Marketing in the Dark

Gambling on change and stability at the same time

If there’s one thing that an innovator quickly learns is that marketing is the secret sauce to success no matter what you’re doing. Whether it’s modifying your restaurant during a pandemic, creating a new service app, or providing a new training program for your clients — marketing is critical.

I am reminded of that every single time I work on my website. I do all the back-end work largely because I can, it’s an opportunity to learn, and it allows me to operate very quickly. I have a wonderful colleague who helps out with some of the visual communication elements from time to time, but otherwise, it’s all up to me.

And I like it like that.

But it’s an understatement to say that it can be a lot of work — required persistently.

Unstable Sands of Marketing

It’s one thing to learn how to program or manipulate a website platform like Wordpress or Squarespace, but it’s another altogether to learn how to make that website do what you want it to do for who you want to do it for.

That’s marketing and that is always a moving target.

A few years ago I interviewed creators as part of a contract that was aimed at providing background research and support to inform the annual 5-year review of the Canadian Copyright standards for the federal government. The interviews were taking place at the time when Instagram was just getting its foothold as a popular medium for creators and where people started selling online through it.

This part of the story stands out because some of these businesses were creating entire communities solely through the Instagram platform and doing well at it. These creators were, mostly on their own, learning how to do the set-up, communications, and all of the work behind the scenes to make their business work and showcase their products and services.

Within a week of submitting my final report, Instagram made a change to its algorithm and means of presenting material to users (less from chronology to one more random — like what we see now, circa January 2021). Some of these creators were decimated. Users had to struggle to find them and the means of communication were entirely upended overnight.

Only some of these creators used Instagram - or relied on it heavily — but nearly all of them were relying on methods that were highly prone to disruption at any moment by a choice from the platforms they work with.

Working on my blog this weekend in advance of some soon-to-be-released programming changes I am reminded and fearful of this. All this work could be for naught should someone or something change for reasons that have nothing to do with me, my readers, or quality and everything to do with my product and all to do with search engines, algorithms, and software platforms.

It’s not just for me — it’s for my clients, too.

Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash