Marketing is a word that strikes fear into the heart of a lot of creatives. It’s an area where a lot of us feel we don’t have a natural talent – we’re far more comfortable making work than telling the world about it, let alone trying to get people to buy it.
One reason for this is that marketing can feel so big and impersonal. We think of ‘mass marketing’ – and it’s hard to feel a connection to masses.
We prefer to make things with more of an intimate, one-to-one feel. If you’re a writer, you probably have a single ideal reader in your mind as you write. If you’re an artist, you probably think of how your work will look to a single viewer.
So it feels like a big and unnatural shift to start thinking about promoting this thing we’ve made with for a single person, by trying to talk to thousands of potential customers.
Plus there’s so much competition – including big brands with huge marketing budgets, and super-influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers. So it’s easy to feel we have no chance of cutting through.
But really, this is an illusion. Marketing may be pumped out at scale, but it’s consumed, or encountered, in a very intimate way.
When you look at a Tweet or a Facebook post, there aren’t millions of people looking over your shoulder – it’s just you and your phone.
When you read a magazine, you are alone with the magazine.
When you listen to a podcaster talking on your headphones, or in your car, or in your kitchen while you’re cooking, it’s just one person listening to another person talking.
Even if you’re looking at an ad on a poster or billboard in a crowded space, it feels like you’re the only one looking at it. Or if you’re watching an ad in a cinema, surrounded by people, you’re not aware of them – it’s just you and the screen.
So when I’m working with a coaching client on their marketing, I encourage them to focus on one-to-one communication. To help them do this, I use a tool I call the Media Dashboard.
Because the dashboard in a car displays all the essential information a driver needs while on the road – speed, fuel gauge, engine temperature, warnings if something is wrong. And the SatNav helps you find your way. And it’s quite an intimate experience – the dashboard is designed to be visible to the driver, everything is tilted to make it easy for you to see.
The dashboard is essential for navigating the road safely and getting to your destination. It’s an overlay of information on the real world you can see through the windscreen. A form of augmented reality.
Driving without a dashboard would be a disorienting and scary thing to do. You wouldn’t know how fast you were going, where you were, or whether you were about to run out of fuel.
And if you think about it, we all have a personal media dashboard that we use to navigate life in the 21st century.
We have our trusted news sources for local, national and world events.
We have social media to keep up with friends, professional contacts and people we’re interested in.
We have books, podcasts, radio, YouTube, Neflix, Disney+ and so on, for entertainment and learning.
We have specialist professional magazines or journals relating to our work.
Different media fulfil different purposes. They keep us informed about the world around us, and help us make decisions, from what to watch on TV tonight to business strategy or career moves, to who to vote for every few years.
Like the car dashboard, your media dashboard is a very intimate space. And the instruments on your dashboard are your trusted sources of information.
But unlike a car dashboard, your media dashboard is individually curated by you. Each of us has our unique media dashboard, that we are constantly tweaking and adjusting as our interests, tastes and situation evolve.
So how does this relate to your marketing challenge?
It’s really very simple. Your marketing goal should be to appear on the media dashboard of the person you want to reach.
If you can do that, and if the impression you create is sufficiently positive, and your messages is clear enough, they are likely to do what you want – whether that’s buying your product or artwork, or enquiring about your service, or subscribing to your podcast/YouTube/newsletter, or telling other people about you and helping to spread the word.
Remember, the dashboard contains their most trusted sources of information. If you appear there, you have cut through all the noise. You are in their inner sanctum.
Sounds simple, right?
And no, it’s not easy. But it is at least simpler than trying to broadcast to hundreds of thousands of people, with a scattergun approach, hoping you’ll somehow ‘cut through’ to the right people.
So what I say to my clients is to start by imagining the media dashboard of the kind of person you want to reach:
Who are they?
Where do they get their news?
Do they use social media? If so, which platforms?
Do they read books? If so, do they prefer print or ebooks? Or maybe audiobooks?
Do they listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, read blogs or email newsletters?
Do they read professional journals? If so, which ones?
How about mainstream media? Newspapers? Magazines? TV, radio?
Start with educated guesses, but check these in reality – a bit of judicious Googling may uncover some fascinating data about the media habits of different segments of society.
And pay attention to your friends and peers and – what kind of media do they mention in conversations?
It can help to sketch the dashboard on a piece of paper, in a similar format to a car dashboard, with the different media logos in place of the car instruments.
Next, ask yourself the big question: How can I appear on that dashboard?
List all the options that you come up with. They might include:
- Growing your profile on a relevant social media platform.
- Getting interviewed on a podcast.
- Pitching a guest article to a blog or magazine or trade journal.
- Getting interviews or coverage in the news media.
- Writing a book.
- Launching a podcast or YouTube.
Notice that there aren’t any easy options. But then most work worth doing is difficult.
But the media dashboard makes it easier in two ways: firstly, it helps you focus your efforts in the right places. And crucially, it helps you keep your marketing personal, by focusing on 1-2-1 communication that will feel personal.
So for example in my case, as a creative coach, I know this about the kind of creative professionals I want to reach:
They read books for personal and professional development. So I write books.
They listen to podcasts for the same reasons. So I make a podcast. And give interviews to other podcasts.
They aren’t massive social media users. They are more likely to be on Twitter or Instagram than Facebook or TikTok or wherever the young people are hanging out these days. So I focus on Twitter, because it’s the one I like the most.
They read newspapers, usually the digital edition. I have a pretty good idea which ones, which means I say ‘yes’ to some media enquiries and ‘no’ to others.
The media dashboard helps me focus my efforts. It’s not quick and easy. But I know if I commit, then over time I can appear on the dashboards of enough of the right kind of people.
Finally, remember people are constantly tweaking their media dashboard. So keep an eye out for new platforms, channels, and trends in media consumption. And drive safely!