The Long Arm of Marketing

Marketing is a contest for people’s attention.

—Seth Godin

Whenever I hear the word marketing, I roll my eyes. Self-promotion of myself or by others makes me very uncomfortable. Even something as simple as a writer encouraging me to clap for his piece on Medium, triggers my instinct to click away. Of course, I don’t always run; sometimes the writing is thoughtful, thought-provoking and deserves to be experienced, but there lies the problem with my discomfort. If we do a poor job of marketing, fewer people will be able to experience our content. I do understand, more is not always better, but we may have a harder time reaching our core group or our tribe based on our marketing strategy or lack thereof.

My discomfort likely stems from two old, lingering beliefs. One of them being that quality should stand on its own, and the cream will always rise to the top. However, in my conscious mind, I know that is simply wrong; major factors for success or virality include luck, showing up, and, of course, marketing. Yes, quality might be the most important thing, but believing in this myth is just petty ego holding me back. The second unconscious belief is that I don’t deserve it. Until, the last year or so, my self-confidence was very low, so my confidence is still a work in progress. One remedy is just continue to be nice to myself and tell myself I deserve it. The other is to work harder until I have built or created something that actually makes me proud.

Merriam-Webster define marketing as, “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.” I chose one of the broader definitions because I want to emphasize that everyone is a marketer. We are all selling something, even if it is completely authentic. Although I am selling something very cheap right now (this piece will likely be about a 4–5 minute read), I am still distributing a product meant for someone out there. With the rise of the Internet, there are more possible connections than ever, but there are also more people in the subway and many are shouting. This doesn’t mean I need to shout myself, but I still need something that makes me stand out.

Making subtle changes on Medium will allow me to be read more which will be mutually beneficial to the reader and writer (at least I like think so). To start, I need to upload a photo with my most clickable face. Deadlifting 570 pounds is cool, but it isn’t as cool when the image most people will see is less than the size of a dime. The truth is I don’t even have a headshot that I would like to use, so I need to take one. I will likely look overly silly or serious (and not that cool), but that is who I am, amusing and somber at the same time. You have likely guessed that photos make me about as uncomfortable as self-promotion, but, once again, I need to get over it.

The next easy fix I can make is by putting more thought and flair into my titles. I can make them more clickable without making them clickbait. Coming from an economics background, I have a taste for the dull and dismal. I naturally gravitate towards titles that are either academic and/or are short and general. My college thesis’ title was “Discernment Cost and Probability Decisions under Uncertainty” which makes me groan a little just typing it. My understanding is that titles should generally be 5–7 words and contain as many unusual or provocative words as possible to get the clicks; of course, this is not a definitive rule, being authentic will always trump flash.

The final easy thing I can do is make comments on Medium. I read Medium a lot but often in short, distracted spurts. Leaving a thoughtful comment is something that I don’t always do even when I really enjoy a story. This is not something I need to force, but if someone’s article makes me think about something new or I just feel like I have something to say, I need to say it or make a note to myself to say it later. The purpose is real dialogue between people, but if the comment is thoughtful and true it can act like the best form of marketing.

Marketing permeates all of our human interactions outside of the Internet as well. The clothes we wear and our hairstyles are selling something about us to someone. Especially for those of us who are not “natural marketers,” we need to realize we cannot escape the long arm of marketing. Instead, we need to be conscious of what we are selling, who we are selling it to, and the best way to sell the truth.

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