Making vs. marketing

If art is a harmonizing of opposing forces, doing business in today’s economy is a very fine art indeed.  Consider these parallel thoughts put out by important bloggers last week:

Seth Godin: “Great publicity is a treasured gift. But it’s hardly necessary, and the search for it is often a significant distraction …for just about every product, service or company, the relentless quest for media validation doesn’t really pay. If you get it, congratulations. If you don’t, that’s just fine. But don’t break the bank or your timetable in the quest.”

And then those amazing folks at 37 signals, quoting Robert Stephens of Geek Squad in A Geek’s Guide to Great Service: “Marketing is a tax you pay for being unremarkable.”

On one hand, business views marketing as a given, and if you don’t get your brand out there in a big way you’re invisible.  On the other hand, the core truth is that all the marketing in the world won’t help if your product’s no good. 

In the end, all successful marketing is viral.  A good idea will be talked about.  A mediocre idea will be ignored.  People are sociable, gregarious, and love to share the latest cool thing they’ve discovered. 

The point is that 99% of your energy in business needs to concentrate on your product.  Giving marketing any more than a tiny fraction of your time is spinning wheels.  You might be able to charm a few into buying your less-than-adequate product, but the illusion won’t last.  

If you think of marketing as communication, as opposed to trickery or snake charming, you’ll be on the right track.  The key is to be so involved with your making, your product, and passionate about the ways it helps people, that sharing the details is a natural extension of your enthusiasm.

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