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You devour online marketing lessons. You feast on articles, reports, books, and eBooks. Perhaps it’s so important to you, you spend some of your precious time attending webinars and conferences and you can’t help but join the conversation on blogs and via social media.

Good for you.

There’s a ton of information to take in, the rules change daily, and if you’re going to succeed with online marketing, you must master a good many practices, techniques and tools.

The experts keep serving up specialized dishes: content marketing, social media marketing, search marketing, permission-based marketing, inbound marketing and any (fill-in-the-blank-here) marketing.

The more these ingredients get heaped onto our plates, the more the meal calls for a bowl and spoon. It’s digital soup, my friend.

Clarity is hard to achieve.

Pencils out. It’s pop quiz time.

What should you focus on to make your online marketing more effective?

(A) Content
(B) Social media
(C) Search
(D) Analytics
(E) All of the above
(F)  None of the above

Answer: (F)

I told you this was a tough one.

If you answered (E) it wouldn’t be fair to give you an “F.” You studied the choices and decided it’s not all that effective to focus on just one ingredient in this complex recipe. They’re interdependent.

You’re right about that.

But you’re wrong to focus on tactics.

As marketers, we fall into this trap time and again. Right now, in offices everywhere, marketers’ pulses are racing with questions such as:

How will we produce video content?
What’s our Facebook strategy?
Should we revisit our keywords?
What’s producing the peaks and valleys in our website traffic?

These are good questions. I applaud you for asking them and agree whole-heartedly they demand thoughtful answers.

However, you need to push questions such as these to the backburner until you answer a far more important question…

What does the customer want?

The customer—I chose the singular for a reason. The most effective online marketers have one thing, the word “you,” written boldly on a sticky note and forever attached to their frontal lobes.

“You” is a person your marketing strategy must focus on, a word your copywriter must use, the living, breathing target market your designs need to appeal to and your social media specialist must connect with.

“You” has five senses. Can your marketing team state in no uncertain terms what he or she wants to see, hear, smell, touch and taste?

“You” opts in or out. “You” follows your company or a competitor. “You” either does or doesn’t find your pages and posts via search. “You” affects your numbers, but is far more complex than a zero or a one.

What’s wrong with “we?”

A month or so ago, I’m on the phone with a new client and his marketing team. They want my honest opinion about their home page, so I give it a quick once over and say, “It’s all so self-serving. The word ‘we’ is the subject of practically every sentence.

Someone on the other end of the line doesn’t like what I’ve said. “What’s wrong with we?,” he protests.

If I was in the same room, I might have kissed him for writing such a great line for me. Though it’s the bane of copywriters the world over, in one form or another, clients have been asking this question since the beginning of time.

I go on to explain the website visitor isn’t there for “we.” He’s not interested in your company. He’s dealing with a challenge. That issue got him a’ Googleing and lucky for you, it drove him here.

If you feed him a steady stream of “we, we, we,” and start singing your own praises, he’ll head right back to the search engine and find someone who’s sincerely interested in helping him solve his problem.

That’s what’s wrong with “we.”

Now for a clinic in “you.”

The most effective marketers focus on the customer. While it may be the oldest lesson in marketing communications, all you have to do is read corporate websites to be reminded how often it’s shunned.

Here’s how to forge your way down the more effective “you” path:

Develop detailed customer personas—You can’t push your customer’s hot buttons until you know what they are. Conduct research by interviewing and surveying customers, observing social media behaviors, mining data and asking the sales and support team for insights gained from their interactions. Tooled with the answers to what makes your customers tick, document fictional bios or personas to represent different types of customers.

Find the pleasure and the pain—The act of buying boils down to a person striving to avoid pain or increase pleasure. Yes, even in business. Understand what hurts and what makes the prospect’s heart race.

Recognize the hurdles—What might derail the sale? Potential hindrances often include price, terms, competitive offerings, approval protocols, risk, time frames, and lack of urgency. Take a proactive approach to addressing common deal breakers.

Re-orient your language—As soon as you find your communications creeping back in the direction of what you do, what you make and how you do business, stop. Retreat. Turn features into benefits. Turn around first and/or third person voiced propositions into a “you” statement or question.

Remember, how to win friends and influence people.

Make your prospect feel important—Demonstrate appreciation and give encouragement.

Arouse an eager want—These are Dale Carnegie’s words. As are these: “The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”

Smile—In copy? Why not? Use welcoming, upbeat and friendly words and spread the love.

Personalize—Apply what you know to make your message as customized and personal as possible.

Talk in terms of the other person’s interests—There’s Carnegie again, delivering a copywriting 101 course.

And in Dale’s legendary guidebook, he writes, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.”

Track the changes that really matter.

The “you” path tends to take unexpected turns. That is to say, if you create a map and follow it forever more, you’re bound to get lost.

The goal is to connect with and meet the needs of your audience—people—and people change. Copyblogger reminds you of this in The Business Case for Agile Content Marketing.

So when you understand the need to be agile with your online marketing endeavors, it follows you’ll then stay perpetually tuned-in to the mindset of your target audience.

Remember the one thing that doesn’t change.

You’re not going to dig into any deeply useful source about content that doesn’t get into search, about social that doesn’t get into content, and every other conceivable combination.

These tactics are awesome. In this age dominated by all things digital, marketing is more fascinating than ever.

However, the landscape evolves faster than ever. In the field of marketing, the lines will continue to blur. The tools and tactics we rely on will continue to change.

The need to focus on the customer will not.


Now hear this.

This article was originally published on Copyblogger. Soon after, podcaster Chuck Bartock created an audiobook version of it, you can hear here.

Barry Feldmann Talking about the YOU in Marketing by Chuck Bartok on Mixcloud

“The Plan to Grow Your Business with Effective Online Marketing.”

(Yesterday, a new client told me it’s the most informative and fun eBook she’s ever read. Seriously.)