Marketing really needs to evolve

Marketing Needs To Evolve

I currently work in marketing, and while I abhor the concept of “the marketing expert,” I do tend to write about it a lot. Here’s one super-esoteric example of that. I also poke around and read about marketing a lot — because you should be trying to make yourself better, no? — and as such, I came across this article today on Forbes. The headline is a little bit clickbait, but not untrue: “Marketing Is Broken.” It’s by this guy, Brian Walker. Appears he used to work for Forrester and Amazon, so he’s broadly quite vetted as the corporate world goes.

Let’s just run down a smattering of statistics in this article. Have a rusty switchblade handy if you want to gut yourself midway through:

If you want to summarize a lot of the above in one concept, it’s something I’ve written about a little before: You can ignore an ad. You can’t ignore a relationship.

That, in a nutshell, is why marketers have been trying to do more with social — even if the ROI isn’t 100 percent there for them in the moment. Social is a place where you can try and build actual organic relationships, although sadly a lot of brands still hit that space and up-sell like crazy — or, worse, they keep the interactions totally neutral. That doesn’t work either.

So what can be done for marketing to evolve?

Here are just a couple of thoughts. And remember — I am not an expert.

First off, know your stuff: It’s incredible to me how many people I’ve met in marketing — all industries, verticals, etc. — who work in e-mail marketing and if you ask them for open rates, they can’t tell you. They can’t tell you. Now, I’m not saying open rate is the single-best stat of all-time by any means. But if you work in a certain area, know the metrics of that area. Know their pros and cons. And know how to find them, how to report them back to others, and how to contextualize them. Most people — the rank-and-file, give or take — is terrified of, bored by, or plain doesn’t care about data. The whole thing with making “Big Data” work for a business is having people that understand the difference between analysis and synthesis. That’s actually extremely rare, and most people think those words are synonyms. They’re not. So first, please know your stuff.

Realize “marketing” is a fancy term for “telling a story:” When you overcomplicate it as “Well, we’re chasing B2B ROI at the VIHT Conference in LV…” or whatever you say in team meetings, that’s dumb. You know what you’re doing? You’re confusing your brain. Marketing is about storytelling, or, at the very least, story-making. Understand that.

Understand your customer: This should be at the top of any list, so it’s not really “No. 3” or anything. Who are your customers? What do they need? What stories or concerns will resonate with them? If you’re just writing the shit that every other team in your industry writes — which a lot of marketing teams do — then what value are you guys really adding?

Big Data: This is a huge thing. Honestly. There are literally points of data out there about who is visiting your website, what they’re doing, who’s visiting your stores, what they’re doing, etc, etc. These things exist. Embrace it. I understand the major tipping point for any “Big Data” discussion is that you’re moving away from “the gut feeling of the execs” and to “this is what is actually happening,” and because senior executives fear being irrelevant just like we do, they push back on “Big Data” because they still want some control of the product and brand. I get that, and I get how long it takes people and attitudes to change. Problem is: you have to. Because someone who markets a similar product/brand is going to figure out what their customers need and how they like it before you do, and they’re gonna start selling more than you, and … BAM.

Social: Yes, the ROI maybe isn’t there yet in a conventional bottom line sense. And sometimes it can all feel like so much noise. But you need to embrace it, because that’s a place where people document real relationships — and sometimes with brands or properties, yes. Your friends see that and they say “Oh, that’s beautiful. That’s my friends having fun.” If they see an ad, they say “That’s an ad.” People know when and how to ignore things they want to ignore. How about when you e-mailed your supervisor asking for a quick check-in on some things? Have you heard back? No? They’re ignoring you because they don’t want to discuss it right now. The same thing happens with magazine ads, however glossy or beautiful.

Mobile: It’s amazing that there are still marketing departments that don’t embrace this/haven’t bought in. This is a really big thing. People in stores often look at their phones in the store, then make a decision. I did this maybe 3-4 days ago at Bed Bath and Beyond. I probably do it 4-5 times a week. It’s second nature. And oftentimes, I leave the store and buy it somewhere else or online. And if I’m driving around and I look at a mobile site that totally sucks (not mobile-friendly), I probably don’t physically go to that store. These are all real things that have happened to me. I’m one person, yes, but I also spend way too much money on consumer shit and I’m a male 18-35. Chase me, goddamn it!

Automate: I’d be careful with this one, because people go way too overboard on personas and setting those up, etc. That stuff is valuable and it can help, but pump the brakes there a little bit. Marketing at core is about talking to people and telling stories, you know? Automating a series of processes isn’t that. It’s the same way when people say “We can solve this employee engagement issue with a tool or interface!” No you can’t. You can solve it by teaching bosses to have empathy and humanity and walk around and engage in conversations and care. A new Intranet doesn’t solve that problem. Automation doesn’t solve marketing problems. It helps. It doesn’t solve.

“Data-Driven Marketing” is not the same thing as “Send out more marketing:” A lot of people I’ve met think they’re the same thing. Data-driven means you target pieces of content or ideas to people who would be receptive to them. It doesn’t mean you add 8 new pieces a week and send all those out to everyone. I think that still confuses people.

SMS: Look at these stats. What’s the one thing you always have with you? Your phone. (Maybe your keys and wallet too.) At some point, marketing will figure out a way to market to your keys. (They already kind of have; it’s the FitBit.) Your phone, though — that’s always going to be a thing. So start opting people in to SMS marketing. That one will take a few more years for people to completely ignore. If you get a text when you’re near a bar and it says Happy Hour is till 7, you bang that right and you drive right in. You know? Of course this requires a lot of tiers of “turning on geo” and “opting in,” yes — but let’s not be lazy. Let’s get at our customers when they want to hear from us, and with information they’d value.

That was obviously just scratching the surface, but it’s some thoughts on where the evolution of marketing should be headed. Anything else?

Ted Bauer

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