2 min read

The only marketing lesson you’ll ever need

There is only one concept you need to grasp in order to become a great marketer, and that is: People are self-interested. But here is how you can put this theory to work...
The only marketing lesson you’ll ever need
Photo by Caroline Veronez / Unsplash

There is only one concept you need to grasp in order to become a great marketer, and that is: People are self-interested.

“Well, obviously.  That’s just basic psychology.  How does knowing that make me a great marketer?”

Because so few people actually put that knowledge into practice.  After interning at an ad agency for 3 months, I knew that even businessmen were self-interested to the point where it was hurting their bottom line.  I watched companies demand flashy websites that would dazzle the eye – they wanted to get their money’s worth, damnit!  They didn’t care that the majority of the people who’d be coming to their site actually hated all that fancy nonsense.

Again, people are self-interested.  You have to approach everything you do with that in mind.  Stop thinking about outselling your competitors, or doing what’s cool, or telling everyone how many awards you’ve won, and start thinking about what’s important to your customer.  Then find a way to genuinely communicate how you’ll benefit them.

Let me illustrate my point with Tim Ferriss’ book, “The 4-Hour Workweek.” It was a runaway best-seller because of Tim’s unique approach to self-promotion, coupled with great content and an incredibly dynamic title.  However, “4HWW” was not his first choice for titles.  His original choice was “Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit.”  He thought it was a clever title because that was what he used as the title of his lectures.  When he test-marketed to see what title was the best, “4HWW” was the obvious choice.

Tim is a smart guy, and he decided not to cling to his favorite title choice; he went with the market winner.  But he very easily could have thought, “Hey, I’ve been giving lectures at Princeton for a long time with that title – I know for a fact that it will work.”  No, it won’t.  People simply couldn’t see the benefits they’d derive from a book about drug dealing.  But people can very easily see the benefits of having a 4-hour workweek (more time with family, take up hobbies, etc.)

Just because you think something’s clever, beautiful, funny, awesome, whatever – it does not mean your target market thinks that. The most boring people you meet are the ones who only talk about themselves.   They are painfully unaware that they’re self-interested to a fault (every female on the planet can confirm this after being on a miserable date).  But the coolest people you meet are the ones who relate to you and make you feel special.  They don’t talk about themselves, they talk about others.  They talk about you!

The most important lesson I learned from Seth this summer was: it doesn’t matter what you think, it doesn’t matter what I think.  It matters what the market thinks.

I guarantee that if you approach every single facet of your business (hell, even your life) with the understanding and appreciation that people are self-interested, the relationships you have with your customers (and even your spouse) will improve dramatically.