A Key Marketing Decision Point

There are SO many problems with marketing today. First of all, it’s out of control. I’ve seen the number of telemarketing calls, spam, website tracking and automated email garbage quadruple in just the past few years. Have I mentioned that Facebook seems convinced that I own a cat?  It’s the weirdest thing — I continuously get ads for kitty litter, cat toys, cat carriers and yes, even cat insurance!  (Who knew!). BTW — I don’t own a cat and haven’t owned one in decades. Yet, the marketing persists in a crisis situation that I now refer to as “Catgate.” 🙂

In my ongoing long-term criticism of my chosen profession, I often get asked, “Scott, WHY is marketing is soooo bad?” Well, regular readers know the first answer and that’s empathy (or the lack thereof). That’s where we put ourselves into the audience’s shoes before we send them garbage and ask the question — SHOULD we send them garbage? How would WE feel if WE received this garbage? Things like that.

But it also comes down to one key decision point long before messages are crafted, a website is created or even a company brand is born on a cocktail napkin. Are we doing this FOR them or do we want something FROM them? For vs. From makes all the difference. Ok, let’s be real, here. Most companies want something FROM you. They want your money, your time, your data (which they sell through data brokers) or in the case of brands they want a little piece of your soul.  (Yes, EXACTLY like a Harry Potter Horcrux, actually).

I get it — marketing is a job and that job is about making money and ROI. But what if I told you that the very best way to accomplish that objective would be to take the opposite tact?  Instead of trying to get something FROM the audience and beating them over the head with ads, emails, phone calls, text messages, billboards, bus signs, carrier pigeons and skywriting — what if we actually did something FOR them with NO strings attached just…because. What if we published a blog or a video series or an e-book to help them even if we KNOW they might never use our products/services or even say thank you?  

Making your marketing about doing things FOR your audience is a big step forward for any brand. When I was Director of MarComm for NAMM (The National Association of Music Merchants), I learned that when we started taking us out of the equation and just being about them, being that community where THEY could thrive and shine, our marketing transformed. Our brand crystallized—and we knew how to increase member satisfaction without providing one extra service. Pretty cool, huh?

At NAMM, members often told me that NAMM “ought to make sure musical instruments and playing music were in the news every single day.” They said doing that would help them because people would be constantly exposed to news about musical instruments. A fine idea and I noticed that it was already happening on a daily basis. So….I did a Google search for “musical instruments” “news” and “playing music” and put the results in an easily curated, poorly designed e-news bulletin called simply “The Daily News.”  I’ve never seen open rates so high and heard such enthusiastic appreciation for what was a tiny bit of work each day for me personally. Here’s the difference — The Daily News came from NAMM but it wasn’t ABOUT NAMM. We left ourselves completely out of it and did it just for them. More than a decade later, NAMM still produces a version of this baby called “The Weekly Beat.” (Catchy—but not quite as clear).

Marketing CAN be just about them with your brand left out of it, but it’s a choice. Are you going to be FOR them or do you want something FROM them? I believe that our marketing will get better when we focus on building relationships beyond just sales and making our marketing efforts about truly helping our audiences. So, before you create anything else in your marketing campaign or assume your audience owns a cat when they DO. NOT. OWN. ONE., use your empathy—and make the choice to be FOR them.