Eric Karjaluoto

Ghosts

Effective marketing depends on identifying what you’re doing. It’s also dependent on knowing who you’re speaking to. This should be common sense, but—as Amhurst said: “there is not a more uncommon thing in the world than common sense.” (Voltaire later said, “common sense is not so common”—which I say makes him a waaaaay better copywriter.)

You know, that’s not a bad segue into the meat of this post: Knowing who you’re communicating with. So, let’s bite into that.

Marketing is communication. You make an ad, a direct mail piece, or an email offer. Maybe you blog or “content market” (as the young people like to say). In any event, you’re working to convey a notion that results in an action. Simple enough.

The thing with communication, is that it works best when it’s personal. Saying “I love you” to your spouse is more meaningful than if you were to shout it into a crowd. (Unless you’re The Biebs, but the rules are different for that kid.) The problem is that marketers often think their job is to shout at crowds.

They write generic messages. They make promises they can’t keep. Or, they spout advertising-babble that means pretty much nothing. “Be your way.” “Travel takes you places.” “Impossible is nothing.” “Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.” (Thank you, Derek.)

Companies often outline who they’re writing to, but remain vague. They say, we’re producing content for creative directors, brand managers, and marketers. Or, they pick an nondescript audience that looks impressive in a slide deck. For example: “We’re focusing on the coveted 18-to-34 demographic”.

Sometimes the writing isn’t bad, so much as it’s directionless. Companies write blog posts about staff outings. They make web pages in which they explain how their company is “different”. Or, they send boring emails about incremental product updates. Sure, it’s all content, but it’s not written for anyone. Worse yet, they might not even know who they want reading it.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone. Sometimes I blog for fellow designers. At others, I blog for my friends. This might sound weird, but often I write for myself—just because I like writing. Sometime last year, I stopped. Writing without direction was leaving me tired and adrift.

I started blogging again, last week. I did so after compiling a list of ideas I considered valuable for business owners. Then, I realized most of these articles were for one specific business owner: Gary.

Gary and his wife Amber run Saltspring Soapworks. Amber focuses on product development and customer support. Gary and I work more on shaping the brand. For the past three years, Gary and I have talked weekly. We’ve clarified the brand, introduced systems, and re-imagined their path forward. In our phone conversations, we cover all kinds of subject matter. All of this falls under the umbrella of what actions are suitable for their company.

If I’m honest, I’m not only writing this for Gary. I’m also writing it for Amber, Will, Regina, Todd, Carl, Meighan, Kim, Candice, and Withanie. I’m also writing it for any business owner who wants to be better at telling their company’s story. But, by focusing on Gary, I keep my head straight, my writing on point, and my examples relevant.

I used to write for ghosts. These ghosts were ideas of people—or groups—who I couldn’t explicitly describe. Now, I focus on Gary. I do so because the more specific I make my audience, the sharper my communication.

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