Marketing is hard. In fact, marketing is getting harder to grasp for every year, month and day that passes, and yet it’s so easy once you crack the code.
When I think about marketing I like going back to basics, and for me that means going back in time.
When you think about it, people only started exchanging products and services when they could see a value in having an expert deliver instead of doing the work themselves. “I’ll fix your roof if you put food on my table”, would be a fair exchange.
It was all based on trust. As a professional your biggest competitor would most likely be the customer himself. If he didn’t trust you to do a better job than he could do himself, you wouldn’t get the business. Your reputation was everything and no marketing in the world could fix that for you.
Why did marketing become important?
When people moved to cities it became easier to buy from someone else. Some would choose based on price, others based on quality while for others easy access would be more important.
For businesses this was both a threat and an opportunity. The natural thing to do was to expand your market and to think about how to position yourself. As a result product, price, place and promotion, the 4 P’s of marketing, became the paradigm that marketers have been following since.
The importance of image
Fast forward to what we’ve been used to see as modern day marketing, a time where image is everything, and the best way to position yourself is to steer the way people think about you.
Marketing and PR professionals have done their best throughout the years to shape their companies’ image. The look and feel of the company profile would tell people what to expect. Small changes to the profile could make a big impact.
“What do we communicate with our promotional material and what do media communicate about us?”
When opinions went south, an appropriate PR campaign or a change in the brand message could turn the tide. As long as a majority of people’s touch points were positive and coherent, the brand image would be fine.
Nothing but a wolf in sheep’s clothing
Being a marketing professional myself I do my best to understand what the customer wants and how to communicate with him. I love working with words, visuals and relationships to create a brand that people can relate to.
“I’m passionate about doing what I can in shaping the image, but the company itself is shaped by people. Every single employee plays a part in creating the customer experience, even the ones who might not face the customers.”
The way your staff members think, feel and act becomes the identity of your company. A beautiful campaign can instill pride and enhance the way they feel but it can never fully change the group identity.
Improving your company’s profile while neglecting its identity is nothing but sheep’s clothing to your brand.
Identity has become more important than your profile
Internet has made it possible for anyone to share personal experiences publicly. Employees that aren’t proud of their company will tell others; dissatisfied customers will tell others; everyone with a distinctive experience with your brand, good or bad, will tell others.
The time when a message had to be newsworthy or paid for to reach the masses is history. All it takes is one shared experience. That is why everyone’s experience matters, and that is why you as a business owner have to work from the inside out.
Marketing in a new age
A new marketing paradigm has emerged, one where who you are matters more than what you do. Your reputation is everything and there is no marketing in the world that can fix that for you.
When anyone can tell everyone what they think about you we’re back where we started – a small town community where your actions and relationships are what really matter.
Companies that focus all their efforts on profile and none on identity are struggling today. It doesn’t matter what their carefully crafted message says if the internal incentives tell the employees something else.
If you ask me, branding today is as much about internal communications as it is about external communications. You need to be who you say you are to meet people’s expectations.
Crack the code
To make people talk, you have to exceed expectations. Could it be that good marketing today isn’t about inflated promises but to actually exceed what has been said?
Marketing is about communication. It’s so easy to look at marketing for a solution when the word-of-mouth is getting sour but the question to ask yourself is “Is this a communications problem or just a symptom of something else?”
Take care of business
I believe established brands have a lot to gain simply by looking at their internal incentives and company culture. If your image is hurting it may be because your employees feel indifferent to what they do.
As a start-up on the other hand you need to keep your employees focused and engaged even when your company is growing. Both structure and culture need to incentivize people to do what you say you’re doing.
Marketing itself is quite simple. Today you have access to all the tools you could possibly need to make people aware of your existence. For marketing professionals I identify three areas of importance: visibility, credibility and accessibility.
“Marketing wise you’ve done a good job if people can see you, trust you and get hold of you.”
Much of this can be done online and should be seen as a great opportunity not a threat. If you’re already doing a good job for your clients then transparency should be your best friend.
What are your thoughts?
I’d love to hear what you think. Is marketing getting harder or is it getting easier? What areas of importance have you identified? Please share in the comments.