I've got another parable for you.
Maybe it's just a metaphor. I'll have my editor work that one out for me...
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Think about a road - a highway or an interstate. It stretches for miles and miles and gets people from point A to point B (and any number of other points) in the most direct way possible.
Some people take detours, others prepare to do long stretches at a time with no stops.
Along the side of these roads are different places to stop called services - rest stops, overlooks and scenic views, pulloffs in case you need to put chains on your tires or prevent an overheating engine.
You also have offramps and onramps that can take you off the main road and into little towns, big towns, or take you in completely different directions altogether.
Once the roads existed, businesses saw opportunities to sell products, or "jobs to be done", to the people on the main road.
- My gas tank is getting close to empty, I need gas.
- I've been driving for too long and it's getting late, I need a place to stay the night
- The kids are hungry, we should get something to eat.
So alongside the road you see billboards telling people "we can do that job!"
And some of the travelers pull off to get those jobs done.
Your business is the same.
Marketing is like the interstate and it's services. You put up a sign that says "this road heads north", or "Los Angeles, 350 miles", and the people that want to go that direction or reach that specific destination will take your road to get there.
There's no transaction, there's no cost other than their time and their choice to take your road over someone else's.
So you can serve people by telling them that your road works better than other roads. "Six lane highway", "no tolls", or "scenic views".
And the people that want to travel that way will hop on and start their journey.
Along the way, you provide even more value by providing the rest stops, the view areas, and the pull offs. Those come with the road, they're part of the marketing.
They cost the traveler nothing.
An important point about this "marketing highway" is that you build the roads first. Only then do you add on the services.
If you tried convincing people to come to your scenic overlook without a road to get there, you'd have a hard time getting anyone to come. But if you build the road first, it makes it that much easier for people to pull off and stop to take in the view.
You also wouldn't build a gas station out in the middle of nowhere! This "product" would fail miserably without the built in traffic that the highway provides.
First, build roads.
Once you have that traffic, that awareness, that interest, then you can learn from that traffic where to put different products and where to advertise them.
If cars keep running out of gas after 100 miles on your highway, then they're showing you - very clearly - that they need a gas station before they reach that point.
It would be a smart investment to put gas stations every 30-50 miles, and then put up billboards and signage letting people know that those gas stations exist.
If people keep crashing at night at mile marker 457, then you know that you should put a place for weary travelers to pull off and rest, or even make something nicer like a hotel or motel.
Build the roads first. Observe the behavior of the travelers that choose that road. Then add products and services to support their journey.
None of this is "selling", it's providing the exact value that people need at the exact moment that they need it.
The selling comes when people show up to your gas station, your restaurant, or your hotel.
They will have questions about how it works, the cost, and what they get in return.
That's when you can sell to them, by helping them understand the value and how it will benefit them.
Sales in this scenario becomes easy - nearly effortless.
With this approach, we'll end this section on marketing, and move into more detail on sales - how you convert the traffic on your highway into customers that trust you to do the jobs that they need done.