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Avoid This Irresistible Marketing Temptation

And save yourself from certain rejection.


See if you can honestly answer yes.

Have you ever been emotionally attached to a product or service that was created for the masses?

Have you ever gone to that crazy place — constantly search for something until giving in and buying it, put the sticker on your laptop, bought the shirt, tagged your water bottle, paid to be in the exclusive online community?

All for something that was promised to be the one solution for everyone.

Probably not.

In fact, I’d place a huge bet that you’ve avoided something specifically because it was supposed to be for everyone. And, rolled your eyes at it. I’m with you.

Since we know that about ourselves, we wouldn’t forget to tap into that mindset when we’re the ones designing products, services or messaging. Would we?

No. We don’t forget.

We just give into a temptation.


When We Face It

We all have our own version of what a hit would look like. Or at least something close. We can see it.

That’s ok, who can blame us — we need that vision in order to make it real.

And we can imagine achieving that vision, which would help us earn whatever reward or validation we’re looking for. Still ok.

What’s not ok is forgetting this.

Even if launch something that’s massively superior to everything available, we still have to break habits and win customers. Customers that are already comfortable with trusted products, services and relationships.

It takes tons of focus and effort to work our way from the early adopters to the large chunk of the market that isn’t asking for change at all.

So to change anything, or at least something worth caring about, everyone other than the early adopters has to be influenced. Some series of steps (our marketing plan) has to happen in order to do the convincing.

At the moment when we think about that process — it’s easy to wonder if the steps might be too hard or take too long — that’s exactly where a temptation waits for us.

The temptation of a shortcut.

Most of us have taken it before. A lot of people take it.

We usually recognize that it doesn’t feel right, but there’s something really strong that pushes us towards it.


What It Looks Like

“The relentless pursuit of mass will make you boring, because mass means average, it means the center of the curve, it requires you to offend no one and satisfy everyone.” — Seth Godin

The path to create a meaningful product or service feels long. Which makes sense because we have a lot of influencing to do.

We can’t see the end most of the time. All we can see are the obstacles.

When we see a shortcut it’s hard not to look. To make it even harder, it feels like it’s always there.

And it shows us something we like. “Everyone” loving our product or service.

It seems, not only faster, but easier. And offers us something we don’t have. Certainty.

So to get that certainty, shouldn’t we just go for “everyone?”

After we’ve seen a seductive offer like that, we have to decide whether we’re taking it or not.

Three things will push us towards the right way; or the wrong way depending on how we look at it — faith, courage and focus.

If we lose faith in our process, the process that it takes to create fanatics and help us spread the word, we take the shortcut.

If we lose enough courage to be bold and different. To be specific. Shortcut.

If we listen to the noise, it damages our faith. It’s easier to give in to fears and get distracted. Distracted by the noise that blocks our focus even more. Shortcut.

Imminent danger hides on the shortcut, though, that we can’t see — being boring and forgettable.

Which, almost always, leads to emphatic rejection.

Not of us as a person, of course. Rejection of what we put into the market.

“It’s tempting to make a boring product or service for everyone. Boring because boring is beyond criticism.” [1]

And, the scariest criticism is disguised in a word that actually has some of the magic we need — that could us help create fanatics that love our brand.

A certain word that works against us in order to scare us enough to make the shortcut feel right.

We’re afraid of being a niche. Because that’s bad, right?


A Strength In Disguise

Niche — a place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted. [2]

For our businesses, our niche is the secret sauce. The combination of the unique awesomeness in our product or service, and our specific target market.

Sounds like a winning combination, right?

Here’s the challenge, though — niche is usually a negative label. To politely say that something can’t scale. Or doesn’t have broad appeal.

The big companies routinely use the word niche to shoot down promising products or messages all the time. In fact, they routinely pay six figures on research where the main finding is whether or not a something has “broad appeal.”

I’m not picking on them, but highlighting the fact that our small businesses aren’t the only ones facing the fear. Or taking the shortcut sometimes.

When niche is used negatively, it breaks the virtuous cycle of our three things- distracting our focus from intimately knowing who our customers are and delivering for them with our own superpowers.

We spend hours grinding to define and build out what we’re best at. And who we serve. Our own space.

Operating outside of that seems crazy. Irrational.

I think that we’d all agree that fear is plays a big part in taking us out of the rational world.

So, what can we do to keep our courage?

Re-frame niche in a way that works better for us, and is closer to the truth— focused and fit. Which is the strength we need to overcome our fear.

Define our niche. Own it. Launch it. Keep listening. Iterate.

Because our tribes are looking to identify with something; feel something; be a part of something with specific meaning. We can keep our faith through by focusing on solving our tribes’ problems.

Our responsibility is to help define that meaning and deliver as much of it as we can through our products and services. We can strengthen our courage even more through service.

And, only when we deliver that meaning will our tribes want more people to know that they’re a part of something; and bring the people they care about into the group.

The bringing along is what helps us catch on. It dramatically lifts our odds. If we leave the right path too early, those odds get close to zero.


Thriving In Uncertainty

“The challenge for most people who seek to make an impact isn’t winning over the mass market. It’s the micro market. They bend themselves into a pretzel trying to please the anonymous masses before they have fifty or one hundred people who would miss them if they were gone.” — Seth Godin

Look at some of the things people love in our current world.

They weren’t marketed to “everyone” and then stumbled into success because a tricky ad campaign or finding some hidden similarity shared by all people.

Products people obsess over and can’t live without like Peloton and Snapchat did the opposite - starting out being something very specific. For someone very specific.

Even when we cringe at some of the products or brands that others obsess over, we know they got something right. People would miss them if they disappeared. They’re just not right for us.

So, when we map out the path for our own products and services it’s easy, and tempting, to only see the endpoint and ignore everything in between. The points where we create all the meaning.

And not following those points is a shortcut, which we take sometimes out of fear of being a niche.

Which we’re not scared of anymore. Now we’re primed. More aware.

When we hear someone else or our own voices talk about “casting a wide net” or “creating broad appeal” our internal alarms will light up.

Because we know that’s giving in to the illusion of “everyone.” Giving up. Avoiding the uncertainty of putting our unique product or service in the market to be judged.

The only certainty is “everyone” definitely won’t love anything we do — when was the last time 100% of people agreed on anything?


Which is all the certainty we need to stop “everyone” from leading us away from our winning combination — our niche.


[1] Seth Godin, This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See, 2018.

[2] Merriam-Webster

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