Note: The conference theme was “marketing, dating, and relationships.”
Slides 2-3: When I was thirteen years old and in junior high school, I had my first crush on this girl named [redacted]. She had the biggest blue eyes I had ever seen and long, curly, brown hair that was so shiny and bouncy. Every single day, I would leave first-period English and then walk down the hall to second-period chemistry and pass by her in the hallway. I was a typical 13-year-old boy, so what did I do? Absolutely nothing. I was terrified, so I never even tried to talk with her.
One day, St. Valentine’s Day was coming up. I decided to try something. I bought a pair or earrings — not too expensive but not too cheap — and wrapped the box with nice wrapping paper. On St. Valentine’s Day, between first and second period, I walked by her in the hallway and gave her the present.
Yes, I gave a pair of earrings to a girl to whom I had never even spoken. Yes, when I was thirteen, I was an idiot.
Slide 4: As a thirteen-year-old idiot, what I did not realize was that I was viewing this new dating world as a transactional world. The wrong idea was this: I give something to a girl that I like, and then she will go to a movie with me. Crazy, right? It’s an extreme version of door-to-door sales, which is probably the most-hated marketing tactic ever. After retargeting.
Slide 5-6: What thirteen-year-old me did not understand and that we all know now is that dating is a slow process of getting to know someone and growing together with him or her. It’s not about making the hard sale. It’s about building mutually-beneficial relationships over time — in marketing and in dating.
It’s all about the person. Focus on the person. All too often in marketing, we skip thinking about the person and the strategy and we focus only on tactics and channels and content. Every day there are new, redundant blog posts on “how to do something on Facebook” and “how to do something on Twitter” and no one even asks if we should even be on Facebook or Twitter. Everyone still asks about how to rank first in Google — no one ever stops to think about whether people are even searching for you in Google.
In the marketing world, everyone is selling something. A social media person is always going to tell you that “social media is the answer.” A PR person is always going to tell you that PR in the answer. An advertising person is always going to tell you that ads are the answer. And so on. But sometimes it’s true and sometimes it’s not. The answer depends on what we learn about the person behind our customer in the first place.
Slide 7-9: So, my goal here is to present the traditional marketing communications process, expose the biggest myths that never go away, and take down some of the bad assumptions in our industry — and all in a way that will help us to understand the person behind the marketing campaign.
Slide 10: For those of you who do not have a traditional marketing education, “Marketing communications” is the overall process of creating a message, putting that message into a piece of marketing collateral or content, and then transmitting that material over a channel to an audience. Remember that for later.
Slides 11-15: It all starts with the 4 Ps Marketing Mix: product, price, place, and promotion.
“Product” is about identifying and segmenting your target audience and then establishing product-market fit. “Price” is about determining the price point that will work for both the finance and marketing departments. Do you want to sell 1,000 things for $1 each for 1 thing for $1,000? Each option needs a different branding strategy. “Place” details with how you will get the product to the buyer. Physical stores might debate between selling direct to the public or through intermediaries. Online stores might use affiliate marketers or an e-commerce store. “Promotion” is determining how you will tell the world about you.
Slides 16-22: Under “Promotion” is the Promotion Mix: advertising, direct marketing, public relations, sales promotion, personal selling, and I would now add SEO. “Advertising” is paid, mass media messages that are usually sent to a broad, demographic group and aim to build long-term brand associations. “Direct marketing” is individually-targeted advertising that aims to elicit a direct response. It consists of PPC, social media, direct mail, e-mail, mobile marketing, and more.
“Public relations” is building mutually-beneficial relationships with communities including the media, the community, influencers, analysts, and the government. “Sales promotion” is the sending of coupons and similar items that offer temporary, low prices. “Personal selling” is just that — flesh-and-blood salespeople. “SEO” is getting found in organic online search results.
Slide 23: Which one of these parts of the promotion mix is the best to use? I can’t tell you that. Every single company and marketing operation is going to have a different promotion mix. Some might want to spend 100% of the budget on advertising. Some might want to spend 80% of public relations and 10% each on sales promotion and personal selling. Some might want to spend 20% of the budget on each item. Every situation is different.
That’s why you need to know the person and the target market in order to create the best strategy.
Slide 24-26: But more and more people do not know this basic building block of marketing strategy even though it’s been used by marketers — well, the good ones — for decades and decades. Why?
To become an economist, you need to study economics. You need to read economics textbooks. Everyone reads the same economics textbooks and learns the same principles and vocabulary and definitions. Everyone knows what “Gross Domestic Product” means. Everyone knows precisely how “Gross National Product” is different from “Gross Domestic Product.”
But fewer and fewer people today bother to study marketing — and as a result they do not know the basic terms and principles, and they fall for buzzwords and create little more than spam.
First of all, HubSpot came along in the mid-2000s and convinced everyone that marketing had fundamentally changed. HubSpot and the phrase “inbound marketing” are two of the biggest marketing successes of the Internet Age. Of course, it was all bullshit. But it was brilliant bullshit.
HubSpot said that marketing was no longer about pushing story out there to people; rather, it was about bringing the people to you. But how has HubSpot always said to do this? SEO, social media, and so on. And all of that is still pushing marketing collateral out to the world. There’s not a whole lot of strategic difference between getting people to your physical store or your website.
But tell that to people who taught themselves to write a blog post and post it on Facebook and now call themselves “marketers.” They know absolutely nothing about what I am discussing here, and they are the perfect victims for companies like HubSpot.
Slide 27: And that brings us to “content marketing.” Seriously? “Content marketing” is just a new buzzword for the umbrella term of “marketing communications.” It’s creating and transmitting marketing collateral to an audience. Almost every example of “content marketing” that I have seen is just using one of the frameworks within the promotion mix. Every marketing campaign uses “content,” and a word that means everything means nothing. Besides, the word “content” itself only means that which happens to fill a void. I know “sales catalogues,” “opinion columns,” and “publicity collateral” — I have no idea what someone means when he says “content.”
Slide 28: And “social media marketing” is not a thing unto itself. Social media is just a collection of new channels over which these marketing activities within the promotion mix can be done. Any example of “social media marketing” is just doing one of these things over the channel of social media.
Slide 29: According to this informal poll I did on Twitter — disclosure, twenty-five people responded — “growth hacking” is the most-hated buzzword of all. After all, it’s just a new term for product marketing and establishing product-market fit.
Slide 33: Strategy first, tactics second. Think about the customer and the big picture before you start thinking about what channels to use and what collateral to create.
Slide 37: There are even more bad assumptions in the marketing world.
Slides 38-40: Not only is “social media marketing” not a thing — that entire set of communications might be a waste of time in many campaigns. The most-successful “social media marketing” ever managed to reach less than 1% of the target market during the Super Bowl in the United States. No one wants to talk with brands on social media. Think about it: Out all of the posts, comments, “likes,” and shares that you make on an average day, how many involve the page of a big brand?
Slides 41-42: For some reason, we’re all convinced that “TV is dead” when the data says something vastly different.
Slides 43-46: We make bad assumptions because we think that our customers are like us. But here’s a test from Bob Hoffman: Go into your supermarket and ask random people whether they want to “have a relationship” with the brands in their shopping carts. They will look at you like you are crazy.
Slides 47-50: In the end, dating is like marketing. Find a good match. Don’t make assumptions. Communicate with each other, and grow over time.
- My TechCrunch columns: Everything the Tech World Says About Marketing is Wrong and How Google Analytics Ruined Marketing
- People to follow: Mark Ritson (Twitter) and Bob Hoffman (Twitter)
- My Amazon.com list of traditional marketing books to read
Don’t forget to see my marketing speaker page to have me present at your event!