Levels of Effort

Not quite a hierarchy of needs, here’s are four kinds of marketing effort, and they make up a cycle.

No Effort

This is the website that’s not designed or promoted. It’s the non-profit that doesn’t have a development officer or the local stationery store that buys the cheapest sign they can find and it says "stationary." This is the hobbyist blog about my ferret or the nervous entrepreneur who spends months designing a business card so she’ll never have to actually go on a sales call. I’m always surprised when I see good work that has no effort put into its marketing, because marketing doesn’t require cash… just belief and effort. And if it’s worth building, it’s probably worth marketing.

This category sort of matches the idea of the child that is too simple to even ask a question.

Right Effort

Here you’ll find a website that is easy to use and builds a permission asset. One that buys AdWords and tests them. You’ll discover a non-profit that has figured out how to write grant proposals that actually get funded. Or a blogger who writes with aplomb and knows how to promote his work.

This is the restaurant with convenient hours or the airline with a frequent flyer program.

Marketers spend much of their time focusing on this sort of effort and how to make it more effective. In fact, it might be your day job.

Too Much Effort

It’s in the eye of the beholder of course, but there are certainly marketers who try too hard. They buttonhole innocent bystanders at trade shows, they have websites filled with popups, popunders, audio riffs and toll free numbers repeated over and over again. They spam people. One reason that many people have dismissed MultiLevel Marketing is because of a bad experience with someone who tried too hard. And we all know about particularly obnoxious non-profits that tried just a little too hard to convert us or raise money.

No (Apparent) Effort

The last level is awfully similar to the first one. That’s the marketer who doesn’t appear to try. The speaker who doesn’t solicit engagements, or the consulting firm that doesn’t have (or need) a salesforce. This is the one that is fascinating and overlooked.

It takes confidence to market with No (Apparent) Effort. It’s a zen thing, and it’s attractive to many people because of the power it projects. We’re drawn to someone who doesn’t try too hard, who is booked enough to not need a booking. When Miles Davis performed with his back to the audience, some people were offended. Others were entranced by his cool.

Graydon Carter just opened a restaurant in New York. No photos of the dining room, not even for the Times. The word PREVIEW on every page of the menu. He’s trying so hard not to try, it shows.

There’s a market distinction here. Some people will buy from a gas station with no marketing because the station is in the right place at the right time. Many people will buy from someone who does marketing the right way and presses the right buttons. And yes, there are a few people who buy things from spam email or from obnoxious websites.

There are many markets, though, where no (apparent) marketing is exactly what the prospect wants. Especially in business to business sales, or in certain media pitches, the less you try, the better you do. As this has become clear, businesses are getting better at marketing without marketing, at trying without (appearing to) try.

Please don’t blog this. It’s a preview.