How to market a product you wouldn't use

It’s easier to sell stuff you use yourself. That's why companies give employee discounts.

This way, the staff can genuinely say, “My favorite pasta is the carbonara, but if you’re in the mood for seafood, the scallops are magical.”

But if a product you have to market isn't for you, what should you do?

There will come a day when you won’t be in the exact same demographic and psychographic as your customers. Your job is to connect with them anyway.

Learning to get excited about what your customers get excited about will make you better at every part of your job.

So how do you do that?

“Of course someone would like this!”

“Think like your customer” is Captain Obvious advice.

The key is to go a step beyond: Think of why it’s not only understandable, but why it’s OBVIOUS that your customer would like something.

It's common to say:

  • “Why would anyone read copy that’s that long?"

  • “Why would anyone think this looks good?”

  • “Who would ever buy this??”

When you think those things, try the exercise below:

The “Of Course exercise”

Step 1: When you are shocked someone might like something, tell yourself, “Of course someone would like this!”

Step 2: Make a list of reasons why they’d like it. It will help you imagine being the person who likes [insert an idea that seems weird to you].

Before: “Ugh I hate long copy. Why would anyone read all of this?”

After: “This is a no-brainer! Of course some people like long copy! They like it because..."

It’s not enough to intellectually understand why your customer likes something. You want to FEEL the same excitement they feel. This exercise helps to prompt you into feeling, not just thinking. It lets you soak up the magic of whatever thing you originally found weird.

Don’t be condescending to your customers.

It’s normal to think your choices are the best choices. If you wouldn’t personally buy something, the natural reaction is, “Well what kind of sucker would buy this?”

This is a big no-no. We are not allowed to judge our customers or snub our noses at them. This includes small, sarcastic comments or “jokes.”

This is a judgment-free zone. Not only because you’re a good person, but because you want to be a good marketer. Judgment actually slows your ability to do your job. Don’t feel separate from your customers just because you wouldn’t buy what they buy.

If worldviews are hats, learn to take them on and off.

A great marketer can put on the hat of different POVs. And be able to take the hats on and off.

Let’s try an exercise. Finish the sentence below:

“Whole Foods is…”

  • “Too bougie. I’ll know I’ve made it in life when I can afford to shop there.”

  • “Too mass. I prefer farmer’s markets with more locally sourced products.

  • “Too impractical. Who eats organic regularly anyway?”

There are people who want value. People who want convenience. People who want novelty. People who like Doritos over freeze-dried dragon fruit, and vice versa.

These are all different worldviews, and as a marketer, you can practice putting on each of these hats.

This deep empathy will help you decide whether someone is even worth marketing to — or if you should try to reach a different kind of person entirely.

There are very few things that “everyone hates” or “everyone loves.”

Think of something you would NEVER buy. Something you really dislike. Something you might even say you hate.

If you think “hate is a strong word,” that’s the point. The point is to go to the extreme when you try on a different hat. You’re like a rubber band that will snap back closer to where you are. In the end, your brain will be more flexible.

Here’s a polarizing example: cruises.

Do you hate cruises? Then say to yourself, “Of course people like cruises! They are great because…”

Do you love cruises? Then say to yourself, “Of course people hate cruises! They are terrible because…”

The next time you need to market something you don’t personally use, try the Of Course exercise.

MarketingWes KaoMarketing, Empathy