The rules of responsive marketing

By Ev Bogue - June 1st 2016

I haven't read a decent marketing post on the Internet in awhile, so I thought I'd write one.

A few days ago I landed back in Mexico City, via NYC, after working in a restaurant for a few months. One of the things that I appreciate most about Mexico City is the hustle. The city has almost as much hustle as the Internet. Except for a few sacred spots, the whole city is a marketplace of people trying to get you to buy something. Being hawked at all of the time can be a bit overwhelming, but I've found that after living here for two years I can almost always get the disinterested body language right. Also, keep moving -- there's no better way to get pounced by a begger and someone hawking Oaxacan jewelery than to sit down on a stoop in Reforma for five minutes.

Being in such an intense marketing environment for two years and the last few days has led me to evaluate my own digital marketing strategy over and over again. It's made me think about what kind of marketer I want to be, how I want to interact with customers, and how I want to sell things on the Internet.

One of the things I've noticed living in Mexico City is there is a class of people who never do any hawking at all. These are usually the people who are selling decent products. If you want to find a decent Torta in la Roma, go to the stand that's NOT yelling at you -- also notice the crowd gathered around eating.

I've decided to call this marketing strategy 'responsive marketing', because the strategy revolves around keeping a strong center and rarely reaching out to people unsolicited unless I have a good reason to do so.

If you combine this with the way I've seen marketing change over the Internet during the last ten or so years, I think this is a good overall strategy for measuring product success. I measure product success in terms of sales -- if I'm not making them, there must be something wrong.

Here are the rules of responsive marketing, as I see them.

  1. Market on own website
  2. Respond to incoming requests
  3. Focus on own work the rest of the time

Let me talk about the specifics of these three rules in reverse order, and perhaps it'll make the strategy clear.

The most important aspect of responsive marketing is having a decent product to begin with. The only way to get a decent product is to focus most of my time on the product. For me this means cultivating internal focus on writing a decent book. This also worked well in conjunction with working a day job from Dec 2015 - April 2016, as I only had so much time to do my own work. Instead of blowing all of my available free time reaching out to people, I used all of my available free time to write a decent book.

Obviously what makes a decent book is arguable. You might not 'like' my topic, but that gives you a great opportunity to go do something else with your life.

I don't blast people anymore. In the past I've dedicated some time and website realestate to building email lists and emailing people who signed up to let them know what I'm working on. I'm under the impression that the email list strategy just doesn't work anymore. I want you to visit my website on your own time, when you're ready. One of the reasons I don't love email lists anymore is it seems impolite to unsubscribe -- so I only seem to have lists that grow and never shrink. It seems better for you to come to me instead of the other way around. This also gives people who aren't interested anymore a great opportunity to wander off to some other corner of the Internet or IRL.

Instead of emailing you, you get to email me. For most emails, I do my best to respond within 24 hours and give you a decent answer if I have one. Obviously you won't find me blasting you on "social media", because I haven't been on there for years. If I don't respond to you, feel free to send another email because may I lost it or I thought it was spam.

I only do marketing, pushing, advertising, on my own website. This means, in combination with writing decent books, I also dedicate a significant amount of time to making my website as awesome as possible. This includes building with a Node.js static website generator, responsive css framework, and hosting everything on my own vps. So I'm not just a dork about my own writing, I'm also a dork about my own technology stack. I have been for awhile.

I think responsive marketing is a good approach to the modern Internet, where there's a hell of a lot of noise and not a lot of great anything. The only downside I can imagine you having, if you are used to blasting all of the time, is the lonely emptiness of waiting for someone to visit your site and email you. But the silence gives me a great opportunity to focus on my own work, and the genuine questions that do come into my inbox.

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