Heresy is a loaded word – evoking in equal measure poor souls suffering some unspeakable death for the sake of an idea and the visionaries whose ideas were so ahead of their time that it often took decades or centuries for it to be proven true.
So when a friend recently said that an idea I had mentioned was “heresy” – I was taken aback. Strong language indeed. And if something is declared as heresy the intention is to snuff out its spread for it may actually be true.
That got me thinking about all the marketing heresies I actually believe and much to my surprise, I have developed a fairly extensive list of these “heresies”. When I think about my start in marketing at an advertising agency working on Procter & Gamble or AT&T businesses, I also realized I was well trained (even maybe a little indoctrinated) in the well established marketing principles.
But that was in the 1980’s when generating awareness was based on large advertising budgets and large advertising agency expense budgets. Today, the goal is the same – getting broad awareness or “brand buzz” – but we must adapt our thinking and in some ways accept what would have been considered marketing heresies even just a few years ago.
So here is my list of marketing “heresies” … heresies that help build business if you can believe in their truths.
1) World class marketing does not necessarily require an agency or consultant.
This one was particularly hard for me to accept as my heritage lies in the agency world, but is true nonetheless. Agencies largely can not bring innovation to clients because their business model is not geared toward that. Agencies do well in executing established programs that do not require a high level of non billable research investment. Often new programs require agencies to first get up the learning curve and they can’t bill for that. That means they usually stick to what they know – they make more money that way.
2) “Hands on” experience is better than having consultants or agencies do the work for you.
Related to the above, and to be honest, I was not eager to believe this one – but it is true nonetheless. And it is particularly true when working with the newer marketing tactics. Since agencies are often not the innovators, in order for you to direct agencies well, you have to have hands on experience. Without that “hands on experience”, it is more difficult to get accountability.
“C’mon”, I hear you say, “how practical is that? Certainly, an ad executive can not get bogged down in implementing lots of programs.” I understand. I was used to an organized, compartmentalized marketing world – the copywriter wrote copy, PR agencies did the PR, the promotional folks managed emails. Doing it myself seems almost sacrilegious.
But it was not until I started to do the work, that I learned the most and I credit the CEO of my company for making me to do it (over my constant and eminently annoying objections I might add). So take it from someone who had to learn the hard way, marketing is about staying current and being able to understand how people will respond your programs. Working the work yourself (as much as you can) really helps improve the quality of the work. And then you can begin to demand better quality from your agencies.
3) Stop chasing measurement of specific marketing programs — but do measure all of marketing.
Sorry Virginia – but it’s time to put this long held holy grail to rest. Not every marketing program can be measured. Perhaps in some future time when we can measure what a person is actually thinking can we measure each marketing program. The best we can do is measure an action that a marketing program may have generated – but that’s about it. The goal rather should be to measure marketing as an organic whole.
Make sure you are looking at the right metrics. Of course – revenue is important, but I find volume metrics are also very important and a more sensitive measure to monitor marketing effectiveness. Increased sales revenue is often a function of price increases and/ or new product introductions. But to see if marketing is working efficiently, measure the order volume of a product from one year to the next. The volume measure is blind to changes that price increases could mask. If revenue has grown, but not volume, take a deeper look to see what can be done to improve this.
4) Generating “brand buzz” is no longer a function of money.
The P&G model worked in its day. Buy GRP’s (Gross Rating Points) on TV, then awareness would go up and with it sales. Pretty straight forward and agencies marched right along. Large budgets drove large fees. It was a symbiotic relationship. But now the model is different. Creating awareness is a function of public relations, viral marketing and SEO programs. All of which are relatively low cost. PR agencies don’t understand viral marketing much and social media agencies don’t understand PR at all. None of them have a clue about SEO. So creating brand buzz means creating a new model that is not dependent on cash – but dependent on smarts.
The recipe therefore is to integrate viral relations with public relations and SEO to drive search volumes. Then the more people will search for you the better your chances of getting them as customers.
5) “Free” can build business – but it needs to be a real deal.
How many emails do we all get that claim free iPod or free this or that. These emails do seem to generate response but it has a dark side. The “free” deal is often tainted and that is worse than doing nothing at all. In a drive to generate revenue, keep free as it was intended – really free – not partially free or free if you buy this or that.
If you are making a free claim – really mean it (and be sure you can afford it) Then you’ll make money.
6) Search volume is highly manageable by marketers.
Really truly. Stop thinking about search volumes that happens in a detached way from what you are doing. You can manage it, increase it. Tune it like you would an engine and your volumes will go up.
7) Develop a refined sense of “roughly right”.
In today’s lightening fast world, perfection is not an asset anymore. It is far more useful to have a keen sense of “good enough” and get programs out there than to continue to work a program until it is perfect. Mind you, this heresy does not apply to all marketing tactics – but certainly to any tactics that lives in the online world. It is far more productive to get something out and refine it over time than to wait 9 months to get it perfect. If a program can get out “roughly right” in 4 months and generate some revenue, isn’t that far better than waiting nine months. I bet the extra measure of perfection does not compensate for the lost months of revenue. (I should add – I still struggle with this one – but hey – I’m still learning).
8 ) Letting customers openly voice thier opinions – good and bad – is a powerful brand building tool.
I was having a conversation with a friend who runs the marketing for a manufacturing company and they wanted to create a user forum but decided against it because he said, “one bad opinion could really do damage.” Well I heartily disagreed by explaining that bad feedback is going to happen anyway – but by creating a venue where you can manage the feedback, that gives you tremendous opportunities to turn that around. So don’t be scared of what customers may say within a forum you create – be more scared of what they say about you without you ever knowing.
9) There is never one way to solve a marketing problem.
I tend to have strong opinions (you wouldn’t have ever guessed that – right ) and believe that I am mostly right most of the time. I still believe that but now I know that others could be as right as me because there is always more than one way to skin a cat. So while I may be attached to my way – I can now whole heartedly follow other ways because they will deliver results too.
10) Last and perhaps more important — passion sells.
The corporate tone with a measured approach rarely makes anyone take notice. Rather, for marketing to work, you should be passionate about it because then it comes through in the work.
Resist the urge to think about another product launch as just more work. Get excited about the product. Learn why the developer designed the product the way they did. Too many times we become blasé about what we are doing and evaluate a new product through the lens of the product gaps. I am fortunate to work at an Internet security company with a CEO who is as passionate about every new product as though it is his first. That kind of passion is contagious and permeates everything. Try to turn yourself on when doing this type of work. It keeps the work fresh for your market and exciting for you. It doesn’t get better than that – does it?
Now do you believe?
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