In the rush to get-out-there-and-start-marketing, many businesses throw themselves at the internet like whirling dervishes. And with the explosion in companies offering services in digital marketing, inbound marketing, social marketing, content marketing, et al, there has been a tendency to focus on reach and mentions as being results in themselves.
So, let’s just get back to basics for a minute.
Marketing is everything
Regis McKenna, technology marketing guru, said back in 1991 that “Marketing is Everything.” What did he mean by that? Well, Marketing used to be a department in a company. The Marketing Department’s job was to devise, control and project an image of the company to the outside world. Their role was seen as distinct from the rest of the company and their only real goal was to increase sales.
Marketing also had a slightly murky reputation; the feeling being that the image created probably bore little resemblance to the reality of the company/product/service and that advertising messages were produced in order to “trick” people into purchasing said product or service.
From sales-driven advertising to customer-led conversations
Marketing today is not a department; when done right, it is woven into the very fabric of a company. It’s in “everything” the company does – from product development to corporate responsibility to after-sales care. As McKenna put it, marketing “finds a way to integrate the customer into the company, to create and sustain a relationship between the company and the customer.”
This relationship between customer and company has evolved rapidly, thanks to the internet. Marketing is now experience-based; it is real-time and real life. Marketers have become the interface through which a company understands its customers, and the other way around. In fact, marketing has become synonymous with customer service. McKenna again:
Relationships are the key, the basis of customer choice and company adaptation. After all, what is a successful brand but a special relationship? And who better than a company’s marketing people to create, sustain, and interpret the relationship between the company, its suppliers, and its customers?
Content is king
For a while now, “content marketing” has been a buzzword used by strategists, marketers and advertisers alike. Put very simply, the point of content marketing is to attract and retain customers by offering them valuable information. As people become more and more impervious to classic advertising, most practitioners will agree that marketing is impossible without great content.
So, if we accept that “marketing is everything” and that successful marketing needs content, then we might also conclude that “everything is content”. Matthew Barby stated as much in a post on the Moz Blog. He encouraged us to look beyond the text and images on a website when considering our content marketing strategy. Content, according to Barby, is the smiling cashier, the décor in a shop/office, staff uniforms, the customers themselves, free stuff, events, a funky slogan or even just busty blonds in branded T-shirts…
Can this really be the case, or is it just a strategist’s natural inclination to link every aspect of a company to its branding? After all, aren’t helpful staff and free wifi just part of a great customer experience? By calling “everything” content, it puts “everything” on the same level of importance, which is of course nonsense and might actually harm your brand long-term. If you have, as Barby suggests, “a chalkboard Twitter feed that your staff will write updates on by hand throughout the day” they might end up too busy writing endless tweets to deliver the high-quality service your reputation was built on.
Quality is the Holy Grail
There are dangers in both extremes. Offloading marketing to a dusty department in the basement is the shortcut to a radical disconnect between what your business actually does and your advertising messages. On the other hand, if everyone in your company is spending most of the day obsessing about its image, what will happen to useful stuff like innovation and productivity?
The intangible or temporary things that your company produces – the warm, fuzzy feeling induced by smiley salespeople; the personalised cupcakes; the free samples; the hotties in hotpants – aren’t content; but they can and should inspire it. All that fun stuff can be turned into text, video, infographics, photos, online courses, podcasts, ebooks, etc. and can form the basis of a great online presence that builds your brand and increases sales. But it’s all about balance. And it’s about maintaining quality and avoiding gimmickry and cheap thrills.
[If you need to see the girls in hotpants, it’s this way: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hootersgirls/7735589086/in/set-72157630960120760]