Is Your Marketing Like a Bad First Date?

Everyone has experienced their fair share of bad first dates. Interestingly, these cringeworthy experiences can teach you what NOT to do when it comes to marketing.

How? Ad Age, shares to glaring pitfalls to avoid in order to connect with customers and enjoy better marketing success.

1. Don’t be Narcissistic

Remember that insufferable first date—or dates—where the other person wouldn’t stop talking about themselves? How they droned on and on about their interests and goals, barely pausing long enough for you to get a word in edgewise? In the end, they walked away from the date knowing practically nothing about you and not caring one way or the other.

You’ve probably seen this in the marketing world, too, where businesses are only interested in talking about their own brands, products or services and they are utterly convinced that they’re the leaders in trend-setting. Needless to say, they see no value in collecting market data or understanding what their audience is trying to tell them.

“If you talk but don’t listen, the traps are obvious. You may end up as a solution in search of a problem. You may get blindsided by changes in market behavior. We see this among businesses across many industries that have failed to adapt to changing market tastes and styles.”

~ Ad Age

Much like showing interest in your date, getting to know your audience starts the same way—by listening to them. Take advantage of social listening to learn what people are saying about you. Closely review studies, surveys and focus group results. Read reviews and track user behavior on your website and other online platforms.

You’ll especially want to utilize research tools to understand key differences between local markets and audiences because what works in one state or neighborhood may not work in another. Using this data to segment and engage your audience will help you build loyalty and facilitate growth.

“Be a good ‘date’ by listening to your audience, showing empathy and openness, and picking up those unspoken, nonverbal cues,” says Ad Age. “After all, data without insight is merely noise.”

2. Don’t Be An Insecure Blank Slate

While not as obvious at first, this type of date is just as bad as the narcissist—worse, in some cases—because they can easily lead you to believe that they’re sensitive and caring. But as Ad Age points out, the reality is that they don’t have a clue who they are so they define themselves by mirroring you.

In the marketing world, the equivilent is businesses with robust audience research but no positioning or brand strategy. In other words, they know who their customers are, but they don’t know who their own company is. They search data for audience insights, but fail to align it with the necessary brand strategy, competitive positioning or a vision of what they stand for as a company.

“These brands often fall into the common trap of spinning on a dime whichever way the wind is blowing,” says Ad Age. “Without a solid positioning strategy, they struggle to stand on their own two feet, and they often find themselves chasing, rather than setting, trends.”

If you want to build a solid positioning strategy, you’ll need to pair market insights with a comprehensive understanding of not just the products and services your company offers, but also what your organization is deep down at its core.

Ask yourself what your company’s fundamental values and beliefs are. Brands, like people, must have a strong sense of self in order to avoid being blown sideways by every passing trend.

“Positioning strategies help brands understand which opportunities fit their business and which audience segments to pursue,” says Ad Age. “After all, nobody can build a relationship with a blank slate.”


“Good marketing strategy is like a good date,” remarks Ad Age. “It involves talking and listening, give and take, and that magical way that you just “click” with another person.”

Once you find the right balance of knowing your audience and knowing yourself, you’ll be able to communicate the appropriate message to the right people in relavant channels at the right time. And that’s when you’ll have a truly excellent shot at marketing success.

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Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.