The Business I Hope For

Currently, I’m working through Seth Godin’s Marketing seminar. Marketing has a bad name—some might say it’s the devil’s work. 

Seth Godin sees marketing as a service. Rather than convincing and coercing people to buy things they’ll later regret, it’s the work of offering people who have a problem the solution they are looking for. Marketing is about earning people’s trust and following through, proving that a person deserved their trust. It’s a promise a person makes

Making promises can be tricky. We have to follow through on promises or we’ll lose people’s trust. There’s a nearly archetypal scene repeated in movies in which a busy parent makes a promise to attend a child’s event (usually a play, game or birthday), and thus prove their love for the child.  When that promise is the audience knows that promise will be broken.  

But that’s the thing about trust and promises. We want desperately to make people happy and to look good. That makes us prone to overpromising in a given moment. Making promises we can follow through on will make us look good in the long term, but could mean disappointing someone right now.  

When making a promise, it’s easy to say; “I can do everything.” A person might believe that as well. But it’s better to say; “This is what I’m actually good at,” or, “This what I can actually do. I can do that for you if that’s what you need. 

Another fear is that if I promise too narrowly I won’t get the business I hope for. That could happen, but if I promise to broadly I will disappoint people, and lose not only their business now, but their trust. I might lose their trust forever. 

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