Sometimes people believe that new businesses should act as-if – as-if you’ve already been there. As-if you’ve got thousands of happy customers around the world. 

By acting as-if, what you’re really trying to say is, “you can trust me because I’ve done this before.” 

The thing is that people trust your reputation more than your direct word. If you’ve really been there and done that – show me, don’t tell me. 

If you’re trying to appear like an established company without having the customer base, you’re going to end up looking like an established company that hasn’t really done much. 

The other thing is that at the beginning, your best customers aren’t the kind of customers that buy from established brands. 

New businesses need early-adopters: people who are OK with helping you figure it out as you go. You don’t find these people by looking like an established brand. You find them by being new and promising to do something interesting sometime in the near future. 

Therefore, the first phase of marketing is about selling a vision. 

Later, after you gain a little ground – after you’ve done a little of what you promised you’d do – that’s when you can move into the next phase of marketing. 

In the second phase of marketing you can start selling the response to your vision. 

You get to switch up the conversation from this is what we will do, to this is what we have already done. 

If you begin viewing your marketing programs as call-and-answer cycles, you’ll see that your customers actually run the process. They get to determine what works, what falls flat, and everything in between. You create something, put it out there, and iterate based on the response. 

The truth is that acting as-if often misses the mark. You don’t know what your business looks like once it’s established because your customers haven’t told you yet. You’re not acting as-if you were established, you’re acting as-if your customers had already spoken. 

Here’s the anti-as-if recipe: 

  1. Clearly define what you came to do. Be honest about where you are now, and define the role that your customers play in the story. 
  2. Tell everyone about it. 
  3. Listen to the response. Collaborate and iterate. 
  4. Package up that response and use it to tell the next group of customers.  
  5. So on, and so forth. Ad infinitum.