Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You’re reading Entrepreneur United States, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.
You may think I’m crazy but one of the basics I teach about digital marketing is that it’s just like dating. Actually, marketing in general is like dating, isn’t it? When you’re marketing just about anything, you don’t expect to score on the very first ad or promotion. You know that it takes several interactions, several times of seeing you or your product or service before your buyers are ready to buy.
It’s the same with digital marketing, only more so.
Some marketers treat digital marketing like a singles pick-up bar. They show up with a lot of flash, slick talk and promises. Their aim is a quick score, and they may even get it. But after a quick jump in the sack, their customer won’t be around when morning comes. They’ll have to do the whole dog and pony show again the next night.
That’s not the kind of dating strategy you need to use in your digital marketing!
I’m talking about the kind of dating where you end up with a great relationship. In this kind of dating, you take it slower. You get to know one another. You show that you care about the other person, their wants and needs. You let them get to know who you are so they can learn to trust you. You treat them well before you ever ask for anything, and especially before you ask them to jump in the sack with you!
So, what exactly does that mean?
Focus on them
Your digital marketing needs to be focused on them, not on you. Have you ever been on a date where the other person constantly talks about themselves? They try to impress you with how great they are but all you’re thinking is, get me out of here!
Instead, your digital marketing — your ads, social media posts, blogs, etc. — need to focus on them. It needs to speak to their pain points and their desires. It needs to show that you really see who they are and what concerns them.
Also, rather than telling them how great you are, show them. Aren’t you more impressed by a date who shows how great they are by what they do and how they treat you?
Give of yourself
Remember the old days when your date would bring flowers on the first date? I don’t think that happens as much these days, but wouldn’t it feel great if they brought you some small gift while asking for nothing in return? Something that they know you like or need? Wouldn’t you feel good about them and like you, want to reciprocate somehow?
In the digital marketing I teach my students, this is exactly the strategy we use: Serve, don’t sell. I teach my students to give away their valuable information and knowledge for free. I teach them to post videos that help solve their potential customer’s problems or issues. I teach them to do blogs and posts that their potential clients could actually use to help improve their lives somehow. And I teach them to do this consistently and persistently until the client or customer is not only willing to buy but eager to buy from them.
One of the scariest things about online dating is that people can be so fake! They post photos that are five — or 20 — years out of date! They lie about their income, interests, credentials, even their marital status! Even though online dating is wildly popular and can be a great way to meet people, the way many have abused it has made many people approach online dating with skepticism and suspicion.
Digital marketing can be the same. Too many digital marketers try to be slick, and their posts can even be downright misleading with big promises they can’t really fulfill. But that isn’t what people are looking for. They’re looking for real. They’re looking for sincerity. They’re looking for human connection. And even though it seems harder to express all of this online, I teach my students that they must be real and let their sincerity and humanity come across in all their digital marketing.
How many totally boring dates have you been on? Do they make you want to come back for more? Heck, no! Maybe the roller derby date or the art gallery date would be interesting to someone else, but it wasn’t to you. Or maybe your date talked all night about her work as a liposuction technician. That might be fascinating to some people, but you couldn’t care less about it.
Being entertaining in digital marketing is not just about clever graphics or witty writing. People are entertained when they’re interested in what you’re presenting. They are entertained if they find it fun or educational. It’s a topic that they want to learn about or that is cool to them. And that brings me to the next point which is…
Know who you’re dating
Have you ever been out with someone who didn’t even seem to know who you are? They talked about people you don’t know (and don’t care about) or events that mean nothing to you. They talked down to you or over your head. They took you to places that everyone likes rather than the special place you’d enjoy.
Sadly, the same thing happens in digital marketing. Marketers know that they need to focus to reach a particular target market or niche in their other marketing efforts. But somehow, when they get online, they go bonkers! They spread their efforts all over the place thinking to cast a wider net.
To be effective in digital marketing, you have to keep that narrow focus and address your target market, not everyone. Being online automatically makes your narrow net wider. But by trying to reach everyone, you end up connecting with no one. It’s a waste of your time, energy and definitely a waste of your digital marketing dollars.
Take it step by step
In dating, you take it in steps. You don’t take them home to meet the parents or ask them to marry you on the first date, right? You might start with a coffee date to see if you’re interested in going further. You might go to a movie or go dancing for a second date. Each date builds on the last. You get to know one another before you ask for or give any kind of commitment.
Digital marketing is the same. I teach my students a basic three-step process:
- Give them something of value like an informational video without asking for anything in return.
- If they respond to that video, offer them something else that they can get by clicking on a link.
- If they engage with offer number two, offer them something slightly larger, perhaps a webinar. This time, you ask them for their contact information. And once you have their contact information, you take them through your sales funnel.
In the dating world, how many of us find that the very first person we ever go out with is the one? Rarely happens, right? Usually, you have to go out on a number of dates. You may make some mistakes along the way. You might feel like you’re spinning your wheels, spending your time, energy and money on dating without getting the results you really want. It can be frustrating. But if you’re really serious about finding someone for the long run, you keep at it. You don’t just dip a toe in, then give up and sit around and mope about it.
Digital marketing is no different. When you first start, it might seem like nothing’s happening. It can take a few months of being consistent and persistent to see results. It takes some strategy, like showing up where your target market is and making sure they see something from you at least once per week (more is much better). It takes tracking of what’s working and tweaking what doesn’t.
So, I invite you to approach your digital marketing like you would if you were dating to create a lasting relationship. And if you do, I know you’ll start reaping all the benefits digital marketing can bring to you and your business.