The Most Important Question in Marketing

I recently spoke with one of my newer clients about their past marketing efforts, when they confessed to sending out 12 emails to their email list in a week’s time as a last-ditch effort to reach a sales goal.

“What would you do if you received 12 emails in one week from the same company?” I asked one of the guys.

“I would’ve unsubscribed at the third or fourth email,” he said.

Maybe 12 emails in seven days is a bit of a stretch, but like my client, the vast majority of businesses fail to address the most important question in marketing whatever they’re selling.

The most important question in marketing is: Would you buy what you’re selling the way you’re trying to sell it if you were the buyer instead of the seller?

Sure, there are the people who claim that they aren’t their own customer, so they deem this question irrelevant to them. Certainly you’re not always your own customer, but that doesn’t mean this question doesn’t apply to your marketing efforts. If this is the case, find someone who accurately represents your ideal customer’s psychographics (their personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests and lifestyle).

Unless you’re curing cancer or developing life on Mars, I’m not so sure your product or service is going to sell itself.

And then there are the people who believe their product or service is so incredibly amazing, that regardless of how they market it, there’s not a single person who wouldn’t want to buy it. I’m all for believing in whatever you’re selling, but unless you’re curing cancer or developing life on Mars, I’m not so sure your product or service is going to sell itself.

While you probably agree that the second approach isn’t a viable one, it’s this kind of approach — whether implicitly or explicitly — that is so completely rampant across the social media landscape, and it’s something I’d like to talk to you about today.

Unlike with traditional advertising, where it’s socially acceptable for a business to glorify itself because both the advertiser and the audience know it’s paid territory, social media challenges businesses to compete with friends, family members, cute pictures of cats and a plethora of videos for their audience’s time and attention. The rules of engagement are just different. This isn’t advertising. This is inserting your business into the day-to-day lives of your audience, a totally unprecedented opportunity.

This is about being relevant in people’s minds before they want whatever you’re selling.

That’s why, when my team and I on-board new clients, we don’t focus on their product or service; we strive to understand what their product or service represents outside of the traditional business-customer relationship.

For instance, we recently started working with a tile and stone retailer. In looking at their competition, we noticed that every business in this industry is using social media to promote their products. Frankly, does anyone really care about tile and stone on a daily or weekly basis?

However, we know that people who are or will be in the market for tile or stone are typically interested in interior design as a whole. And we also know that people who are building or remodeling their homes aren’t just limited to flooring.

After completing our reconnaissance, we identified the opportunity to launch a blog that will host original content about interior design ideas, inspiration, trends and other topics relevant to what the client sells, but more importantly, topics that are of immediate interest to their target audience.

This isn’t just about content and social media. This is about being relevant in people’s minds before they want whatever you’re selling. After all, that’s the definition of successful marketing.


Josh Hoffman (also known as Social Media Josh) is an international social media consultant, instructor and speaker, as well as the creator of The Social Media Freelancer. Connect with Josh on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and sign up to receive his weekly column.