Do You Have an Enemy?
Here’s Why You Need to Find One

image of Joffrey in King of Thrones

Seriously, it’s time to find a good enemy. Not sure why?

Effective marketing in a low-trust world means developing a bond with your prospects through your content marketing. One great way to do this is to share a perceived common enemy with your readers.

Now, before you run off to write that rant about the fellow blogger you love to hate, let me explain. While the common enemy you share with your readers can be a person, most likely it won’t be. It’s likely a group, thing, ailment, or a conceptual fear.

The “enemy” is whatever is troubling your ideal prospect, because your solution happens to be the path to victory. Something is standing in the way of your prospective customer’s goals, and you’ve got the answer. But first you’ve got to establish that bond.

The key is not to rant, rave or bash the enemy, but to provide an underlying theme that shows you’re all in it together against the enemy. When framed that way, you’re not a salesperson; rather, you’re a comrade who can lend a hand. Establishing a thematic enemy allows you to focus on providing solutions without coming across like you’re hard selling, and is a perfect technique for white papers, tutorials and blogging in general.

Want a few examples?

  • Let’s say you’re a discount real estate broker. Your enemy is high real estate commissions and greedy and overpaid Realtors. It doesn’t matter that this isn’t necessarily true—it’s what your ideal prospects believe and want to avoid.
  • Or maybe you’re a nutritionist or someone selling natural health products. Your enemy is obesity, diabetes, low self esteem, the FDA, and greedy corporations who peddle processed foods filled with empty calories.
  • How about a search engine marketing specialist? Your enemy could be the snake-oil salesmen who give the industry a black eye, it could be other forms of ineffective advertising that businesses throw money away on, or it could be the search engines themselves.

The key is to find the prospect’s pre-existing enemy and align against that common foe. It’s possible to introduce a new enemy to an audience, but you’ll have a much harder time of it than if you simply identified an adversary that’s already troubling the mind of the prospect.

Here are a few things to look out for with this tactic:

  1. Don’t make the wrong enemy. A misguided attack against someone or something the prospect is in favor of will leave you out in the cold.
  2. This strategy only works with problem and solution scenarios. You’ll strike out trying to create an enemy, for example, when you’re selling lifestyle products and some luxury items.
  3. Don’t dwell on the enemy. Establish the underlying theme in your writing, and then focus on solutions in the form of benefits, satisfied customer stories and applications.

Uniting against a common perceived enemy can be extremely effective at forming a bond with your readers, when used in moderation and your solution is a good match. So, give it some thought—do you actually have an enemy (or two) after all?

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Comments

  1. Another great post – thanks!

    I’m going to go and sit in the garden for a while, watch my cat prowling and generate some ideas for thematic enemies…

    Joanna

  2. Great insight and advice. Another technique that people might try is to make up a word that embodies the “enemy.” I’m not sure how easy it is, because it happened almost by accident for us, but it is sure effective. The enemy we engage with is a “disease” called Adultitis. It’s something people laugh about, but at the same time, they can relate to the problem and rally around our cause.

  3. Great post. I can understand how uniting your readers under a common cause against some ‘enemy’, but I can’t help but feel concerned about alienating or offending other readers.

    In the blogging world, I think it would be a great tactic to employ when planning a new blog, before you establish specific readership. If you have an established community, then you run the risk of displeasing some of them.

    Can anybody else add to my thoughts?

  4. Interesting. Troy, I think you do not need to find a “real” enemy and attack it, like a blogger or a company.

    The concept can be abstract as Brian mentioned. If you blog about blogging, for instance, you probably want to ally with your readers and fight poorly designed blogs and the like.

    Does it make sense?

  5. For JavaScript sites(like mine), this choice is easy – all serious javascript programmers hate IE – Internet Explorer.

    I never knew it – but I was doing the things you said in this article. Sure, I have had my share of rants about IE – but most of the articles focus on how to work around the problems people face in IE.

    Great Article.

  6. Did you write this after watching last night’s episode of Heroes? :-)

    —————————————-
    “I said people *need* hope, Nathan. But they *trust* fear.” – Linderman

  7. The Ruby and Ruby on Rails community has commonly used Java as its “enemy” although, in theory, it should be something closer to home like Python. The “enemy” is Java’s verbosity and “enterprise” reputation, and nothing gets traffic like a blogger slating Java and proclaiming how great Ruby is ;-)

  8. Ranting and raving doesn’t seem to work. People do it on their blogs and I watch the hits go down. Personal attacks don’t seem to work too well either but they keep doing it. I think the internet is kind of like junior high.

  9. I’m developing a web application for churches called Plaid which is “pitted” against bloated and expensive Church Management Software.

  10. Been reading the 48 Laws of Power, Brian?

    Great post, most strategists agree having a common cause with your audience creates a bond that won’t easily break.

  11. Been reading the 48 Laws of Power, Brian?

    Nope, this is a fairly tried and true copywriting technique. Although I did pick up a few titles for my reading list from your recent recommended books post. I’ll check out “48″ as well.

  12. Great tip! I’m a dietitian, so I suppose I have quite a lot of ‘enemies’ out there, you mentioned some in your post!

    I never thought about it like this before though.

    Many thanks!

  13. I’m a Marxist blogger so I already have an enemy. Though mine’s a bit more real and concrete because I’m not trying to sell something, but it seems to work pretty well as a lot of people can identify with all the hatred I share of the system.

  14. Brian;

    Interesting take…

    I think what you define as “enemy” I define as problems.

    How might this be applied in a business-to-business context?

    Mike

  15. Here’s another example: Your an Austrian egomaniac selling a political vision. Your enemies are backstabbers who undermined the war effort and caused the enemy to collapse.

  16. Interesting post.

    p/s: But, the url is a bit ugly..

  17. Focus is on “bonding with the readers” not on the enemy! “Enemy” is more powerful than “Problem” From ‘salesman’ to being ‘comrade’ will result in bonding. Great!

  18. I am so glad that there is such blog with so many generous articles to help new bloggers like me.
    Cheers!

  19. I agree it is best to stay on the side of your readers. Making an enemy out of a somewhat popular position can also work if you do right.
    Keep taking on “the man” Brian. :)

  20. The common enemy has got to be ‘common’. It shouldn’t be someone/group/idealogy that you personally despise, but one that the readers hate. I’ve used this strategy on a couple of my (Blogspot) blogs in the past, and has worked like a charm. The funny thing is that I’ve been doing it unintentionally, and realized it just now that I’ve been doing so. Thanks a lot for another great post :)

  21. Good points all. Working together to overcome one or more obstacles can be an effective way to grow your product. Especially helpful is someone who can provide helpful solutions and build teamwork.

  22. Isnt this how the government has been working for years, create an enemy and save us from them….right around election time! Remember save the rainforest…..

  23. As a vegetarian lifestyle blogger, i suppose one of my biggest enemies would be the meat industry. This is good insight, as i can now find a way to bond with my readers by discussing “my enemy”. This is a lightbulb moment. I wonder (who or what) are my other enemies.

  24. A good enemy can do more for you than give potential readers something to bond with you about. As a book author, I would love to write a book about a subject that I care about and at the same time write something ruffles the feathers of those who disagree with me. It never hurts to have a few people who feel they need to convince everyone else to avoid a book when you are trying to sell books to people who disagree with them. Harry Potter may have sold well anyway, but it didn’t hurt it to have people talking about how evil the book is. I know of a preacher who went to see the first movie, just to see what it was about. When marketing with word of mouth, it doesn’t matter half as much what they are saying as it does that they are saying something memorable.

  25. Thomas Murrey :

    Excellent article.

  26. I really enjoyed reading this post. I’ve seen a lot of companies/people advertise or write back about their enemies, but using their names..it seems so childish sometimes. I agree on setting that apart from how an ‘enemy’ really needs to be approached. Telling your readers/viewers that you are in this together, that what you can provide them is this and this.. Things like that. Overall, nice post.