No One Knows and No One Cares

"Q is for Question Mark," @ 2009 Ben R, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.

“Q is for Question Mark,” @ 2009 Ben R, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.

Here’s a joke for you: What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?

I don’t know, and I don’t care.

No, really, that’s the answer. Seth Godin once said that booksellers shouldn’t be worried about piracy robbing them of riches, but instead wishing people cared enough about their products to try to pirate them.

That reminded me of something I say to entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs all the time: If you work from the assumption that no one knows or cares about your product or service, your marketing can’t go too far wrong.

You should assume that you have to earn awareness and preference all the time, over and over again. In live entertainment, I often see venues obsess about the idea that “people” might see what they do with pricing and content and make sweeping and permanent judgments about them. In fact, the bigger problem, by 10 or 100 times, is that not enough people are thinking about them or their shows in the first place.

In some ways, it’s more pleasant to imagine a world full of people waiting with bated breath to see what you’re going to do to the price of the rear mezzanine seats on Thursday nights in October, or whether you intend to bring back the director of the West Coast premiere of the play written by the guy who worked on the Grammy-winning thing that nobody ever heard of.

It’s pleasant to think this way because it makes you feel important. It gives you the sense that all you need to do is tweak things to get monumentally better results. But unless you’re Facebook (and maybe not even then), this simply isn’t usually true.

As a marketer, you have to work for people’s interest. My suggestion is that you never leave that mindset. Always assume you need to earn the favor of customers, and make very few assumptions about what they, as a group, know or believe.

Admiral Horatio Nelson said something great on this topic, sort of. He said, “No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of his enemy.” In other words, engage. Get right in the mix.

Translated from early 19th-century naval battles to early 21st-century marketing, I say this: No marketer can do very wrong if he or she assumes that no one knows or cares about his or her product, and markets accordingly.

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