Can you take a moment and imagine how it’d have been in ancient Europe, Africa, or Asia as far as business itself and merchants doing marketing was concerned?
There was no such thing as marketing (at least not the way we’d imagine it to be). Merchants or sellers would line up the streets with their wares in tow.
Customers would walk by Bazaars or markets and buy what they want. If they happen to know a merchant all too well, that merchant would thrive.
During the Industrial revolution happened, goods were being mass produced. During that entire time, average companies made average products and sold it to customers who really didn’t have much choice when compared to sheer options we all have now, across product categories and services.
You might think that after the fourth revolution — this at a time when technology powers everything from your heart-rate sensing watch to humongous engines powering megaships; from your smartphone to satellites; from drones to artificial intelligence driven software — we’d have come to a stage when we could at least manage to do marketing better.
Sadly, most businesses are still stuck in the “lining up on the streets to sell what we can sell” era — the era of local artisans, blacksmiths, cobblers, and snake-charmers.
In the ancient world, there was no other choice, medium, or the force of distribution. Somewhere along the way, we managed to source products from factories, distribute products, and sell to a certain capacity while still leaving customers with not much choice.
Today, there’s choice. Customers have voice.
Then, there’s Internet as medium to amplify that collective voice. The old marketing tactics and methods don’t work anymore.
You need new marketing methods. Before trying to Google “new marketing methods”, you’ll need better products, better services, better brands, and better organizations.
This isn’t just some rant.
The need for new marketing was explained in Meatball Sundae: How New Marketing Is Transforming the Business World by Seth Godin.
In the book, Seth writes:
“The basic tactics of spreading ideas about your products (yodeling college students, billboards, radio ads, and commissioned sales people) started to evolve. Slowly at first, but then faster and faster. Innovations have not only created new ways to spread ideas, but have also made some of the old ways far less effective”
That, in essence, is why you have a need to forget the old ways of marketing and even the new ways of marketing.
If you wonder why, it’s because you are doing “marketing” all wrong. You are still pushing products onto people’s faces. You are screaming, yodeling, and crying yourself hoarse until you can’t, before you start all over again.
Just as the old merchants and sellers would scream on the streets.
The new marketing is all about:
- Direct communication and transactions between organizations and customers.
- An open, transparent, approachable, trustworthy, and people-driven presence — aided by a web presence, social networks, and other methods of communication available to us all.
- The amplification of the voice of the customer, a way for independent communities to express, and taking all of that as feedback (be it positive or negative)
- Bringing about change quickly. Sometimes, even before the change is needed.
- A way to rise above the clutter. To make your presence felt. To give a spine to your brand. To conquer the already diminishing attention spans we all suffer from.
- Managing infinite channels of communication
- Ability to tell stories to allow customers to connect, to feel, to get inspired, and to become evangelists.
The new marketing is all about creating communities, narrating stories, tapping into that emotional connect, and gaining permission before communicating with customers.
While we call it “new marketing”, this is how it’s been before corporations and media took over. The new marketing is “caveman marketing” as Seth Godin puts it.
New marketing doesn’t allow “top down command-and -control thinking”. It doesn’t understand strict hierarchy. New marketing doesn’t work in silos. You can no longer isolate marketing and sales; or marketing and operations; or marketing and finance.
As Seth writes:
“Marketing doesn’t support an organization; it’s the organization that has to support marketing”
But even the the new kind of marketing can’t help you if you don’t get the other dominos in line. Here’s why you should forget the old, forget the new, and embrace some really hard truths about marketing now:
The greatest marketing can’t help bad (or even average) products
Here’s a reality check: Even if you could do marketing as well as Apple can, bad products or even average products can’t help you succeed.
“The best marketing in the world can’t fix a bad product”
We’d go as far as to say, good marketing also cannot help you sustain if you just had mediocre or average products in an age when good products struggle to get eyeballs.
If you have bad products, you’ll not survive. Period. With average products, you’ll struggle. With good products, there’s still a different kind of struggle.
It might sound harsh but we have enough examples in the companies and startups graveyard that prove that if you didn’t validate your product idea, didn’t do your due diligence, and didn’t dig deep enough, whatever you produce won’t sell.
Go back to the drawing board if you need to fix your products. Consider relaunches, tweaking, or even pivoting.
It’s no longer about campaigns
There was a time when you’d launch “campaigns” — you know? A few ads in the newspaper, ads in magazines, a couple of minutes on the radio or television primetime.
That’s it. Show up with ads and hope that customers will buy.
Even today, with the digital marketing and advertising, we still call whatever we do as “campaigns”.
So, if you are smitten by the Inbound marketing bug or if you had enough dosage of the “content marketing” drug, you’d be led to believe that creating high-quality content, a spotty presence on social media, with a just enough attention paid to search optimization could get you the results you seek.
Just do it long enough, they said.
Pay attention to the basics, they said.
Do guest posting and link building, they said.
Get on social media, they said.
Do videos, they said.
Go for paid ads, they said.
Easier said than done.
Yet, scores of blogs still have mediocre content living on websites that don’t do much for your bottomline.
There aren’t even as many websites as they should have been, let alone a solid content strategy that lasts as long as your business does all the while getting you results.
Apart from those businesses that are killing it, most others only have content strategy that outright sucks.
Your content now has more competition with even more content vying for the average Internet users’ attention.
The shelf-life of an average social media post is less than an hour (and this keeps decreasing as you read this). Getting on social media and managing to get attention to yourself is only getting harder.
Your video content also has competition which includes cat videos, street fight videos, and memes.
Despite all that, let’s just assume that you do have a commendable presence on the web — organic traffic, social media traction, a humongous email list. If you do, you’d still have to keep it up.
You’d still have to sustain and keep the engagement going.
In short, you can’t survive with “campaigning”; you’d need to internalize the “always on and communicating” culture for your business.
With the new age marketing, there’s just no stopping. You can’t retire, ever. You can’t do intermittent campaigns.
Marketing is not a business function
The trouble with us entrepreneurs is that we come with preset ways of doing things. We still tend to believe that marketing is a business function — just like operations, human resources, customer support, logistics, and Information Technology.
If you are still stuck thinking about marketing this way, you’ll struggle.
Agile, small, and nimble business models competing globally call for a paradigm shift in how marketing is perceived, utilized, and benefited from.
In fact, individuals and businesses of this day and age lead with marketing powered by technology. It all begins and ends with marketing.
For these new businesses, marketing is not about “how to get more eyeballs” or “How to Reach target audiences”; it’s more about providing value, almost always in exchange for nothing, before a transaction is expected.
That is what Seth Godin calls as The “Meatball Sundae”. He quotes a few examples from his book:
- Some bloggers make millions of dollars because their revenue models and the entire business matches the marketing that these bloggers deploy. Each of these successful blogs embrace the medium. They just do one thing well, often without compromise.
- A 14- person hedge fund firm makes a few million (per person, per year). These quick, efficient, remote, and extremely talented hedge fund managers don’t even have to be at the Wall Street. They just built an organization that matched the tools available to them and succeeded (and they continue to)
- There are “Youtubers”, “Podcasters”, and artists who have all by passed the MTVs, Radio Stations, and traditional art galleries respectively. Many making several millions or at least gathering as much fame as mainstream artists get.
These new rules and new ways of showing up with value, according to Seth, are here to stay.
This is the age that boasts of companies, organizations, and Individuals like:
- Kiva — a non-profit organization that raises money in Kansas and funds craftspeople in India without an office in either place
- Threadless — a t-shirt business that did more than 20 million dollars in revenue per year without a single artist or designer on staff.
- Airbnb — online bread-and-breakfast or home rental service has more than 150 million users, 3100 employees, 640,000 airbnb hosts spread across 190 countries and 65,000 cities. Yet, it doesn’t own inventory.
All this is because it’s all driven by the community approach to business. Today, it’s all about growing your tribe.
Marketing — done in a community-centric way with a way for both businesses and users to express themselves openly — takes the lead. Everything else falls in line.
Marketing is not just a business function.
But if you insist and ignore the new rules of marketing, you’ll be like the:
- Travel agents who are already out of business.
- The mail order businesses that went bust.
- The traditional taxi business only left to get into ugly legal battles with Uber.
- The newspapers that are slowly and surely going out of business.
- Magazines with declining readership (which also are going digital incidentally).
… You know, we could go on and on.
If you are in business now, embrace the new opportunities available to you today. Lead your business with marketing, while you approach it in a way the new medium and the new wave of global customers demand.