3 ways to improve your “marketing,” starting now

Often, in life, I’ll take a look back and realize I’d been aiming for the wrong target for a long time. Once I understood something that gave me a more complete picture of that part of the world, my efforts were much more productive and the results started pouring in. These discoveries are always a little disappointing, but I’m glad for them.

I think that our industry will find this is true when it looks back at how we have been “marketing.” Why? Because I think we really need a better understanding what marketing is.

Here’s how I’d define marketing, in the simplest possible terms: Marketing is the process of working with demand.

Marketing is not defined as:

  • Creating demand
  • Selling
  • Advertising
  • Messaging

All of these things are a part of marketing, but they do not encapsulate marketing. You wouldn’t say that garlic is cooking. Don’t say that advertising is marketing.

So, what’s the difference between working with demand and creating demand? Knowing the difference between these two is the critical element in marketing well.

I think a great example of the difference between these two things is what happens over at Google. Google is a marketing company, but one primarily focused on the product creation aspect of marketing. Google saw existing demand and worked with it. It provided better solutions for organizing, locating, and understanding the relative importance of information. Better solutions for mapping. Better solutions for email, financial data, news, and many other things (and it bought better solutions to many things, too). For the most part, Google never created demand through the types of channels we think of. In fact, Google never took out a single advertisement until it was a well-established (and already public) company. By creating a product (one of the cornerstones of marketing) that was superior in many ways, Google marketed. Existing demand was enough to build one of the most successful brands in history.

Another great example would be Apple. While Apple does deliver a heavy dose of advertising, the marketing that happens at Apple begins years before the ads roll. The iPod, iPhone and iPad are all devices born entirely out of incredible marketing. Apple studied human behavior with computers and existing devices. They understood existing demand. They understood holes in the market, many of which were not apparent to soon-to-be-consumers (I’m looking you numb-brained tech writers who called the iPad a “big iPod touch”), and created an offering that would consume existing demand, create demand by its shear pace of adoption (people watch other people), and provide a platform for even more demand creation (through more traditional “channels”) and market disruption because of how ingeniously the devices approached a need.

In two of the greatest marketing companies the world has ever seen, the key to marketing was in understanding the demand, not creating it. The key to success was working with the demand.

Be a better marketer

1: Realize the tools you have

Advertising is not your only tool. To be a better marketer, the most potential lies in a better offering. Differentiating yourself from competitors (in your offering, for real, not some story you made up to pretend you’re different) by doing something better is the way to win hearts. If you think it can’t be done, take a look at Zappos. They sell shoes. Better.

Take a good look at whether or not you really add value to your consumers’ experience. Do you present information in a new way that helps your users? Do you support them in unprecedented ways? Do you actually spend the time it takes to come up with a smart solution to a common problem, or do you just slap something up and do the minimum it takes to complete a task?

Bonus: when you create value, Google notices. Offering something better almost always results in more (and better) content. If  you care about SEO, hit two birds with one stone, rather than challenging the smartest people on the planet to a game of chess with your weak SEO gimmicks.

You also have price. If you want to win with price, rather than providing value or using your brain, get the hell off of my blog. 🙂

2: Integrate with the right teams

If you are a “marketer” and you aren’t 100% involved with the product, usability, IA, IT, and R&D teams, you are the reason that CMOs last about as long as mayonaise on a picnic table.

3: Stop yelling, start listening

Companies like Zappos, Amazon, Apple, Google, HTC, and Starbucks are successful because they listen. Not in the sense that they go out there and conduct a bunch of case studies (which they do), but even in a more passive sense: they observe the market. They deduce, rather than asking. They truly have their ear on the rail.

Too many companies create something that they are about to shove down consumers’ throats. Microsoft has done this for years with the Zune, various versions of Windows Mobile, new versions of Office, Vista, and many other creations that were probably great until some T-Rex internal stakeholders got a hold of them. They bring these things to market, tell you how great they are going to be, and then you actually experience something different. They took the approach that they knew what you needed better than you did, and lost. They deduced the problem and then went into their private think chambers to come up with the solution.

If you are making something without really knowing it’ll add value to someone’s life and then trying to broadcast to the market that you’ve cracked the code, don’t be surprised when the world comes roaring back with a wave of negativity that will ruin your world.

We have the tools to do the listening. Even if you’ve created crap, we can see the parts of that crap that people like, the parts they don’t, and we can do something about it.

Our job

Our jobs, as web analysts, are to be complete marketers. To enable and shine a spotlight on the listening. When we know what “marketing” means, we can call ourselves marketers. We are here to unite the clans. Bring the separate (and often competing) disciplines together. We are there to weave the tactics into a tapestry, to create a better product, to find opportunities, to add value, and to boost awareness so that we can protect price.

If your customers aren’t willing to pay full price, it’s because you’re not delivering full value. We have the power to close that value gap and make real, economic changes in our companies. It’s in your hands to figure out what instigates those changes for your particular company. I have no doubt you will.

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  1. Spot on!

    Easy to read, difficult to find the guts to do…

    Posted June 20, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink
  2. Glad it’s easy to read, so true that it’s hard.

    I just keep this in mind: the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do is look back and know I never tried.

    How’s that for some Chicken Soup for the web analytics soul? 🙂

    Posted June 20, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

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