When my friend asked me if my dog chased his tail, I answered “of course, that dog loves entertaining himself”. I truly thought he was the only one going around in circles to keep himself occupied.
That was until I met with a group of marketers.
I remember when we were throwing idea’s around for a large project, and I felt myself growing more and more excited, until I almost fell of my chair. I felt we had achieved so much.
This was until I checked my watch.
We had been in the meeting for a total of 120min, so I thought to myself that it was time wrap up and make a quick project task-list for us to takeaway and get back to work.
I realised we had nothing to write. We hadn’t achieved anything other than the fact that I learnt a number of marketing buzzwords and discussed some interesting concepts.
We had nothing to add to our project.
Marketing may seem like a soup full of catchy phrases and esoteric concepts and to be honest, most of the time it is. Even though marketing meetings seem like a ‘creative word making session’, marketing is a necessary part of every business.
It’s not just about business, the art of marketing is to share an idea that is worth sharing. Whether it be a business, political campaign or a personal viewpoint. The truth is we need marketing to share ideas and to get people excited about those ideas.
As engineers we tend to be more quantitative thinkers than qualitative thinkers. So marketing meetings often seem like a waste of time. Unfortunately to be creative and thus effective in marketing you need to work in a seemingly non-linear fashion which goes against scientific rational. The good thing is we can all learn marketing, and how to effective practice it, even WITHOUT the nonsense.
When you look past all the buzzwords and jargon, and boil it down; marketing is rather simple!
It involves getting people’s attention, showing that you offer value and building trust with them to allow you to provide that value for them.
So, the purpose of this post is to introduce you to marketing and explain what effective marketing aims to achieve. This post will be the first in a 3-part series on marketing which will cover everything you need to know to go out and use effective marketing practices. So let’s jump right into it.
What is marketing?
Marketing is related to, but not the same as sales. The sole purpose of your marketing efforts should be to gain customers attention and build demand for your product. In comparison, the purpose of sales is then to turn prospective customers into paying ones, or to put it simply; persuading them to get out their wallets and pay for your solution.
Ok, so if its that simple then why do marketers rely on large clusters of words to express conflicting concepts. Phrases such as ‘knowledge process outsourcing’, ‘core competency’ and even ‘eating your own dog food’. I mean come on, surely these terms are unnecessary and are created purely to make someone in a board room feel self important.
These phrases and buzz words sound like someone who ate the dictionary established bad wind. But, they do serve some purpose. They label concepts that take longer to describe in plain english. But for the purposes of communicating with non-marketers it would make sense to use universal phases that we can all understand.
Marketing is more simple than that.
When defining marketing it is important to remember that it is based on CONCEPTS not laws. Although in science there are many fixed variables such as laws of thermodynamics which cannot be violated, EVER. Marketing concepts can be violated, and often are. The reason being is that marketing is not about physical or predictable objects that obey the laws of physics. Marketing is about people and using effective marketing is largely about understanding human psychology. To be effective in marketing you have to understand people more than anything else.
Marketing is about people
Luckily, you are a person. Hooray! You don’t have to be a marketer or qualified psychologist to get the basics of marketing. You can simply observe how you react to marketing messages an observe your own reaction. This is one of the best ways to learn marketing. It is a great way to learn what works for you, but not what will always work. Some things work for different products and different audiences and others don’t.
Good marketing is always unique.
Marketing is largely misunderstood because many marketers often use a blanket approach, using the same boring methods. It’s very predictable, and this one size fits all approach fails to create any sort of personal connection. Advertising on billboards, in the newspaper and any sort of mass marketing is a dying way to reach people.
Today we are exposed to around 5000 marketing messages per day¹ which is simply too many messages for us to have any meaningful attachment to. This approach is largely an aftermath approach to marketing, meaning that companies try to market and sell something after it has been created. However good marketing is not about quick fix tactics and advertising hooks.
Good marketing, is having something that people actually what in the first place. It is having a valuable solution to someones needs. Marketing becomes spam when you are trying to push something that people simply don’t want. So many companies are creating a product that they THINK people want are then try to sell it to anyone they can. This method is like trying to feed steak to a vegan. It maybe the best Kobe beef steak around, but a vegan will probably be offended for your lack of understanding.
“They say it takes 7 exposures to a product ad before you’ll want to buy it, but after 8,743 spam emails for Viagra, I still don’t want it!” — Erin Pavlina, intuitive counselor and blogger at erinpavlina.com
So marketing cannot be an aftermath activity completed by a business. Instead it begins with understanding the customer you are trying to solve a problem for.
If you know a person is a vegan, and you take that into consideration and instead of offering them a beef steak you offer them some raw carrot sticks with organic hummus, you’ll instantly be able to connect with them. If you are offering carrot sticks with hummus you probably won’t be interesting to everyone but for those that are health conscious, vegan or a fan of carrots you’ll have quite a following.
This is the purpose of good marketing. To understand exacting who you are serving with your business, connect with them so that they trust you, and allow you to offer them something of value. You must understand who you want to reach before you begin to expose yourself to the world. If you cater your messages to your chosen customers, they will feel significant, unique and understood so you will be able to build trust with them.
Many people feel uncomfortable with this approach. They feel that if you only target specific groups then you miss out on other potential markets. The truth is, that if you try to please everybody you’ll create marketing messages that are soo bland they won’t appeal to anyone one. This is because customers need to feel understood in order to trust you as a marketer. With so many marketing messages running through our heads every single day, it is only things that STAND OUT that get noticed.
Take the picture of this cat.
It’s different from most cat’s.
Therefore, you notice it.
Standing out is as simple as that.
Clearly, standing out is not enough. A bad smell get’s your attention, but it does’t make want to be around it. So once you stand out and get someone’s attention you must then build that emotional connection with them in order for them to trust you. Assuming that you do have a product that people want, you must display the benefits to the customer. If this is done correctly you won’t have to work too hard and you’ll have people coming to you as long as you stand out and gain exposure.
Remembering that marketing is about people, a personal connection does not involve a resume exchange. Making a personal connection doesn’t follow a linear process, and neither does marketing.
I did say it was simple. I’ll rephrase that, Marketing is simple to understand, however, it is an art to learn. You cannot be a master marketer by following a method or process. You have to be bold, experiment and learn. Think of the world as a laboratory and people are the variable that you are testing. Specifically people’s response to your attempt to grab their attention and to build a honest relationship with them.
Attention and Trust
The resources you have as a marketer are peoples attention and their trust. How well you stand out is a factor that contributes to how much your marketing exposure will grab customer attention. Then, once you have their precious attention you have to offer value in an honest way so that they trust you to provide them with further value and feel comfortable to make a sale.
It’s a tender process.
You must be unique, interesting, and forward all at the same time. This is why mastering marketing as a form of business communication is such a skill.
Ok now to summarise…
- Marketing starts by creating something that people actually want.
- The purpose of marketing is to gain customers attention and build demand for your product.
- Marketing is a personal form of communication, which means it is non-linear and conversational.
- Marketing involves being bold, unique and different in order to stand out and gain customer attention.
- In order to build demand for your product or business customers need to recognise the value for them and feel comfortable with your ability to provide that value.
- Customer trust is built through honest communication, faker’s beware!
Ok, so now that we have had looked at the basics of marketing, it is clear to see that all those obnoxious marketing terms and jargon are not needed, at least to practice good marketing. Sure we can talk about concepts and theories all day long like they do in the marketing departments in most universities, OR we can get out there and experiment. To be honest, no knows what will be most effective for your audience and its a matter of trial and error.
We all have the potential to be good marketers it is just a process of understanding what messages will grab peoples attention, display value and build trust with the customer so that they allow you to serve their needs.
More to come…
In the next two parts of this tutorial series we will look at how to gain customers attention with your marketing messages and how to build demand for the products or services that your business offers.
Feel free to send me any questions you might have on marketing and I’ll hit you back with some help! Hope you enjoyed!
Sources: Story, L. (2007, January 14). Anywhere the Eye Can See, It's Now Likely to See an Ad. The New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/15/business/media/15everywhere.html?pagewanted=all