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How to Use Self-Obsession As a Powerful Marketing Strategy

on January 27, 2015

Here are two unassailable truths:

1: As a marketer you’re constantly communicating your product and service to get others to notice you, to care about you, and ultimately purchase from you.

2: We’re all self-obsessed, or at least self-interested. (Obsession assumes you really care about nothing else but yourself.)

Sure, every now and then, like seeing a shooting star, you’ll stumble across a selfless person, but who has time to wait for a shooting star?

If you’re self-interested and I’m a self-interested marketer wouldn’t it make sense, if I’m going to get your attention, for me focus on your self-interest, whatever it is?

When you hear that, you may turn to the common hackneyed marketing advice of “figure out what’s keeping your readers up at night and write about that.”

The problem with that advice is it doesn’t feed into your audience’s self-interest. It feeds into their fears, which is a completely different and effective marketing strategy but only for some businesses and often it’s not sustainable.

Instead, why not find ways to support each person’s own innate desire to better themselves professionally?

Deep down we all understand this, but our own self-interest gets in the way of primarily focusing on others’ interests.

Launch a relationship-first B2B marketing strategy

If you accept the premise that we’re all self-interested, I’m recommending that you should build a marketing strategy focused only on building relationships with your industry’s key influencers. You’ve seen others master this technique. You know it pays off and you’re supremely jealous of others who have pulled it off successfully. Yet you don’t do it yourself.

If you know it works, why not be a little like that comet you never see, and be a little selfless?

Make friends – nothing else

For this strategy to work your sole goal is to honestly build professional relationships. Since you’re “working” you’ll feel tempted to go into marketing or sales mode. Try to refrain as it will hurt your cause.

Identify industry influencers

You’ll want to first have an understanding of who your influencers are. There are a multitude of ways to find that information out (Twitter lists, people speaking at conferences, influential bloggers and podcasters), but it’s also a good idea to just ask your friends to name one or two people they follow in the industry. Start with just a handful of queries and from there you can ask more. Pretty soon you’ll have far too many people to handle.

Don’t be a weasel by being too helpful

You ever meet someone who seems too interested in helping you? I run into this crap with “professional” networkers. Upon a first introduction they immediately drop the line “How can I help you?” It’s very clear what they’re doing and it’s disingenuous. Don’t be that guy.

Building relationships takes time. If you come off too strong people will be wary of your motives. Take it slow.

One human connection a day

Yes, I could suggest that you set aside an hour a day to read all the influencers’ content and then comment on it, but honestly you don’t have the friggin’ time. Nobody does. But what you do have is the time to make one true human connection a day. That means thoughtfully thinking about how you can connect with someone and show that you truly care.

That doesn’t mean retweeting something they wrote.

That doesn’t mean just sharing their content on social media.

That doesn’t mean leaving a “great post” comment on their blog.

That doesn’t mean writing “Happy Birthday” on their wall when Facebook tells you it’s their birthday.

It means taking the time to look at what that influencer does and see in what way you can “surprise and delight” them.

“Surprise and delight” is not easy, but it has an unforgettable impact

A friend of mine who runs a non-profit theater group pulled off a way below market deal for a conference held at a 5-star hotel in San Francisco. Her organization didn’t have money to wine and dine the hotel executive, but they had lots of moxie, and the executive they wooed loved the theater. In an effort to persuade him about how they wanted the conference at his hotel, they took a cast photograph in front of his hometown house where there had been a theater festival. He was so touched that they landed the deal and held the conference at the hotel.

Her story shows a combination of true effort and knowing the person she was trying to convince. This never happens if you retweet someone or offer a “me, to” comment on their blog. I’m not suggesting that you have to go out of your way all the time to create one of these crazy “surprise and delight” moments, but if you want people to respond, react, and adore you, this is one of the best ways to do it, especially when you don’t have money to persuade.

Stay in social media

When you’re first trying to connect with an industry influencer, keep that communications public in the social media space. Most influencers read and often respond to their social communications. Public communications helps build and maintain their personal brand. Email does not. In addition, email can be deleted. Social media engagements live on in perpetuity.

Your engagement should be valuable, even if it’s contrary. The influencer will respect your opinions. Always be looking for opportunities to “surprise and delight.”

Be a digital tummler

Think about how you met the people in your professional circle. In many cases there’s often a key person or organization responsible for making all those connections. Now think about how you feel about those connectors. Wouldn’t you like others to feel that way about you? Go out of your way to make connections. Be a tummler in real life and online.

Produce a series where you interview industry leaders

One of the easiest ways to get access to industry influencers is to ask them for an interview. It’s usually very successful because you’re asking them for their insight and giving them a platform to promote themselves. Remember though, you can’t ask for an interview unless you have a platform such as a blog, podcast, or video series, for which to publish that interview.

Show up!

The old Woody Allen line is true: “Eighty percent of life is showing up.”

If you want to be respected by peers, you simply have to be visible at all your industry events. That’s where you will make the most friendships in the shortest period of time. It’s also the quickest way to gather the most interviews.

Become an influencer yourself

Influencers are most attracted to other influencers. So why not become one yourself?

CONCLUSION: Keep it up

This is not a “test” or “one time engagement.” To be able to feed others’ self-interest, you have to commit to relationships just like you do in normal life.


Creative Commons photo credit to Gioia De Antoniis, woodyologist, Pedro Reis, YODspica, Aaron Frutman, James Russo, and Nicolas Alejandro.

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