What’s Wrong with Marketing?

If you’re looking for a microcosm of what’s wrong with marketing today, look no further than USA Basketball’s World Basketball Festival 2014 press release.

I’m pretty sure when most people read this they’ll zero in on the contributions the festival will make to Chicago and neighboring communities – as they should.

However, when you read into the details of the festival, specifically the opening ceremonies, it gets a bit more interesting, at least from a marketing point of view:

As part of the ceremony, consumers will hear from their favorite basketball players and coaches as well as interact with USA Basketball product collections.

Suddenly we’re no longer people or fans. We’re consumers. Now that we’re consumers, we’ll have the opportunity to “interact” with product collections.

Interact with USA Basketball product collections.

We want you to be excited about what’s happening, about what is being brought to your city … but most of all we want you to interact with product collections.

That’s a pretty fancy way of saying buy stuff. That’s a pretty sad commentary, too, on the state of what’s important.





Drowning in Content Marketing

In just over half a second – 0.53 seconds to be exact – marketers can have over 657M content marketing resources at their fingertips.

TL;DR: We’re drowning in content and by default we’re quickly drowning in content marketing. The more content marketing we get, the less effective it becomes.

The most interesting aspect of this trend is that, for the most part, it is self-inflicted and easily solved.

Right now, it’s too easy to badge third-party content or post links to content you like that you feel reinforce your brand (or better said, attempt to reinforce your brand). These two methods of content marketing are easy to execute. They can scale incredibly quickly and are very low cost. The underlying problem is that these two methods place the focus on quantity to get through the clutter – frequently avoiding quality at any and all costs. Quality takes time and costs more.

Yet, if you ask enterprise sales teams what their most successful sales tools are they’ll tell you (more often than not) that reference customers are the key. They’ll tell you it’s the ability for an existing customer’s experience to be translated to a prospect that matters. They’ll tell you it’s the ability to establish a level of comfort and familiarity while enabling the early stages of trust to be built that are critical to success.

Translation: It’s about depth. It’s not about volume.

If this is the case, why then do we continue to see such an incredible volume of badged and curated content v. original content – even in the enterprise sales arena? Volume is easy and it’s incredibly deceiving, especially when it’s easily attached to impressions (the appearance of progress) which are not tied all the way through to prospect engagement or more meaningful ROI metrics.

Quality takes time and costs more … but it also provides the depth and differentiation necessary to properly tell your story and add value to your market.

Leverage the power of your organization’s passion to tell their stories. These stories exist – they simply haven’t been asked for in a direct fashion. Engage the passion of your customers and help them tell their stories. They’ll welcome the opportunity and the assistance.

So now what happens:

  • The amount of work marketers have to do will increase (which is why we don’t see this happen that often)
  • The volume of your content marketing will go down. Don’t panic. This is a good thing because the declining volume is predominantly noise.
  • The quality of your content marketing, and the associated ROI, will go up. This is the most valuable asset you can create.

It’s almost a slow marketing approach … but that’s an entirely different post for another day.

A 15 Minute Marketing Practice

“What’s the best way I can spend 15 minutes to improve my marketing?”

Not an atypical, first thing in the morning email, but certainly more direct than usual.

There are countless exercises one can conduct in 15 minutes. However, given the rapidly approaching holiday and budgeting season(s), my recommendation today was shop yourself.

Step outside of your operations and focus on the processes your customers and/or partners will go through to engage with you.

  • Are your landing pages up to date?
  • Are your product / service descriptions correct?
  • Are there meaningful use cases / proof points that are readily accessible on your site?
  • Is the contact information up to date?
  • Most importantly, are the calls to action properly connecting to your sales and support operations?

Too often as marketers we’re racing from meeting to meeting, from fire to fire without taking the proactive time to look back and see where we actually are.

It takes 15 minutes (less, actually) to go through the quick checklist noted above and make sure everything is smooth, timely, relevant and properly presented for your customers and partners.

…and it’s all done before lunch.

Measured. Managed. Accountable.

For reasons that may become apparent some day (hopefully soon), the theme of late has become accountability.

Just about every day this month I’ve been asked, “How do I / we increase execution, effectiveness and accountability within our marketing organization?”

The standard answer is actually pretty simple:

  1. Set measurable goals;
  2. Be sure these measurable goals have to be managed to be achieved (read: not flip of the switch done … but done over time and improved upon to be achieved);
  3. Publish the goals and their progress throughout the organization. Be sure there is intra and ideally inter-team visibility and accountability;
  4. Publish the final results along with the learnings, leveraging this experience to educate / mentor the organization and help everyone (who is interested) move forward.

When you put yourself on the line and hold yourself accountable to an objective, one that others share and can support, it is amazing how far you can push, how creative your solutions can become and how much you can achieve.

When you don’t hold yourself accountable, you are far less likely to achieve a remarkable objective – no matter how important it seems at the time.

It would be ideal to know exactly why most marketing organizations don’t want to hold themselves accountable for their success. The research here will continue, probably indefinitely.

In the interim, I’m going to continue to rely on my believe that marketing organizations, and people in general, don’t want anyone to know they may not achieve their goal because this is what the exhaustive research done in this area tells us.

As far as I’m concerned, this believe is silly and selfish.

The best possible outcome of putting an objective on the line and creating public accountability is the opportunity to share the journey, the learnings and the results. It is through the sharing and communication of the process and the day-to-day execution that the best possible learnings are realized and the optimal results achieved.

There is little benefit in the results themselves when they are taken without proper context. Results without context don’t scale an organization. This I do know from experience.

A singular focus on a narrow objective may well achieve that result. The problem is that more often than not this result turns out to be the wrong destination in the grand scheme of things because the in-progress learnings weren’t shared – learnings that would have delivered a meaningful impact on other strategies and decisions.

It’s great to be measured.

It’s great to be managed.

It’s great to be accountable.

Simply knowing this is more than half of the battle.

Choose Your Headaches Wisely

The typical technical sales cycle is overwhelmed with data. Features beget functions which beget more features which somehow turn into something called “benefits” when marketing gets done playing with them.

It’s impossible for anyone to stay attuned to all of these variables. At best people are capable of recalling three (3) things from a conversation in the short term and one (1) thing in the mid to long term.

Focus on the one thing that matters to your customer or prospect as it will be different for each and every relationships – and it’s our job as marketing to make that scale and excel operationally.

The key tipping point to one thing? Headaches.

Don’t underestimate the importance of removing headaches for your prospects and clients.

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter most – the attention to detail that no one else is worrying about because it isn’t “important enough” or “big enough” to be of value.

Removing headaches on a daily basis adds up quickly – especially when those headaches are attributable to improvements in efficiency, engagement, productivity and profitability.

Choose headaches wisely.