In this second installment we explore the two most foundational things. Knowing yourself & knowing your target audience. After testing all the industry advice we can say without fail that almost all of it is worthless. Useful in a very limited sense, and what is often missing is the most important thing. Their value proposition is you need to hire these consultants to help you figure it out. We’re giving that away for free.
The term target is probably jarring, and if there was a better way to describe it, or a word that was a better fit, we’ve yet to identify it. For we don’t want it to seem new-agey or touchy-feely. While recognizing too, that users are people, that these are fully formed & complex people, those whom you would like to reach as our target audience.
The Oft Overlooked and Misbegotten Ways
It is easy to put the cart before the horse these days. The barrier to “putting it out there” is so low, that just like in days past when you relied on your geeky cousin to help you buy or install your latest computer, it seems wise to listen to what is good advise from a well-meaning and free source of information & help.
Yet this is 2016. A long way into the cycles & iterations for this to be a business strategy. There is no success that was ever guaranteed or won on the advice of you spouse, partner, or best friend. Let alone from the thousands of people that are following you in various places. Even worse is the invocation of ‘branding’ these days, by misguided millennials, or just your average buzzword vultures.
Brand is what they say about you, and branding is getting them to say what you would like them to. That simple, no tricks, no buzzwords. Don’t forget it. Think of your first kiss & how you’d describe that one instance. (Or insert any memorable moment in your lifetime if that was traumatic) Do you just talk about the experience alone, or is the setting important, the person involved, and the moments before and after. That is what your clients or customers need to say about what you’re offering.
The human animal is addicted to narrative. Hence our over-reliance on memes, tropes, assumptions, and the very success of the internet. A connection with things close or far away through pictures and words, but most of all an interaction. You can scream & laugh at your TV when the commercial comes on, but do you go out & buy that new car? Because you can’t purchase it that moment with a click.
Picture is worth a thousand words?
It is but also needs to be part of bigger story or brand narrative. No one gets ahead without some thought given to their visual identity. Usually they leave that to an ever rotating cycle of avis/selfies, or likewise low-hanging fruit. Never realizing it needs to be incorporated at all levels into a cohesive story. This is a looping cycle too, has to be continually renewed.
Including those who are following you into that journey is key. Finding out what they think of your branding is nice, but should just be many of the things that you must inculcate into a broader vision. Don’t go with the one that got the most likes, or did well in a poll, but also think about the different sizes & shapes it will show up across a wide variety of platforms. They might like it on Facebook & it is utterly ineffectual on Twitter.
That is what sets the traditional marketing schemes apart from how you have to think about both your product and message. You can measure it and if you aren’t then you might as well not bother. To know what they want you have to gauge their response. Doing so outside the level of reach or interactions. Seeing beyond doing what ‘works’ as doing the same thing over and over. You can tell a joke, and those are continuously popular, but do you tell jokes over and over again as a strategy? Where does content fatigue play into that? You can ask questions, but if getting that feedback raises your prominence in the algorithm then it works, but do you really have the time to answer every single question, even the ones that wholly miss the mark, all day long?
Work smarter, not harder
So you have no time, no patience, and have to get noticed? Is it even possible to do this seemingly impossible thing. When you see someone doing or saying the same thing you have getting ‘noticed’ online it is infuriating. What makes them special and you overlooked? If the message/content is the same, all things being equal, it comes down not to the tons of followers they have, but the few connections who shared it and put it in front of the most active and social media influentially speaking out there.
That having done that they growth-hacked their way, stole, copied or leap-frogged over all the hard work you put into it. We’d personally love to see a return to where creatives focused on their tasks and were paid for it. In an environment that rewards free labor/distribution it can be a struggle just to get noticed, and even harder to get paid.
The app economy, whereby you give it away for free/small price and then reap the rewards only after they subscribe and by having access to them on a digitally macro-level is not a model any single person can recreate. Nor is it helpful to get a custom designed app or cookie-cutter one. We’ve seen statistical outliers, but not a maturation in this. It will never be mature, because it will need constant updating which is cost-prohibitive. Yet it has infected all the thinking about creative payment for years now.
Much of the “active” users in these new times are the reason apps are now bombarding your notifications on your cell phone so you will log in, even if that is to tell it to stop using the notifications! So even they are measuring (for their shareholders) a half-truth. Because in order to make them happy everyone is worried about how many followers you have.
What am I worth?
That is the fundamental question, and the one most people get the most hung up on. Pricing, cost-benefit analysis, and all those math things when you are a creative can easily become swamped by feelings of insecurity, lack of knowledge, and people’s reticence to discuss the issue openly & frankly. Therefore it seems like everyone else is doing it and getting rich.
To quote Olivia Pope (of ABC’s Scandal) “If you want me, earn me” this would seem as if we are talking to your clients, collectors, supporters. Yet honestly that is what these masses are actually saying to you, in this new “attention economy” and you better listen.
In the next part of this series we will talk about the complex and nuanced associations that have to go into knowing your worth. After you’ve done soul-searching about who and what you are, what your product or art is, and how to best position that in the marketplace. Sometimes starting with what you are offering, before any of the rest falls into place. Making any webpage or even your favorite website is a terribly complicated affair, but you have to emulate these principles if not the actual actions yourself, if you want something that lasts. Just because they’ve made it easy for you, doesn’t mean you are doing it right.