Anybody involved in marketing his or her company wants to know what the next marketing trend is going to be. What will be the next Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Vine? Nobody wants to be left behind, using yesterday’s marketing methods to reach customers and potential clients. Constant changes in marketing tools, however, make it hard to keep up—much less master these new technologies.
It can be easy to get wrapped around the axel when it comes to marketing approaches. While we agree that it’s great to stay current with what’s happening out there, sometimes businesses focus on the wrong things and forget the real purpose of marketing. It can be helpful to take a look at what marketing is not about. And then we can re-focus on the activities that support what marketing is really about.
It’s not about convincing.
Some companies fall into the trap of thinking that their marketing efforts are all about convincing someone to buy their product or service. As a result, much of their marketing efforts are spent touting their expertise, quality, price or some other characteristic that is supposed to make a prospective customer make a purchase. But that’s not marketing’s job. Marketing is about identifying an audience and a need, a wish or a desire. Then it’s about communicating that your company has a solution that can meet that need/wish/desire in a way that will make life better. It’s not arm-twisting. If you have to twist someone’s arm, you’re probably talking to the wrong person—or you don’t have the right solution for him or her.
It’s not about technology.
This is a little tricky. If your audience is on Twitter, you should be, too. If the people you’re trying to reach are on Facebook you should have a page there. But technology is just a tool. Just being there won’t make a difference. Your primary goal is to communicate. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated your Twitter campaign is or how glitzy your website is if you don’t communicate the kind of information your audience is after. Should you pay attention to how it looks? Yes! But looking pretty, cool or hip alone isn’t going to generate leads.
It’s not about outsmarting Google.
Sometimes businesses think that if they could just get Google to list them first their problems would be over. Let’s be clear: position matters when it comes to search. But you’re not going to outsmart Google. And even if you could, you still have to deliver what people really want when they get to your website. Simply loading your website with keywords won’t get the job done. Search engine optimization is much more involved than that.
So what is marketing today about?
In some ways good marketing really hasn’t changed. It’s still about identifying the right audience and talking to them in the right way. It’s about putting your audiences’ needs first and helping them to solve their issues, and answer their questions. It’s about empowering them with good information so they can make decisions that are right for them.
What has changed is the way that people look for this information. We’re all customers and we all go about gathering information in a similar way. Sure, there are variations in how we look, but basically we head to the Web and start searching.
What do we look for? We look for helpful information from someone who is a credible source—an industry expert. We’re not looking to buy (at least not initially). We’re looking to inform ourselves before we buy. When we’re doing that kind of looking, we don’t gravitate toward a company that is trying to sell us something. We look for companies that are offering us the kind of information that will answer our questions.
What does that mean for your marketing efforts? The format is not nearly as important as the content You need to focus on good quality content. And the more of it you put out there, the better (as long as the quality remains good). Think about it: a person making a large purchase (such as a home) is going to have lots of questions. He or she will keep coming back. Eventually, he or she will want to talk to someone about a purchase. Who will it be? The odds are that he or she will talk to the person that helped the most.
What we’re really talking about here is the difference between inbound marketing (focused on customers and drawing them in by providing answers to their questions) and outbound marketing (which pushes out a message based on what a company thinks is important). Inbound marketing is what marketing today is really about.