Intellect as an Impediment to Successful Marketing and Selling

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After watching The Foundation video it struck me that an intellect can be an impediment to successful marketing and selling. I’ve heard some variation of this before but the aforementioned video was an aha moment when it all came together.

Have you ever heard about the curse of knowledge? Or cognitive bias? Basically, if a person knows something he/she assumes that everybody else also know that. This leads to omissions, assumptions and messages that don’t reach target audience. And it’s not because the average audience is stupider in general, they’re just not so fluent in this particular narrow topic and your language (The Secret Language Of Millionaires in the video). I have to fight myself tooth and nail with this bias when I’m writing my programming books!

Sharing my musings on Twitter led me to Steve Jobs who no doubt was intelligent and very good at marketing:

I think smart people have to work extremely hard to “dumb” down their marketing messages. A good example is the original Apple iPod ad that used X number of songs instead of Y number of Megabytes.

Original Apple iPod

Original Apple iPod

Another revelation was that all this time many people that I know (startupers) and I were doing it all wrong. Almost always we start with products instead of starting with problems. In the best case, we pick out our own problems to solve (some do it successfully, like Evernote founders). But where are the guarantees that our problems are not just emotionally exaggerated and the market for them is big enough? Instead we should identify the pain points first and try to pre-sell. Yes, pre-selling (before building) can solve this dilemma. Let consumers vote with their wallets (actually debit/credit cards). What if we can’t sell our service or product without it being ready, or without all the fluff like a catchy domain name, fabulous design, beautiful logo and half-a-dozen social media profiles? Then, the problem is not too big for us to work on it anyway. Not all ideas should be executed and not all problems are worth solving. :-)

Last night, I did exactly that. I created a Gumroad page for Introduction to Express.js video course. It took me half an hour, and it already has sales! The conclusion is to go lean early or suffer later.

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Azat Mardan
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