Why Your Marketing Should Annoy Some People

This is an edited version of a section from my book The Time Is Now 11:59.

Persuasion is the core of marketing. It’s easy to assume, then, that the job of marketing is to persuade folks to buy your book.

That’s half right. The goal is to help folks decide whether or not to buy the book. Even if we help them decide not to buy our marketing has done its job.

What Madness Is This?

Once upon a time my step-son was ranting about the incredibly annoying commercial he’d just heard on the radio. “Are they intentionally trying to alienate people?”

Well, sort of.

The commercial was for a fast-food joint I happen to know he won’t eat at. He didn’t find it funny, although it tried to be. The company spokesperson irritates him. The whole tenor of the commercial grated.

They weren’t talking to him, though. They were talking to folks who are already customers, already fans.

Why would they do that? Why would they create an ad that annoys non-fans instead of converting them? Why not find a way to get that non-fan to come in for the new special deluxe extra whatever?

Because it’s not a good business model. That non-fan may try the special, but if they’re already indifferent or, as in this case, antagonistic, you will not create a convert, a promoter. You’ll make a single sale, or a couple single sales, but not a convert.

What about existing fans—folks who already eat there? Well, that’s exactly who the ad is for.

Existing fans were already thinking about trying the new special deluxe extra. A little nudge today, a little nudge tomorrow, and pretty soon they’ll remember to have lunch there instead of heading home. And if they like it, it’s one more thing to like about a place they’re already a fan of.

And what do fans do when they learn something new about their favorite this, that, or other thing?

Write your marketing materials for the folks on the fence.

They recruit more fans. No, they don’t try to convert the indifferent, they talk to folks they’ve already inspected as to fitness, folks who are likely converts. They’ll share what they love, extend an invitation, and probably make one or two converts in the process.

You already have some raving fans. There are other folks who are never going to be raving fans. There’s a third group: the fence-sitters. They might be fans if they heard about you, or learned more, or had their sincere objections overcome by seeing valid results which earn their trust.

Write your marketing materials for the folks on the fence. Help them get down off it—on either side. Be so passionate that folks self-select, either becoming raving fans, or going away. Don’t waste time trying to convert the indifferent. Give your fans a flag to rally ’round and a message to go with it, and send them forth.

Your existing fan base will enjoy this approach. You’ll be reinforcing their belief that they made the right choice, and giving them a message they can use to share the gospel of fandom.

The result is the Holy Grail of marketing: genuine word of mouth.

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