Don't stop advertising. Don't stop marketing.
Let's agree to stop the madness. Do a quick search online for the "death of marketing and advertising," and you will be shocked at the level of discourse out there. It has become so heated that an entirely new group of people called, Growth Hacker Marketers, seem to be the pinup dolls for a new way to build customers, loyalty and push sales (while calling for an end to the advertisers). These people claim to be hybrids of engineers, strategists and analytics specialists who are leveraging digital channels to build customer profiles with technology, but without any of the traditional avenues. In the end, it's all buzzwords and jargon. For the most part, we live and breathe in an era when it has never been easier to find out just how big of an audience your product or service can have. The idea here isn't to stop advertising; it's to start marketing in a more powerful and effective way.
First, do you know the difference between marketing and advertising?
The two terms are not inter-changeable. Marketing is the function of business that is (still) best summed up by understanding the Four Ps of your business (and, you would know these if you ever took a Marketing 101 course in college). Namely: Product, Price, Promotion, Place.
- What is your product/service (and how is it unique in the marketplace/to the industry that you serve)?
- How much does your product/service cost (and how is it priced to be competitive or unique in the marketplace)?
- Where will your product/service be placed in the marketplace (how will it be positioned both in its physical state and in the mental awareness of your customer)?
- How will you promote it? What will you do to get the marketplace to pay attention to whatever it is that you're selling.
It's plain to see, isn't it?
Advertising is but a small sub-set of marketing. It acts as one of many levers within the promotion quadrant of the Four Ps. In fact, marketing - when done right - solves your fundamental business challenge: how do you get people to buy whatever it is that you are selling and tell others about how great it is. The problem is that people have been confusing and inter-changing the words "marketing" and "advertising" for so long, that when people think of either as a function for business, they think of expensive television ads or running a promotion in the local newspaper.
Marketing is everybody's business. Marketing is your business.
Small, medium (and yes, even large) businesses will often complain that they don't have the time experience or passion for marketing. They would prefer to leave it to "the creatives." Nothing could be further from the truth.
Change your marketing. Change your brain.
Starting today, you can make the choice to embrace the fact that the vast majority of your consumers have a digital-first posture. When they are faced with an issue that a business can solve, they grab their smartphones, head to a search box, tweet, update their Facebook status with a question or whatever. Where are you in this equation? It's a fair (and difficult) question to answer. A small mindshift away from perceiving advertising as the main thrusters of engine power for your marketing (like, how many "likes" do you have on Facebook?) towards this idea of simply being present, active and engaged (like, how many people on Twitter have you helped today?) is one small way to understand just how powerful marketing has become in the past few years alone.
Never has there been a more important time for a business to embrace marketing. Primarily, because the gatekeepers (the media owners) are all but gone. Paid media is no longer the only way for a brand to build a business, and now all businesses can have a direct relationship with their consumers. As scary as this may be, in a world where most businesses struggle to find the time to just go about their day-to-day operations, the opportunities are boundless. Brands must be eager to embrace this digital-fist posture of this new consumer and be equally excited about the privilege of having such a direct relationship with these customers. There is a new brand journey through marketing that is happening right now, and it could not be more exciting. From wearable technology and cloud computing to Instagram businesses and the continued importance of data and analytics. This intersection of technology, media and consumerism continues to shift and evolve. But first, you have to change your mindset. This isn't about advertising anymore. It's about understanding these new marketplaces and what it takes to connect with these highly connected, untethered and empowered consumers. This is the type of thinking that will change your mindset from "what am I spending all of this money on?" to "how can I better connect with my customers and potential clients?"
Are you convinced? Are you ready to reboot your marketing?
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for Inc. Magazine called Reboot: Marketing. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here: