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Marketing to Chumps

Are you in charge of marketing for your company or personal brand? If so, you’ve probably had to spend some serious time thinking about who you market to.

You build a picture: age, geography, personality and so on. You create the image of a person so that you can hone your message. But let me ask you something important: is the image of the person you’ve created a chump?

A chump will not be up to date on best practices in your industry. A chump will fall prey to buzzwords. A chump will get distracted by variations of the same nonsense instead of looking beyond the standard marketing approach.

Being a chump doesn’t mean that someone is stupid. All of us are chumps at something. All it really means is you haven’t done your homework yet. Well, more specifically, it hasn’t yet occurred to you there’s homework to do. In the context of the Four Stages of Learning put together by Noel Burch, a chump would be part of the first category.

Stage 1. Unconsciously unskilled: we don’t know what we don’t know. We are inept and unaware of it.

Stage 2. Consciously unskilled: we know what we don’t know. We start to learn at this level when sudden awareness of how poorly we do something shows us how much we need to learn.

Stage 3. Consciously skilled: trying the skill out, experimenting, practicing. We now know how to do the skill the right way, but need to think and work hard to do it.

Stage 4. Unconsciously skilled: if we continue to practice and apply the new skills, eventually we arrive at a stage where they become easier, and given time, even natural.

In the world of poker, the first category is the guy who is unable to spot the sucker at the table but hasn’t contemplated the fact that it might be him.

On one level or another, you’re choosing a spot on the above continuum to market to.

There’s clearly money in the first and second categories, and sometimes even fame. On that half of the scale, your work has a lot less to do with research or exacting details and a lot more to do with the presentation. And while this usually gives me the heebie-jeebies, I don’t think it is inherently evil. It can be a great way to reach across the divide for some beginners.

That is, unless you’re putting them at unnecessary risk

I don’t actually think there’s an inherent (im)morality in choosing to market to chumps. The ethical question here is whether they’ll still be chumps by the time you’re done with them.

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