Everything the tech world says about marketing is incorrect

Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 6:49 AM

io. How to connect the network The biggest problem in marketing in the tech world today is that too many marketers don't know the first thing about marketing.

Everything the tech world says about marketing is incorrect

Samuel Scott is the director of marketing and communications at Logz. io.

How to connect the network

The biggest problem in marketing in the tech world today is that too many marketers don't know the first thing about marketing.

Digital marketers — who, as marketers, really should be cynical sufficient to know better — have fallen into an echo chamber of meaningless buzzwords.

First, the phrase “inbound marketing” was invented and popularized in the mid-2000s by HubSpot, a company that sells — of course — “inbound marketing software” and is receiving some horrible publicity in the form of a book by former employee Dan Lyons that was released on April 5.


As Lyons alleges and seems to imply, the company’s initial success seems to have been based on the promotion of the created duration rather than its actual product:

HubSpot’s first hires included a head of sales and a head of marketing. Halligan and Dharmesh filled these positions even though they'd number product to sell and didn’t even know what product they were going to make. HubSpot started out as a sales operation in look for of a product.

Second, the phrase “content marketing” was largely established around the same time by Joe Pulizzi. He created the Content Marketing Institute, which sells — of course — “content marketing training,” as well as tickets to the Content Marketing World conference. And what's “content marketing?” Wikipedia’s definition (as of this moment of writing) is a textbook example of saying something without actually saying anything:

Content marketing is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers.

The utilize of these and other buzzwords has caused a new generation of marketers to enter the field without knowing even the basic terms and practices that underpin our industry. The result is that too many tech marketers are basing their work on faulty premises, hurting our profession and flooding the Internet with spammy “content.” To realize where the marketing world went wrong, let’s first compare how marketing departments operated before and after the mass adoption of the Internet.

Google Trends

Imagine that it's the year one thousand nine hundred ninety-six. What did traditional marketing departments think about? The four Ps. The promotion mix. Communications strategies. SWOT analyses. The five forces. Building brands. Then, by two thousand six, what did digital marketing teams think about? High Google rankings and more website traffic. Getting Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers. Keyword density. Building links.

“Marketing departments” were using professional strategies that'd been developed over many decades. “Online marketing departments” were calling themselves “marketers,” but didn't even know what every 18-year-old marketing learner in business school knows. Two very different teams were doing two very different things.

In the following years, however, online marketing changed. Google got better at stopping artificial attempts to manipulate rankings. Brands started to have to pay to have any Facebook reach. Most ​links to startups’ websites had always arrive simply as natural by-products of news coverage and publicity efforts and not SEO-type link building, as a March two thousand sixteen study by Credo founder John Doherty published on Moz found.

“Content marketing” is nothing new

While all of these changes were occurring, online marketers should've discarded their imitation marketing and started to practice genuine marketing and brand building.

But “inbound marketers” had always been wrongly declaring — without any proof or evidence — that “outbound” strategies such as advertising, PR and publicity were “dead.” (Look Gartner’s Martin Kihn’s refutation of such boneheaded claims.) So, they still needed to differentiate themselves somehow to stay relevant and hold their staff salaries, client retainers and software users.

The digital marketing world instead responded by coining new buzzwords for existing practices to create it seem as though they were doing something new and different. “Content marketing” arrived shortly after online marketers began to pronounce the single stupidest phrase that's ever existed in the all history of marketing:

“Content is king!”

Anyone who needed to be convinced of the truth of that statement has number business working in the marketing industry.

The content has always been the most important part. It’s a pandering beer commercial that's shown on TV during the Super Bowl. It’s a shocking video of a publicity stunt that spreads throughout Facebook. It’s a duckface selfie photo that a narcissistic millennial posts on Instagram. It’s a contributed article to a major news outlet (such as this piece, which will probably be ignored in the marketing community because attention-hungry marketers should always claim that some “paradigm has shifted” to construct a title for themselves even though nothing significant ever really changes).

If the beer commercial falls flat, then nothing else matters. If the publicity stunt doesn't invite the public’s attention, then nothing else matters. If the duckface selfie fails to get enough “likes” — well, that'd actually never matter in the first place.

Marketing has always been the creation of a message, the insertion of that message into a piece of content and the transmission of that content over a channel to an audience in an effort to construct brands, expand demand and move people down sales funnels. The same is true today — the only differences are that we've two extra sets of available channels, called the Internet and mobile devices, and those channels authorize for a greater variety of content formats.

In the one thousand nine hundred fifty, a marketer may have created a message about a product and then keep that message into a print advertisement that was then transmitted through a newspaper. Today, a marketer may create a message about a product and keep that message into a video that'd then be transmitted through YouTube.

The tools and channels change, but the process remains the same. “Content marketers” are doing nothing different from what creative teams have always done. In the SEO community specifically, more marketing software tools and digital marketing agencies are beginning to realize the negative effect of buzzwords as they rebrand themselves far from “SEO” and more toward “marketing.”

In the end, all marketing is “content marketing” because all marketing uses content. Most people who utilize the generic word “content” are unsure of what they're precisely doing. If it's an advertisement, declare so. If it's sales collateral for a direct marketing campaign, declare so. If it’s a publicity video, declare so. Defining a creative precisely will assistance you to know the best practices for that specific type of collateral.

If marketers don't modify their mindsets, they'll continue to treat “content” as the “widgets” of business school and spam the Internet with crap as they attempt to publish more and more “content” at a cheaper and cheaper cost. But “content” isn't a commodity. Creativity cannot be scaled. As Greg Satell wrote in the Harvard Business Review:

We never call anything that’s good “content.” Nobody walks out of a film they loved and says, “Wow! What grand content!” Nobody listens to “content” on their way to work in the morning. Do you think anybody ever called Ernest Hemingway a “content creator”? If they did, I bet he'd punch ‘em in the nose.

If, for example, what you're really making is an advertisement, then don't call it “content” — be pleased that you're making a commercial for your company or client and then create it awesome sufficient so that people will recollect you years later.

The myth of “inbound marketing”

The overall marketing process I described over occurs within one or more of the five frameworks within the promotion mix: direct marketing, advertising, personal selling, sales promotion and publicity. (The promotion mix is below one of the four Ps of the marketing mix: product, price, space and promotion.)

My essay on Moz

I explained the four Ps, the promotion mix and the step-by-step approach to marcom strategy elsewhere, so I'll summarize here:

I've not listed “inbound marketing” or “content marketing” or “social media marketing” because those things aren't parts of the promotion mix and don't actually exist in the first place. Any example of those three things is simply a function of an existing element of the promotion mix by another name:

Such examples, by the way, are nearly always from mass-consumer brands. It’s extremely scarce to look high-tech startups doing anything similar because of the nature of the industry.

The dominance of direct marketing

One of the largest online marketing publications, Marketing Land, focuses nearly exclusively on direct marketing (by various names):

A word of advice to the publisher: I'd comprise coverage of the advertising, publicity and sales worlds so that you'll invite extra marketers and salespeople who are interested in other parts of the promotion mix. (Disclosure: I've spoken at conferences of Look for Marketing Expo — a sister company to Marketing Land — in Silicon Valley and Europe.)

The tech startup world loves direct marketing. Why? Startups live or die based on precise analytics and growth rates, and direct marketing platforms easily allow these metrics. Google’s recent announcement of its Analytics three hundred sixty Suite is merely the latest attempt to cater to this demand for this information.

Whether one’s desired direct marketing channel is email or Google AdWords or Facebook, all of those platforms arrive with precise data that can measure opens, “likes,” clicks and shares, as well as any resulting purchases, conversions or downloads. A/B and multivariate tests can be running to squeeze out every possible expand in conversion rates.

Moreover, marketing automation platforms are simply ways to running all direct marketing campaigns specifically and efficiently from a single place — they're not “all-in-one marketing software platforms” because they cannot assistance with other types of marketing such as advertising and publicity campaigns. Number automated system or algorithm is creative in a way that'll amaze human beings.

Still, the startup tech world has number patience for the time it takes to construct powerful brands, which is what advertising — and publicity, to a lesser extent — has always done. Marketers necessity direct responses in the form of trackable sales, leads, downloads and installations as quickly as possible to satisfy impatient investors and potential acquirers.

The direct ROI of advertising and publicity campaigns are extremely challenging to measure with any degree of precision and don't typically deliver immediate returns. The tech world increasingly demands direct marketing metrics for all marketing and PR work, but it’s challenging to define direct and immediate ROI from brand marketing campaigns.

One example is when people want direct marketing metrics, such as “How many customers did we get?” from publicity work such as getting news coverage or contributing articles to publications. The no of customers that arrive from an article’s referral traffic will generally be low. Direct marketing and publicity are two different things that are used for different purposes for different goals, and some of the goals of such articles are to expand brand awareness and thought leadership (and those cannot be measured). Assigning the incorrect goals to the incorrect functions is one error that occurs when online marketers don't know the foundations of traditional marketing.

The positive side of direct marketing is that it's simple to track results. The negative side is that it's boring to create and invasive to receive. People tolerate offline advertising; people detest online advertising. Why? Most online advertising is actually direct marketing — and people detest direct marketing whether it's junk mail in their mailboxes, junk email in their inboxes or junk ads that target them on social media or chase them around the Internet.

Moreover, for advertisers themselves, online advertising — as I wrote in a prior TechCrunch column and discuss as a marketing speaker at various conferences — is a hotbed of fraud, corruption, privacy invasions and kickbacks that's sleazier than Don Draper at his worst.

How tech marketers should respond

Obtain back to the marketing basics. Over the past decade or so, many digital marketers entered the field from the technical world and, therefore, lacked any traditional marketing education. That’s why they focus on algorithms, discuss how to automatize best practices and invent random new terms rather than think about how to construct brands with the techniques that have been developed over the past century.

To become better marketers, those in the tech startup world necessity to pass the latest redundant blog post on “inbound marketing” or “content marketing” and read a Marketing one hundred one textbook. (I recommend Principles of Marketing by Philip T. Kotler and Gary Armstrong. Tip: Purchase a used edition that's a couple of years elderly to rescue a lot of money.)

Memorise about direct marketing strategy, advertising strategy and publicity strategy within the promotion mix and then apply those traditional principles to your online and offline channels of choice — whether they'll comprise television, Facebook, news outlets, Google AdWords or anything else. Essentially, it's totally changing one’s “marketing algorithm” to integrate traditional and online marketing best practices.

Don't separate traditional and online marketing teams. The more that human action moves online, the more that traditional and digital marketing will become just “marketing.” Direct marketers will necessity to know how to apply the best practices in their work to both online and offline channels. The same will be true for advertisers, publicists and salespeople. A excellent publicist, for example, should know how to obtain a product on national TV as well as spread on Facebook.

Examine alternatives to direct marketing. Technical people are very excellent at marketing analytics and algorithms, but they're not always very creative. However, advertisements such as the Dollar Shave Club one mentioned earlier and publicity campaigns such as Israeli PR agency Blonde 2.0’s work for the Yo mobile app can deliver huge results.

We in the tech world have thought love direct marketers for so long that we've forgotten how to act love brand marketers. But remember: How did Apple become the most valuable brand in the world? Through television commercials such as “1984” and print ads such as “Think different.”

Stay doubtful at all times. Marketers should be the most challenging people to whom to market, but even we can be bamboozled. Ask yourself: “How much money will this person or company create by popularizing this idea?” Whenever marketers claim that “everything has changed” or that something is “dead” or that some new buzzword “is the future of marketing,” ask for evidence. Create them cite their sources and clarify their reasoning.

Most of the time, they're just full of it.

Featured Image: Robert Kyllo/Shutterstock

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