I have written a lot about marketing, with much of my focus being on trying to relay tips for small business owners, authors, marketing professionals and chief marketers. I think I can summarize my feelings on marketing, as it exists in 2011, in a few phrases. For one, marketing is difficult to do really well. Secondly, the rewards for those who can do it well are significant. Thirdly, there has never been a better time to be a marketer. Finally, I believe the general discipline of marketing is the most important business function above anything else.
I will focus on the first point here today, or, why marketing is so difficult to do well. In other words, why does it seem that stand-out marketing is so elusive to people within the marketing discipline? What contributes to really shoddy marketing which seems to be the norm rather than the exception today?
In one word: clutter.
Think about exactly what marketers, also known as communicators and part-time psychologists, are up against today. They are up against tremendous splintering when it comes to their audience. The word most used is “fragmented” to describe this splintering. Marketers decades ago had a much simpler time targeting their audiences because they were captive and normally in one or a few places. They knew one of about a half-dozen general strategies could effectively reach an audience, whether it be direct mail, TV advertising, outdoor marketing techniques or good old guerrilla tactics, and then could drill into each of those to segment properly or in a more defined way. It was all fairly cookie-cutter. Now? Audiences are fragmented, they’re everywhere, they’re on different websites, consuming content in hundreds of places, and accessing all that content on a myriad of devices.
Marketers are up against LOTS of media. Media overload, let’s just put it that way. People don’t just get their news from their local TV stations anymore, they get it from Twitter, websites, social media and through mobile alerts.
All of this, of course, leads to people like you and me to having shorter attention spans which is another thing marketers are up against. The irony is that there is amazingly high volumes of consumption happening; however, rather than consuming a few pieces of content thoroughly like years ago, people are consuming many pieces of content a “little bit” and in 30-second doses. This dynamic has totally changed what a good marketer must do, which is engage his or her audience right away and likely tailor the marketing message in the first five or ten seconds if not quicker.
What else? How about device proliferation. Marketers are not just dealing in a passive environment where they control the message through push marketing. No, no. They are dealing with desktop computers, laptops, iPads, Blackberry’s, other tablets, Kindles, as well as all the traditional consumption methods. Not to mention, there is a tremendous amount of marketing competition that didn’t exist pre-Google. In Search, Google really transformed the way marketers thought of their business and how to promote it, and now competition is everywhere not just in Search.
Another irony marketers must consider is that while networking is infinitely easier, it is a lot tougher to create deep relationships. All of the factors listed above contribute to consumers having a lot less time and focus in their lives, with less ability or desire to be supremely engaged in a meaningful relationship with a brand or business. It is just the way it is and marketers simply have to adapt if they have any hope of creating stand-out marketing that is sustainable.
As I run through my thoughts on the other phrases which I believe capture what marketing is in 2011, I will provide a lot more details strategically and tactically that marketers can use in their marketing efforts. But for now, always come back to the analogy of a marketer’s toolbox.
A marketer’s toolbox is the same for everybody. In other words, the mechanisms a marketer can use are available to anyone. There is no silver bullet out there right now for marketers, no secret sauce, no super-secret delivery mechanism that will reach customers more than your competitor. There is nothing I can think of which is a secret to one marketer versus another, most savvy people understand there are hundreds of tools that can be in a Marketer’s toolbox. When you watch or listen to marketing experts, or read experts thoughts via the written word, understand that there are absolutely no unique platforms to get your message to your target audiences.
The marketers who do it best utilize the platforms already out there – whether it be via online, mobile, TV, radio, mail, whatever – but think about their message first. Craft your message so that it is compelling regardless of the platform. Focus on the message. Think about why people should listen to you, or use your product or service. What need does it fill for them? What is the value to your audience? If you don’t have that nailed, technology, social media or anything else out there today won’t add up to anything for you as a marketer.
Answer those important questions first, and the device or platform question second. Marketers nowadays get sidetracked by the amazing scale of social media or the amazing prospects of mobile marketing, but forget that the platform delivering your message is not the thing which makes stand-out marketing; it is the message and value proposition, just like it has always been for years.
My advice for people stuck in a rut in their marketing? Embrace everything in your toolbox, not just Facebook or a handful of other cool things because they are the brightest objects right now. Embrace all the mechanisms to get your message to your audience only after you have perfected what your message is and defined your best audience. Focus on your value proposition first, the delivery method second – not vice versa – and you can achieve stand-out marketing even if it doesn’t seem possible in today’s ultra-connected world.