The New Definition of Marketing
Late in the go-go 80s when I first got into advertising, my boss explained the job in simple terms:
"We find out what people need to hear in order to buy today, and we tell it to them."
It was not a complicated business back then but anyone trying to build their business over the past 10 years knows we live in a very different world; an especially complicated marketing world.
But change is coming.
The thing about marketers, especially agencies, is that the answer is always a tactic away. They set a plan, begin its implementation and then start fixing pieces that don't work. The problem is, they never seem to get the entire program working as designed and by the time they're done, the camel has been created yet again.
So here is the solution. Instead of looking ahead to grab the next new tactic, take a minute and look back over your shoulder at your original strategy. My guess is that it's wrapped tightly in conventional wisdom from a time long gone instead of inspired by innovative thinking for an era we're charging toward.
So be honest. If it has anything to do with trying to figure out what people in your universal "target" want or need to hear before they will buy, go outside and throw yourself down.
Like it or not, we began a global business transformation in the early 2000s that will likely last into the 2030s. Technology has driven it in two big waves. The first wave brought business the power of technology to make things better, faster and more economical. New companies supplanted industry leaders that denied tech's importance or were late to the party and we've seen the dinosaurs start fall over recent years with many more to follow.
The second wave began to swell a few years ago and its gained even more momentum as we've all endured the pandemic. Technology has changed how we consume.
Today, we're all very comfortable going online to find just the right products and services to address our unique needs. We no longer settle for choosing from the three or four items on a retail shelf because we know we can find the perfect solution and have it in hand by tomorrow if not by this afternoon.
We don't listen to advertising because we find much greater value in reading the reviews of total strangers; especially the ones who care about the same things we do.
So here's the solution for companies trying to market in the 2020s. Cut the bullshit. Stop thinking of it as an endless series of unrelated messages designed to get anyone to buy anything today.
Learn and accept there is a new definition of marketing.
Deliver inspiring demonstrations of your ongoing commitment to the success of people who value the one thing you love doing and do better than anyone else.
Be honest and transparent. Tell people who you are, what you do, how you do it and why you love doing it that way. Then have the courage to explain, specifically, who you do it for.
Let go of being "pretty good" and willing to do anything for anybody. Focus on doing what you love and are great at. Think craftsman vs handyman.
Raise your banner so people searching and willing to pay fairly for exactly what you do, can find you.
Offer them real value at every point of contact. Stop insisting they pay before you'll share insight. Let them in. They want to understand before they buy. Speak directly to them in detail.
And while you're at it, make sure your company is filled with people who believe what you believe, share your values and embrace your vision. They'll kick ass for you and stick with you rather than jump whenever someone waves $5K at them.
And to the CEOs, understand it all begins with you. You have the vision, set the tone and lead by example. Your message must work seamlessly outward in an inspiring and inclusive brand narrative through your leaders and employees to your partners, current customers, like-minded prospects and influencers.
This is the new definition of marketing. It's real. It's honest.
It's what people want, expect and now demand. Give it to them and prosper. Deny it and die. It's your choice.
Finally, forget beating your competitors. If you focus only on what you love doing and do better than anyone, you'll have none. Compete only with yourselves. Beat the job you did yesterday in helping your customers succeed.
Let them feel your commitment and recognize it in everything you do.
It won't be easy but it's really pretty simple.