Spray and Pray Isn’t Marketing

The following insight came from my podcast interview with Andrew Bustamante, where he shared about Marketing Lessons Learned from the CIA.

I love the marketing world because it’s all about hiding in plain sight until you choose to overwhelm somebody’s emotional center and take their attention. I love that even as a start because I feel like oftentimes for myself or the clients I work with, it’s like a spray and pray approach; I’m just gonna put out messages indiscriminately on every channel, and hopefully, the person I want to get their attention sees it and comes to me. 

But you really need to understand who you want to capture the attention of. And then you also want to be very deliberate of the aspect of yourself or your company that you present to them and how you present that to them. So I love that very deliberate approach on both of those; it’s really intentional. 

Deliberate is a great word. I like to use another word because of the spray and prayer approach. When I left the CIA, I started reinventing myself in business. One of the first things that I landed on was I have to get an MBA, and I have to go to school; somebody has to teach me how to do this stuff. I know how to be a CIA officer, but I don’t know how to be everything else. I have no complaints about going back to school or choosing education or formal education. But the raw truth is that when I started learning academic marketing, it just wasn’t correct. It was designed for mass marketing spray and pray. 

I remember to this day, this exercise that we had. It was a graded exercise, and it was like 80% of the score for that semester’s marketing class; we had to sell toothpaste and grow from a regional market to an international market. It didn’t take long before I learned how to hack the simulation. Basically, you promote, promote, promote, buy more promotion, buy more space, buy more ads, and then change your channel. That’s exactly what people are being taught about marketing. And that is blatantly false. Unless you are in a mass marketing world, like McDonald’s or Nike, where you’re just trying to have market share, you’re just trying to have top of mind for the average consumer, that is not ever going to work for you. That is actually advertising, which is completely different from marketing. 

Advertising is unintentional; it’s just trying to get your attention and put a name at the top of your head. But marketing has to be intentional. Who are you trying to hit? What message do you need them to hear? And how do you choose to communicate that message? It’s been crystal clear to me in my work with my business, which is not mass marketing. And I find that the savvier the business person is, the more they start to land on that understanding, that experience that I need to speak to somebody specific about something specific in a specific way if I ever intend to move them from the place where they’re listening to me to the place where they’re buying from me.

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