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Stop Pushing, Start Engaging: How Marketing Mimics Dating

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • How to woo your audience into a long-term commitment
  • Similarities between marketing and dating

Come on. Admit it. With maybe one exception—the Super Bowl—you fast-forward through commercials when watching your favorite TV programs on your DVR.

You spew an occasional four-letter word when those irritating animated pop-up ads block your Web view and force you to find the "close" option.

You even hate to hear those loudspeaker announcements at the grocery store, interrupting some '80s tune just to tell you that freshly baked bread is now out of the oven and ready to be purchased for pennies. Bread...? You've been struggling to stay away from carbs, for goodness' sake! The last thing you need is another interruption to take you in an unintended direction.

Well, guess what? You're not alone. In fact, how you feel when what you want is interrupted by something you don't want is exactly how everyone else feels when what they want is interrupted by a message you thought they should receive.

Messages interrupt when they aren't wanted. Consequently, your message will be intercepted; and it will never even stand a chance of meeting its mark.

So what's a marketer to do? How do you get noticed when folks just don't seem all that into you and what you have to say?

The answer is easy, and in a way it fundamentally follows everything we've ever learned about dating. Yup, dating. Marketing is akin to courtship, and the rules are simple. Stop stalking. Stop pushing. Start wooing. Start engaging.

Don't believe me? Just read on. Learn how to get your message heard and have your intended targets come to you.

It's All About Them

That's right. Forget you, you, you. Focus on them, them, them. How do you know what matters to your target audiences? All it takes is a little old-fashioned listening.

It's really no different from being on or one of the other online dating sites. You read a person's profile: "I like playing ping-pong, and drinking fresh-squeezed orange juice." You read a few of her blog posts telling you how she spent her day or what thoughts crossed her mind while in the shower. You find out enough to muster up the courage to wink at her, a gentle gesture that puts you out there and lets her know you have something to offer. Maybe she doesn't yet reply. So you might write something witty about a ping-pong tournament and the fact that you live in a home with its own orange tree right in the backyard. Now you've got your intended target's attention.

The point is that you'd never know what interests your target unless you listen to what he or she has to say. And as in dating, birds of a feather tend to flock together. So paying attention to where one person of interest hangs out will lead you to where others with the same interests might be.

In the digital age, it's much easier to track conversations, monitoring and measuring what's being said and how it applies to you and your message. Before long, you'll realize that the topic of interest to you and your business may just be a hot topic for lots of voices in the social sphere—so many voices that you might need help aggregating what's being said so that you can filter through and analyze what you hear.

Dozens of free tools, including Google Reader and BlogPulse, are available to help streamline listening.

Casual Encounters or Long-Term Commitments?

So you've found your perfect pool to swim in, and you've paid attention to what matters to the swimmers. You've even recognized one or two targets who stand out among the crowd—influencers you'd like to get to know better. Great! But now what?

You need a plan. You need to know what, exactly, you want to achieve. Just as in dating, ask yourself whether you are interested in someone "just to hang out"—or might that somebody be "the one"? What do you want out of the relationship? And how are you going to get what you want and satisfy his or her needs as well?

Think back to good old-fashioned courting. Candy, flowers, and love notes are powerful persuaders. The actual content of your message matters, as does the schedule you use to share it. Start by figuring out what you have to offer in relation to what your target audiences want to know. What content assets might draw them to you?

If we were to take our ping-pong-playing, orange juice-drinking dating scenario into the business world, we might produce a how-to video on getting the most juice from an orange or boosting athletic performance with vitamin C. Or we could publish a report on wrist positioning as it relates to various ping-pong paddle handles and how choosing the right tool might improve one's game. When you choose to share your relevant content might best be scheduled for when you know there's a ping-pong tournament in town or at the height of harvest season for oranges.

Determining your goals, mapping out your offerings, and sharing relevant messages that resonate with your target audiences are the keys to winning them over.

Making Your Move, Solidifying the Relationship

So you've got their attention. Bravo! You've gotten them to the altar, maybe. Or, you're definitely hitched. Good for you.

Now, how are you going to stay connected? And how are you going to grow right alongside your intended?

Just as in dating and personal relationships, to keep the spark alive smart businesses have to continually engage their customers. Your digital conversations have to be authentic and deep. You have to continue to monitor the pulse of your audience. You have to be ready to take into account what your audience is thinking and where it's headed, making sure you meet its needs even if that means changing your original plans.

For example, you may find out that although orange juice is still a preferred beverage, your intended target likes to freeze it into popsicles or even add a bit of pineapple or banana to her drink. Or maybe you learn that it's not just the ping-pong paddle's handle that matters, but the cushioning in the player's shoes that allows for more agility with every swing.

Conversation threads and associated content are vital to long-lasting relationships—not just for dating or married couples, but for companies and their customers, too.

Continually monitoring, analyzing, and responding to what you hear and learn is the recipe for maintaining loyal customers who stick with you and take the vow "till death do us part."

(Learn more by tapping into Marketwire's free e-book, Mastering Audience Engagement: Reinventing Your Role in a New Media World.)

(Image courtesy of Bigstock, Couple in Love.)


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Paolina Milana is executive vice-president of global marketing at Marketwire, a full-service newswire and communications workflow solutions provider. She can be reached via

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  • by Mon Oct 24, 2011 via web

    I'm sure you're missing something ... this is how things were done in the days of don juan. Nowadays, a relationship is a two-way street. Is it really expected from me to prostrate myself and seduce a prospect in order for him to open his purse? Then once we've consummated the sale, what next? Do I move onto the next prospect? Am I to continue chasing his/her loyalty - a situation in the commercial world in which there are NO guarantees? Please revisit. There's something fundamentally wrong with your metaphor.

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