5 Ways Quentin Tarantino Can Help You Increase Reader Engagement

From KissMetrics:

I’ll try to keep this clean—although Tarantino wouldn’t. This is, after all, a corporate blog, and there might be children reading.

Although Tarantino has only directed 17 titles (one of them — Love Birds in Bondage — unfinished, and another — Kill Bill: Vol. 3 — not yet released, there isn’t a movie buff in the world who doesn’t revere his name. What transferable principles can we take from his cult success, and apply to your marketing?

I think at least five:

1. Don’t just pay lip-service to quality

When Tarantino releases a new film, people see it for the same reason they watch and rewatch his old films: he crafts them with great care.

This is how he has developed a cult following instead of just a loose group of people who enjoy his work—and it is how you can do the same. What you create must be genuinely excellent; which means you must genuinely care about it being excellent. The quality of your work and the quality of your fans is directly proportional.

There’s an inverse correlation here too. You may have noticed that quality and quantity tend to be mutually exclusive. The more you try to appeal to the widest audience, the better your chances of producing rubbish. Look at Twilight as a perfect case study. Similarly, hoping to produce something good as a matter of averages by simply producing as much as possible is also a poor strategy. Take Hollywood as a prime example.

Indeed, this is why the term “cult following” exists in the first place. Content producers have always known that a small number of religiously fanatical followers is better than a large number of consumers who find you only mildly entertaining. It’s not just that strong, narrow appeal is a good indicator of high-quality content—although if you’re crafting something truly excellent it will not appeal to everyone.

It’s also a matter of money. If you have one thousand fans who love you so much they’ll pay for everything you produce, you can make a decent living—whether you’re selling web apps or pottery. 1,000 people who will spend even just $100 on you every year makes for a decent income if you’re a solopreneur. Compare that to having 100,000 lukewarm followers who will mostly spend $0 on you. By my calculations, 100,000 × 0 = $0 a year.

I’m sure you’re sold on quality—no one reading this blog really wants to produce crap, I don’t think. But aside from the general advice to not feel bad about having a skinnier content lineup than your bulk-minded competitors, what can you do to ensure you are crafting the finest content you can?

2. Figure out what your customers actually want, and give it to them

Tarantino consistently gives his audience stories about antiheroes, badassery, and stone-cold killers finding redemption by taking on an even colder world. In the words of Nathan Ford, sometimes bad guys make the best good guys.

What do Tarantino’s customers actually want? They might say they just want an entertaining flick. But that’s just because people don’t really think through their underlying motivations and desires. At a more basic level, they want to feel involved in particular kinds of stories and characters. Not just any entertaining flick will do. And going deeper, we might discover they want to feel like bigger badasses than they really are. They might find Tarantino’s movies a way to vicariously escape their frustratingly tame lives for a couple of hours. To feel the coolness of expertly wielding a pistol—or the F-word.

What Tarantino gives them is more than an entertaining flick. He gives them something they want on a much more subliminal emotional level. Which is exactly what you must to for your customers as well.

This might sound friggin’ obvious, but if it is, why do so few businesses do it?

I think it’s because it is so hard.

It’s easy to know what our customers say they want. To take a classic example, if you sell drills your customers will probably say they want…drills. It’s also easy to imagine what your customers want. If you sell web designs, you might imagine your customers want online presences they can feel proud about. But in my experience, people don’t want drills—they want holes. And they don’t want online presences—they want more leads and sales.

But even that is simplistic. Drill buyers don’t really want holes — they want to hang a dartboard, which will be a gathering point at their next party, which will give them kudos from their friends. And web design clients don’t want leads or sales. They want to increase their income to the point where they can hire someone to run the business for them, so they can spend more time playing badminton.

What people want comes down to fairly straightforward emotional desires or fears. Unfortunately, figuring out just exactly what these are can be pretty time-consuming and difficult—since we so seldom understand them in ourselves, how much harder is it to understand them in others. So most people don’t bother.

But if you take the time and effort to do it, you get an infallible foundation on which to base all your marketing. What you say is guaranteed to be interesting, rather than hit-and-miss. People will want to hear it every time.

Continue reading the rest of the story on KissMetrics