture, or market segment. It helps you focus your efforts on those you can best serve, and avoid the trap of generic messaging.
Asking why they should care gets you thinking about how to be signal amidst the noise. Unless you stand out from the crowd, and connect emotionally with your people, you’re bound to end up commoditized or ignored.
The more you can answer those two questions with clarity and specificity, the more effective your marketing will be. The more your work will resonate. The more you’ll be able to create happy customers and fans.
I still believe all of that. But something interesting, and borderline profound, has happening as I try to answer these questions for myself and for Ungated.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the distinction between working from the outside-in vs. the inside-out.
Basically, you can search for answers to these two questions in either the external world, or you can search inside yourself.
If you work from the outside-in, you’ll end up doing some fairly traditional marketing work. You’ll do market research, identify an ideal customer avatar, work on positioning and branding strategy, and so on.
But if you start from the inside-out, as I’ve been doing with Ungated, you may just find those questions answer themselves, without having to force it.
As I work to understand myself, peeling back the layers of my own identity and worldview, the more I seem to attract people like myself. I don’t need to find a niche anymore. I'm finding the others, and the others are finding me.
And the people who are attracted by this approach already care. By default. I don’t have to do any strategic positioning or branding work to delight them. I just need to keep digging inwards, sharing myself fully, and making friends. Because when I do that, more of the right people show up in my world, and the deeper my relationship with my existing fans becomes. It's like magic.
As someone who’s always been super strategic with my marketing, and who’s always tried to find precise answers to those two questions, this is a strange thing to behold. I've arrived at the same destination, where I've got clarity on who I serve and why they care. But I took a completely different path to get there.
When I work from the inside-out, the two marketing questions no longer require my intellect or problem solving ability. Instead, they require that I trust myself, and trust the world will reward me for sticking to my own path, even though it’s uncertain.
Most of the time, it's felt like a scary leap of faith to take that more intuitive approach. But I’m increasingly convinced that making that leap is the key to marketing in a way that feels really, really good.