Rethinking Marketing

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Growth or value? When a marketer has success, there’s growth at the company. Some have gotten there by chasing growth itself – new, more, better clients. Other haves pushed for value – finding value in what you offer and communicating that.

When executed well a growth strategy yields fast results. A value-based strategy can take longer. It’s a question of drip-by-drip. Of course each approach has it’s challenges. Growth can come at the detriment of engagement – sure you have the new clients, but do they stay, are they engaged, do they refer? Value can take time – finding the right fit, the right way to communicate, the right value to deliver on. Companies don’t often have time.

And so each day a marketer is conflicted – growth or value. Ideally you’ll mix both ingredients; that’s the easy answer. Truth is some are more growth focused and others value focused.

Sticking to your guns, building in what you’ve built, endlessly pursuing your goal, addressing the shortfalls – relentless consistency. That’s where the answer lies.

(Photo credit: Jackie)

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Over the past year and a half or so, I’ve lost roughy 40% of the traffic that comes to this site.

The main reason?

I’ve taken a different approach to content generation. I’ve mostly eliminated pictures in posts, stopped worrying about the search optimization of titles and text, reduced the length of posts and automated sharing across social platforms. I’ve also shifted the topics from social media and digital in various industries (recruitment, marketing, TV, etc.) to rethink work, business, marketing and life – more interesting to me, but less of a clear value proposition to the occasional reader.

In other words, I’ve shifted from writing content for them that could easily be found to something more convenient to me…something that fits my schedule and lifestyle.

I think that’s where most brands fail. It feels safe and easy talking about themselves, their products, their advantages and whatever else works for them. It’s safe to stay in that space.

You can write for you, them or us. Writing for them, your client, is much more difficult than writing for you. Creating something that is of value and ties in to your advantage (us) is even harder.

If you want to market by offering up content, it has to be about them first and you second. It wont be convenient or easy. It will take sweat and dedication, but will make all the difference.

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There’s always a better way, a better time to post on Facebook, a better Twitter presence, a better way to use Snapchat. There’s a better tool to use, a more important project and a newer initiative. Tomorrow there will be something even shinier, a bigger priority.

You should probably change your approach for the pundits say is better. Of course the other option is to stick with it.

It’s not about being blind, stubborn and uncooperative, it’s about knowing your audience, knowing what you want and knowing how to measure it.

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If Ellen DeGeneres tweets out with her phone a “selfie” of herself and a few celebrities and it quickly becomes the most shared picture online, does it matter if it was all an ad by the phone manufacturer?

If what the advertiser manages to encourage and produce something that resonates with an audience, something they take the time to share and comment on, does it matter if they paid to get that message across?

The role of marketing is to understand the worldview of its customers and clients — how they see the world, what they care about, what they need. The role of sales is then to align that worldview with the company’s.

If you believe that to be true, then hasn’t the marketing team understood what their audience cared about? That picture was, after all, the talk of the twittersphere with roughly 900 mentions a minute.

If effort is put on content, products and services that matter, resonate and worth sharing, does it matter if it was an ad?

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Not long ago a brand was something that communicated your product’s value mainly through graphic design, clever messaging, advertising and in some cases materials used. If properly executed, the total package would equal more than the sum of the parts and only then would your brand stand the chance of resonating with your audience.

Of course there was another hurdle — the gatekeepers. You needed to convince the TV station and newspapers had to run your ads (easy) and press releases (harder) and the store had to sell your products — preferably on the right-hand side of the aisle, at eye-level (hardest).

The internet then came along, opened the world up and your brand could communicate with your audience and even sell directly. Most brands failed. To them communication still meant a one way press release.

So the gatekeepers came back to help. The difference is that now they’re called Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon. The tools required to build a brand still involve some sort of clever messaging, but beyond that if you don’t want to dialogue, the new gatekeepers will gladly take your money and spread the word for you.

Sure, there’s more of an emphasis on value and content; we are, after all in a digital age, but the playbook is the same — pay up and the message will travel. You just need to make it resonate.

Are we, once again, dependent on the gatekeepers?

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It’s enticing to try to figure out what the next big thing will be — The next Twitter, the next LinkedIn and even better, the next Whatsapp — and great marketers constantly tread the fine line between where our customers are today and where they will be tomorrow. But more often than not we aim for the low hanging improvements so to speak — the better click-through rates, the new apps where our customers hang out, the better analytics tool.

But is that the best target to aim for?

If we truly are in the middle of a revolution the scale of the industrial ones, then asking what the next Twitter will look like makes as much sense as asking what the next Model T would look like. It’s exciting, yes, but barely scratches the surface of what it all means.

Nick Denton, founder of Gawker puts it this way:

PLAYBOY: What will be the life-changing or society-changing technologies that we’re just starting to see now?

DENTON: The internet is it for this century, maybe the next one too. People ask what comes next too quickly. To the extent there is some kind of message in the valuation that the market has given Twitter, it is that communication, information and media are at the heart of this phase, this cycle, and it’s a long, long cycle that could last 50 or 100 years. When you have an innovation as profound as the networking of sentient beings.… Those delusional futurists who talked about Gaia, the planetwide intelligence? They were spot-on. It’s totally happening, and everything else comes out of that.

PLAYBOY: By “everything else,” do you mean wearable computing, self-driving cars and that stuff?

DENTON: Who gives a fuck about wearable computing? That’s just a detail. I mean improvement in biotech, curing cancer, efficient travel into orbit, better device storage, solving carbon emissions. All these other problems will be solved by the internet by harnessing the collective intelligence. Everything else will fall out with that.

PLAYBOY: That definitely sounds utopian. To be clear, you just said the internet is going to solve global warming, correct?

DENTON: Yeah. Intelligence connected to human beings will achieve rates of technological progress that would have been impossible in previous eras. Of course we’ll solve problems more quickly.

The internet and World Wide Web were created to share information faster and more efficiently. Thinking about optimized click-through rates seems trivial compared to thinking about what this collective intelligence will do to the way we live and how are customers will live. As technology knows more about what we need, when we need it and becomes a tool that’s better at predicting, sharing and generally making us more efficient, think at what that means for you, as an employee, customer, marketer and person.

Optimizing views and new tools are, as Nick puts it, ongoing evolutions. If the internet is the big innovation we have for the next century or two, the true magic can only really happen if you’re ready to tread that line between what is and what can be; between ongoing evolutions and what ” intelligence connected to human beings” will lead us.

There’s a tension at that line that can only lead to greatness.

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We aren’t starved for more content, we’re starved for more wisdom and meaning.

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Marketers believe their job is to create importance and significance from mundane events and unremarkable products.

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When there were only a handful of channels on TV and a couple of large papers, reaching your audience meant getting your message on those channels and papers. The mediums had a captive audience.

The mistake was thinking the audience was captive because they cared, because they wanted your message. No, they were captive because they had no choice.

In a world of abundant options, the audience is captive because they want to. They can easily move on, pay attention to something else. The choice is theirs.

Our world is increasingly abundant.

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Our job is to understand the customer’s view of the world so that our Products can answer real needs and Sales can explain our company’s view of the world.

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