Whose side are you on?

A recent spam message offered me the opportunity to get “10–15 appointments every week” for my business, as if more meetings is the secret to success. These cold emails, messages, or calls are unwelcome because they’re not interested in me.

I, like you, get annoyed by the unsolicited LinkedIn and email messages I get offering me services I couldn’t possibly be interested in.

A recent spam message offered me the opportunity to get “10–15 appointments every week” for my business, as if more meetings is the secret to success.

These cold emails, messages, or calls are unwelcome because they’re not interested in me.

They’re interested in their goals, their sales quotas, their lead gen targets.

These businesses only care about what they’re selling, their features and benefits, hoping that by bombarding me with unwanted information I’ll change years-long purchasing habits.

The problem is that small business owners and consultants can see these tactics in the market and think that it’s right thing to do. They can hope that enough cold emails or LinkedIn messages will in some way “generate demand” for their products or services.

But as Bob Moesta said, we don’t create demand, “we uncover demand.”

“The struggling moment creates demand.”

I can’t want something until I have a problem to be solved, a struggle to overcome, or a dream to fulfill. Yes, marketing can remind me of those problems or inspire that dream, but demand is created in me, not in an unwanted sales email.

As the famous Ted Levitt expression goes, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

People don’t want what we’re selling, and they definitely don’t want to hear about it. They want a solution to a problem.

Our job is to understand what they want out of their life, their day, their job, their relationship, their career—and demonstrate how our business is best suited to help them overcome or achieve it.

And we need to know the moments at which our ideal customers are likely to experience a struggle that makes them realize there’s got to be a better way.

Moesta calls this “Demand-side Sales.” It’s not about the supply side or what we have to offer. It’s about the customer and the demand that gets generated in their own mind.

When you take your customers’ side, you see that they don’t want to compare the number of services you have against your competitors.

They don’t want to contrast your fees per job against a series of other options.

They don’t want to get a cold LinkedIn message or call from you.

And unless their only passion in life is getting a deal—which is a customer red flag anyway—they don’t want to make a long and agonizing decision about costs.

They don’t want the “better option”—they want the very best solution to their problem.

And there’s simply no way to spam our contact list into thinking we’re the very best option. If we were truly the best, would we be so desperate for leads?

It’s not that cold outreach doesn’t work—it can generate leads.

But if we’re untargeted or aggressive, we’ll soon find ourselves spending on lead generation faster than we’re growing margin. Because for every lead we get, we’ve burned dozens of potential relationships with unsolicited sales pitches.

What are we building faster—our roster of clients or of annoyed recipients of our unsolicited messages?

If it’s the latter, there’s a ticking clock that will run out once more people dislike us than love us. And we’ll precipitate a toxic spiral that will only get worse as we throw more and more aggressive tactics against the problem.

Pretty soon, we’ll have a reputation as a spammer, not as an expert.

Yes, “everyone does it.” But almost everyone will eventually fail—not in spite of, but because they copied someone else’s aggressive tactics.

The great, historic success stories you read about don’t start with, “One day I saw what everyone else was doing and I decided I could do it, too.” They start with a dream, a purpose, and a unique approach to something everyone else was doing the same old boring, ineffective way.

The cardinal rule in marketing is that, if everyone’s doing it, it’s the wrong thing to do.

So we’ve got to take a different side.

We’ve got to take the side of our customers. We need to understand their struggle better than our own, and we need to be there for them when it happens.

Reinforcing our marketing position—our unique place in the market and in the lives of our customers—at the moment of our customers’ struggle, spins the flywheel, generates word of mouth, and establishes us as a leader in a particular category.

It makes us the best option for someone in particular, instead of merely the most persistent or tenacious salesperson.

“But where are my customers?” you might ask. Or, “how can I reach them when they’ll want to hear from me?”

Those are the exact questions a strategy answers.

If you have a strategy, you know where your customers are. You know where they go for information, for help, for support, for advice. You know the organizations they frequent, the media they consume, and the businesses like yours that they’ve explored.

If we don’t know that, we don’t have a strategy. And if we don’t have a strategy, we’re hoping to succeed by accident. We’re hoping to get lucky, with all the odds lined up against us.

It’s only by understanding our customers’ true desires, challenges, and struggles that we can build a sustainable business that grows from profit, instead of one in a desperate gambit to grow into profit through ceaseless spamming.

So let’s spend more time thinking about what our customers truly want.

Let’s think about when they want it, and how we’re best suited to help them get it.

And let’s build a strategy to help them see how we can support them.

Let’s take their side for a change.