Bad marketing is like a bad date—don’t be that guy

Bad marketing is like a bad date—don’t be that guy

Like most people, I’ve had a lot of bad first dates in my life. In fact, my single life was full of cringeworthy first dates that could charitably be described as good story fodder. Luckily, as a marketing strategist, I love a good story, and it’s recently occurred to me that, while these dates were each bad in their own unique ways, they actually had a lot in common with bad marketing strategies.

Most of my bad first dates were with nice people who made one of two seemingly opposite-yet-related errors. And these are the same errors I see a lot of businesses make in their marketing strategies.

It’s all about me

Ah, the self-absorbed narcissist. We’ve all been there, right? That unbearable first date where the other person can’t (or won’t) stop talking about themselves, droning on endlessly about their interests and ambitions. Rarely do they pause long enough for you to get a word in edgewise. Inevitably, they come away from the date knowing nothing about you—and caring even less.

We marketers see this all the time: businesses that are only interested in talking about their own brands, products and services. It’s a stubborn “build it and they will come” mentality often found in product-related companies that are so convinced they’re setting a trend, they see no need to collect market data or understand what their audience is telling them.

If you talk but don’t listen, the traps are obvious. You may end up as a solution in search of a problem. You may get blindsided by changes in market behavior. We see this among businesses across many industries that have failed to adapt to changing market tastes and styles.

Knowing your audience starts the same way as being interested in your date: by listening to them. Use social listening tools to understand what people are saying about you. Dig into studies and surveys and focus group results, track user behavior on websites and platforms, and read your reviews. In particular, use research tools to understand the key differences between different local markets and audiences; what works in one country or state or neighborhood may not work in another.

Then use that data to understand, segment and engage your audience to achieve loyalty and growth. Be a good date by listening to your audience, showing empathy and openness, and picking up those unspoken, nonverbal cues. After all, data without insight is merely noise.

Actually, it is all about you

The polar opposite is the insecure blank slate. The problem with this type of date is not as obvious at first glance, sure, but they’re just as bad as the narcissist—and, in some cases, even worse—because they can fool you into believing they are caring and sensitive. In reality, they have no idea who they are. They define themselves by mirroring you.

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