Every industry needs to evolve and grow to survive. Look at the auto industry, for example. Without innovation, everyone would still be driving Model Ts, instead of the higher-powered, more fuel efficient vehicles many of us drive today.
The same is true in the marketing and communications industry. People have been heralding the death of marketing, as it was once known, for years now. William Lee, author of The Hidden Wealth of Customers: Realizing the Untapped Value of Your Most Important Asset, was writing about the death of marketing in Harvard Business Review back in 2012. While traditional marketing techniques might be dead and should be buried, that doesn’t mean the entire industry needs to pull up stakes and move on.
Instead, we need to find what works in today’s climate and focus efforts on that. Traditional ads and paper press releases might be the Model T’s of the marketing world, but social media and customer-focused efforts can be the marketing industry’s equivalent of the Tesla Model S.
Communicate First, Market Second
One of the traditional methods of marketing was to figure out an audience, such as middle-aged, married women who stay at home or 14 to 18-year-old boys who like sports and pizza, then to tailor an ad to target that audience. The focus was on marketing first, communicating second.
In the next phase of marketing’s life cycle, communications should come first. A marketer might not be trying to push or promote a product to a specific demographic. Instead, the goal is to share information or provide something valuable to a consumer. Blog posts or sponsored articles on a website are an example of communications-focused marketing.
This approach is subtle but still effective. For example, many blog posts that are created to market a company don’t even specifically mention the company’s name or that it offers a service discussed in the post. But, by seeing the post on a company’s website or shared on a social media profile, a customer begins to associate that company with that service or product.
A company has given a customer something useful or valuable. If it comes to a point in the future when the customer needs the product or service a company offers, he or she will be likely to think of that company first. Communications-focused marketing is about giving, not selling, to customers.
Turn to the Customer
Speaking of customers, they are a valuable resource for marketing 2.0. A 2013 report from Forrester Research showed that 70 percent of consumers trust a recommendation from a friend, and only 10 percent put their trust in ads.
That means that in the new marketing world, the customer needs to become the advertisement. In his Harvard Business Review article, Bill Lee recommends looking at the big picture when it comes to a customer’s potential lifetime value. A company doesn’t have to only look at the potential revenue a customer can bring in.
It can also look at the influence that a customer has over others. For example, a highly respected customer, who others are likely to listen to and follow, can be incredibly valuable, even if he or she doesn’t purchase vast amounts from your company. Instead, that customer can direct others to your products. If someone who has a lot of followers or a large network is enthused about what your business offers, tap into that enthusiasm and let it work for the good of your company.
Blending Old and New
If traditional marketing is dead, why do you still see ads in magazines or on TV and why do you still send out press releases or try to engage with traditional media? While it’s true that ads might no longer be effective on their own and that a newspaper or print magazine story might not have the reach it once did, those techniques can still be valuable.
The trick is to combine them with newer marketing techniques. Your company might produce an ad that features one of your customer influencers, or the ad might specifically encourage people to engage with or share their opinion with your company on social media. The ad isn’t specifically marketing your product or service; instead, it’s marketing your company’s social presence.
You have many options for reaching customers today. While it might seem like the best idea to toss away all the old marketing techniques in favor of the new, some older methods can still be valuable, especially when combined with the newer ones. No one drives a Model T anymore, after all, but today’s cars all still have four wheels and an engine.