How can a man live almost half a century and not know who he is? I don’t mean subtle personality nuances. I’m talking about core beliefs and feelings that are as plain to others as the ever-expanding nose on his face. If you didn’t know, a man’s nose and ears continue to grow as he ages. Sad but true.

I don’t know myself deep enough. This is the realization I had while driving through a spring snowstorm from Charlotte to Cleveland. I was on my way to meet with a potential client in Cleveland then swing down to Columbus, my hometown, to put a new water heater in my mom’s house. And, of course, hit a bar with my old school friends.

Around the Virginia border, sunny Carolina turned to frosted barren trees and rolling mountains. It was morning and the gray, cloudy sky swirled with gusts of wind and light snow. It was the kind of driving weather that made me think, “Do I have enough life insurance?” Fear of icy roads has a way of creating great self-reflective moments.

The snowy scenery reminded me of Zac Brown Band’s video, Colder Weather. I found the video on YouTube and played it loudly through my beefy Honda Pilot stereo. I was familiar with the song, but by the time I sang along to it ten times I became connected with every word – and a life/marketing lesson.

The singer loves a woman but he always leaves her. He says he wants to see her again but he’s “stuck” in colder weather somewhere far away. But she knows the real reason. “He’s a rambling man, he ain’t never gonna change. He’s got a gypsy soul…and he was born for leaving.” The fact is, he can’t stay put. You can’t lock him down. He loves her but not enough to give up his life on the road.

So what does this have to do with what I learned about myself? And how does this relate at all to marketing? Well, we’ve got a potentially deadly snowstorm, a long journey alone and a guy who won’t commit. Ready? Here we go.

When I started to think about sliding over the rail on highway 77 in Beckley, West Virginia. It became very important to me that a lot of people missed me. I hoped my post-mortem Facebook page would have hundreds of posts confirming that I was a man of value – validation. The need for validation is normal. But how much am I driven by this need? That’s for another post.

The biggest compliment someone can pay another person is that the relationship made them a better person. It addressed a need or a pain point (uh oh, marketing speak) that the person was helpless to change on his own.  Change happened because of the power of motivation. Hearing the frustration of your friend prompted you to give them a vision of how great life would be if they would just throw themselves into overcoming the challenge. You had to reinforce the message a few times, but it worked!

So, are you giving your potential customers a vision or features? Are you selling a generic benefit or relating a story of a specific positive outcome? Are you offering inspiration or a discount? I told you it was a long way around the barn but keep following me. Why can’t you reach a deep connection with your potential and current customers? Two reasons: 1) You don’t know them. and 2) You don’t know YOU. You have to be willing to go deep to cultivate customers into brand advocates.

The man in the song tells the woman what HE thinks is a sincere declaration of his love or how much he values her, “I wanna see you again, BUT…” Right after his statement, she calls bull crap. “You’re a rambler and you’re never gonna change.” He is obviously a grown man who is blind to who he is. Perhaps he’s successful or popular. These things can mask potentially fatal flaws in life and in business.

What are your blind spots? You don’t know! That’s why they’re called blind spots! Your company’s popularity or success can often distract you from seeking the deeper truths about your brand’s perception. Your products are what they are. Some people will like them and others wont. But is there an aspect to your message that reads as bull crap? You might need to take a long marketing drive and think about it. Or, seek some honest feedback from a good woman.

So he’s a Rambler. Is that a bad thing? For her it is. But what if he were to offer her the chance to travel with him? “Come with me Baby. You and me on the road. What an adventure!” Sounds romantic right? Truth is, it’s what she wants. The first line of the song is, “She’d take Colorado if he’d take her with him.” But she must not have verbalized it. And he didn’t ask. Are you asking your customers what they want? It might be on the tip of their tongues.

If he offers to take her with him she might have some questions. What about my cats? Where will I find a good yoga studio? Etc. If he’s prepared and done a little research, he will have answers already in the bag – why? He made the effort to know her desires and concerns.

Do you know her? Do you communicate with your customers with social, surveys or focus groups? Can you find a positive spin on what the market may consider a negative about you? Does this mean you BS people? No. You point out how a negative perception may be a positive attribute for some people. The Canon Rebel DSLR camera isn’t too small and too lightweight, It’s perfect for smaller hands and it’s easy to carry.

Products/companies can live a long life WITH big flaws. 1980’s Toyota’s had crappy door handles. But they sold a lot of them. I’m sure there were car buyers on the fence who knew of the door handle problem and opted for the similar Honda with better handles. Will it take the fear of your product sliding off the road for you to take a long hard look at the product, the market, your customers and your brand?

How can we go without knowing ourselves? We don’t slow down and get deep. We need to ask tough questions of ourselves and not choke on the answers. We need relationships like the woman who knew him and told him the honest truth. There might be more people we can help with our lives and our businesses if we just take the time to connect with needs and wants and help others develop a vision.