Market to your target audienceMarketing can be a dubious art sometimes. It can often seem like your marketing and advertising efforts are wasted. John Wanamaker, owner of America’s first big department stores, was famous for saying, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” He was right, and you may be wondering how this ties in with your ego. It’s because in marketing you may fail. You may try something that is part of the wasteful half of your total budget. You may even fail badly. But the important thing is to learn from it quickly, change your course, and find the 50 percent of marketing that resonates with your target audience.

When I started my career in marketing, we didn’t have the benefit of the internet, which is the greatest marketing teacher we could ever dream of. Today we can see patterns of behavior on the web and adjust our company’s website content often. We can see which pages are most popular and which aren’t holding peoples’ attention. We can add content and change the design to make it more appealing. Metrics like these help people whose ego might otherwise prevent them from seeing the weaknesses of their business. It’s hard to argue with cold hard data, which is readily available from Google analytics. But much of marketing doesn’t have clear-cut facts to base decisions on – sometimes only trial and error will provide you with the info you want. And it is here that your ego can get in the way.

As a business owner, it was my ego or sense of self-esteem that gave me the courage to go out and start my own business in the first place two decades ago. I believed in my dream and was sure others would, too, and luckily, I was right. However, if we are too tied up in our own ego, we are not going to be as willing to try new things since they come with the risk of failing. Yet failing is part of the learning process. Failing fast is key (just pull that Band Aid off!) and learning from your mistakes is paramount; it can be the very reason a business succeeds.

When making marketing choices, it’s also important not to assume that you are the target audience. I used to work for a ski resort where the lift tickets seemed pricey to those of us who worked in the marketing department. That’s because our salaries were a fraction of the average salaries of our targeted audience. We couldn’t make assumptions based on our own budgets or even our own value systems. Many skiers were and still are willing to pay the price because they value the ski experience so deeply.

The same applies to things like pop-up ads. You may hate them, but if people actually click through on them to see what’s being advertised, then they are successful. Again, you are not the target audience, so get your ego out of the way and try new things with your marketing. You may look like a failure one day, but if you adjust your plan and try something different based on your failure, you may be a hero the next day.

I speak to many groups and individuals about social media marketing, and I often hear “how does anyone have time for all of that? I don’t have time to check Facebook ten times a day.” Again, get your ego out of the way. If you are not spending time on social networks, you are in the minority. Americans spend on average eight hours per month on social networks and there are a billion regular users of Facebook, including 600 million mobile users who are checking in on their mobile phones. There are now four billion YouTube views a day and YouTube is second only to Google for searching for information online.

New advertising opportunities such as with Facebook or Google are a good way to experiment with your preconceived notions about who your customer is. You can try running an ad that targets exactly who you think will click on it and run also an ad targeting a new demographic, one you might think is a bad fit. You will receive interesting metrics from the ad reports that could illustrate a huge failure or a huge win.

It is a good idea to have a reality check with yourself and your company on a regular basis. Google your business – see what people are saying. Do a search for what you think people will type into their computers if they were trying to find your company and see what comes up. The results may not match your ego-based expectations. It might be a helpful wake-up call, providing your business with a great opportunity to switch things up a bit and experiment with something new and potentially game changing. Marketing is about finding the way to reach your customers that is perfect right now. Remember, it’s not about you! It’s about your customers and what they want.