I was an awkward kid in high school and, at the time, my dating life was a lot like a Ferrari – I didn’t have one. Much to the dismay of my parents and teachers, my poor grades were a great indicator of how much time I spent contemplating my situation and attempting to change it, but I still didn’t have either sitting in my garage. The reality that took me another six years to realize was that I never had a garage in the first place. I had spent so much time looking at other people that I had never looked at myself.
In my early twenties, I made the decision to break off an engagement and end a two year relationship. While the situation at hand made the decision a rather simple one to make – it wasn’t easy. After the breakup, I needed to disconnect from reality and decided to head south to stay with my parents for a few weeks. Alone in my car, the twenty-seven hour drive forced me to do some much needed self-reflection. I looked back on our relationship and wondered what had happened. Why had something that started so blissfully crashed and burned so horrifically?
As I looked back at where we were in our lives when we met and compared it to where we were now – I noticed something curious. In regards to our relationships with our friends and families as well as the growth of our professional lives – were were both very happy, we just weren’t happy together. It took a few weeks for that thought to fully formulate into the realization that when two people are dating they can either grow together or they can grow apart – my parents’ marriage of twenty-five years fell into the category of the former while my relationship with my now ex-fiancé was clearly the latter. With this, I began to heal and started looking for the woman that would resonate with the “new” me and grow together with me for decades to come.
Being forced to look back at my life when I had met my ex-fiancé, I realized something else – I had made a massive amount of progress in building my garage over the years were were together. I was proud of how much I had invested into my personal development and how much I had grown as a person. I felt like I had just emptied my garage of a car that clearly wasn’t the right fit and now was intent to build the kind of garage that would attract the Ferrari I sought. I had learned that doing as I loved would help me to find those that love as I do so I focused all my energies on becoming a better person – not better than others … better than I was yesterday. I decided to jump into dating not to find my Ferrari, but as an exercise in building the perfect garage for it (my future wife) to park.
True to my personality and belief that anything worth doing is worth overdoing – I jumped into this process rather aggressively. I created a profile on five different dating websites, joined thirteen different networking/activity groups, and even started interviewing (as well as surrounding myself with) people who were in successful marriages. I attended an average of four events each week and went on over one hundred and fifty dates in the year following my breakup. Regardless of where I was going or what I was doing I always made it a point to leave the house asking, “am I broadcasting my expectations on a world I cannot control or am I open to the education that this experience will teach me about myself?” When the answer was the latter, I charged out the door with a smile on my face.
Through my focus on communication, with myself and with the world around me, I’ve always seen a direct correlation between my personal development and my abilities as a marketer. The more I learned about myself, the more creative and effective my marketing became … so I pushed even harder. My goal was self-education, but the side effects of this process were equally rewarding. While I, to this day, have still never had a one night stand I have most certainly cultivated my fair share of ‘friends with benefits’ relationships and again I discovered – communication was the key.
Looking back, it was the women who I had gone out of my way to clarify my intentions with at the time that are still very much in my life today. When I saw things moving beyond a platonic friendship I would find an opportunity to open a conversation and ask them what they were looking for. Sometimes they told me how they were looking for something serious and were very assertive about not wanting anything casual. Though in many cases they would tell me how they liked me, they enjoyed being with me, but they just weren’t ready for anything serious. Translation: they were open to a ‘friends-with-benefits’ relationship, but weren’t looking for attachment or commitment. I progressively found it more and more interesting how many people knew that, because they didn’t know what they wanted in a relationship, it was better to commit to being “unattached” so that they too could work on themselves and figure it out. I had assumed that everyone was shopping for their Ferrari, but had come to realize that I wasn’t the only person putting more effort into the construction of my garage.
I saw that, while the conversations to clarify intentions were extremely awkward, they were highly beneficial to both parties. We were able to share what we knew about what we wanted, hear the same from the other person, avoid getting hurt or hurting someone else, remain friends regardless of what happened, and (most surprisingly) strengthen our relationships (as friends or as partners) just by virtue of having the discussion. It wasn’t long before I made a powerful connection:
Dating and internet marketing are one and the same.
The internet is the bar.
Your website is your house.
Your email list is your bedroom.
Customer acquisition is, well… you know.
The metaphor can be carried even further…
The platonic friendship is a passive email subscriber.
The friend with benefits is a ‘once in a while’ customer.
The wife is a lifelong customer that will buy anything you offer.
Yea, that metaphor is fucking hysterical … but you and I both know it’s just as true. For some people, dating is easy while marketing is difficult and for others the opposite is true. With a slew of colorful experiences in high school, I had learned how to laugh at myself when it came to dating and it was marketing that, at the time, I was pushing myself to learn. Regardless of your experiences, one can help to educate you about the other. So let’s pretend for a moment that you and I are sitting at a bar as friends and having a few drinks so I can explain this to you in the same way I’ve broken it down in the past.
A quick note to the women reading this: while the metaphor I’m about to draw out really only makes sense from the male perspective, I’m certain that you not only will understand the lessons being shared … you’ll likely appreciate what I’m trying to teach the men in the audience.
The process first starts by clarifying the the type of relationship you’re looking for, what you want to offer the other person, and what you hope to receive in return. Are you looking for a short term relationship or a long term one? Are you looking for a now-and-then purchaser or a lifetime customer? Both have their merits, but as the saying goes, “if you leave the house without a destination in mind all you’ll get is lost.”
In dating, people who enter a relationship without a destination will often absorb into the other person and cease to truly be themselves. Before learning this lesson, I spent years of my life pretending to be someone else. When we broke up, regardless of why, I would experience what I later referred to as “snapback” – where I would rediscover all the passions I had unknowingly given up or ignored throughout the relationship. In marketing, snapback happens when a customer returns a product or cancels a subscription and more often than not – they’re left with some pretty harsh feelings towards the company for “tricking” them into doing something that wasn’t a good fit in the first place. As a marketer, you can avoid this by facilitating the same intention clarifying conversation I use in dating with new or prospective customers. Whether you do this on a landing page, sales page, auto-responder email, or an in person call – tell them what they can expect from this new relationship with your company (or with you) and make sure to deliver as promised. This is one of the single most powerful elements to creating raving fans.
The awkward conversation determining the nature of the relationship being formed should happen on the sales page (before the clothes come off) … not after the conversion (when unmatched intentions will quickly turn into harsh feelings). When you have the conversation, accept the fact that it may scare people away from converting – that’s a POSITIVE RESULT as they weren’t the right people in the first place. Converting the wrong people will damage your reputation and lead to massive pain in the long run – don’t learn that lesson the hard way.
You should never try to “convert” someone into a different way of thinking. If someone is only interested in a casual fling (now-and-then purchaser) then don’t attempt to trick them into a serious relationship (lifelong customer) as it will only lead to disaster. I cannot stress the importance of this enough – do NOT try to make someone conform to your intentions. Of course people will have urges to alter their pitch or skip this conversation entirely in order jump to the conversion. In dating it’s hormones driving towards the prospect of sex and in marketing it’s neurotransmitters driving towards the prospect of money – regardless of where the urge is based, letting it control you will have progressively more negative outcomes. Instead of forcing a square peg into a round hole, spend your time seeking out the people who already fit the mold you’ve created as your goal.
The internet is the bar so don’t treat it like your bedroom. Sending someone directly to a sales page before they’ve visited your website is the equivalent of walking into a bar and immediately asking a woman to sleep with you (even skipping the process of first taking her home). Sure, there are going to be some women who will accept that proposition, but they aren’t looking to park in your garage for more than a night and they’re assuming that you know as much. Marketing operates by the same principals – if you try to foster a quick sale to then convert it into a lifelong customer you’re going to experience friction. Take your time, get to know people, and you’ll foster stronger relationships that withstand the test of time – regardless of if they’re a now-and-then purchaser or a lifelong customer.
Use the bar as a means to establish rapport. The bar (as well as the internet) affords you the opportunity to meet new people, ask questions to get to know them, and share your relevant experiences. In this way, bars are a lot like social networks. There will always be men that try to trick, manipulate, and otherwise coerce women into coming home with them – these are the scammers and spammers. There will be men that will deliver an unwarranted diatribe about how amazing they are – these are the narcissistic marketers. Then there are men who genuinely want to listen, engage, and forge new relationships – these are the men that women want in their lives. They’re not being fake, they’re being honest. These are the men that women always complain they’re unable to find … why not be one of those men?
This was an email I received after launching My Social Sherpa and it’s a great example of what happens when you venture out to the internet looking to forge relationships by offering value. It’s easily one of the most powerful compliments I’ve ever received and a great example of the outcomes fostered by being the marketing equivalent of a man that women are so desperately looking to find.
All too often people assume that just because someone is on their website that they’ll also want to be on their email list. Remember, your website is your house and your email list is your bedroom – just because someone comes to your house doesn’t mean they’ll want to end up in your bedroom. In the case of Angela, she came to my website without me even needing to ask her because I offered value. Sometimes this is an article, a video, or a free e-book and sometimes it’s a movie, a bottle of wine, or a back massage. Regardless, once someone arrives you’ve got to deliver as promised and abide by the “no funny business” policy. Sure, you can go for a kiss, but don’t expect that by virtue of coming to your house she will want to kiss you – wait until the time is right.
If you deliver on your earlier promises and continue to add value to the relationship you just might find yourself in the bedroom. This is where I’ve seen most great marketers freeze up. They’ve got a beautiful woman sitting on their bed, they’re making out, and they’re deathly afraid of going for the bra clasp because they don’t want to ruin the relationship they’ve invested so much into forging. If she’s in your bed making out with you then it’s safe to assume that she’d be willing to take things further. If you try to make a move and she shoots you down – respect the objection. If you’ve put forth the effort to lay the foundation of the relationship, respecting her objection will only serve to strengthen the connection between you. When someone is on your email list there are numerous ways you can get them to take the next step, but the reality is that their pants won’t come off … I mean, their credit cards won’t come out unless you make a move.
In dating you’re limited to finding one wife, but in marketing you can have endless raving fans and lifelong customers. While only the latter is repeatable, the process for forging either relationship is fundamentally the same. When it comes to dating, I’ve spent the last few years getting the equivalent of my masters degree and am likely almost done with my doctorate. In those years I have learned more about myself, my communication with other people, and my abilities as a marketer than in any other period of my life. I’m still single, but I have built what I believe to be a fantastic garage (that’s perpetually being improved) and have become drastically more clear on what car I’d like to see parked there.
If you’re a marketer and you’re married… you really have no reason to believe that you don’t already know what you’re doing because you’ve done it already. If you’re single, get out into the world and get your education. Keep a journal of your experiences and the lessons that you learn while questioning your biases and how it all can relate to marketing. Empower yourself to take chances, the more glorious the failure – the greater the lesson you will learn. Most importantly of all, learn to laugh at yourself with the help of others … and submit your stories to the community or leave a comment below.