Been busy in my head trying to make the idea of marketing feel authentic to me. This internal debate has been going on since I started my book indexing and editing business many years ago (more on what I’m still doing with that here).
I’ve been listening to Mitch Joel (professional marketeer) of Six Pixels of Separation. His Twist Image Podcast is always fascinating, largely because of the interesting folks he talks to, not all of whom are directly in the marketing game, but he’s out in the digital marketing world with some traditional agency experience trying to figure out how best to provide for his clients’ marketing needs in our brave new world. Last Sunday’s podcast with Brian Clark of Copyblogger fame was particularly interesting. They talked a bit about the transformation that the Internet and social media have made in content marketing using blogging in the years since the turn of the latest century, when Clark started Copyblogger.
Here’s the overview of what I took away from that conversation: Reputation, visibility, tribe.
My Consumer Perspective
Although these two guys talked a little about advertising and how social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter seem to be relying, as Google has done, on advertising for revenue, I got the distinct impression that there was a struggle to continue to find value in advertising as a marketing investment. Ads seem like a totally twentieth-century, mass audience type of marketing, and they feel like an anonymous blast of mostly nonsense (some of it amusing). I’ve seen the use of the Internet to target marketing based on the viewer’s/user’s current interests (at Hulu.com for one place), but there’s also a limit to the value of that. What if the user’s most important need is one that isn’t related to the catalogue of ads available to the blog they’re reading or the entertainment provider they’re using? I don’t know how many times Hulu has asked me to pick an ad out of three and none of them are things I’d ever buy, even though I’ve been watching shows on Hulu for over a year.
Mitch and Brian said that search itself is where one can find out what a potential customer is actually looking for and provide them with visibility about yourself at that point (which is why Google ads likely work best, if you’re willing to pay for position, that is). But putting ads on social media outlets doesn’t really make sense because people are not necessarily in consumption mode when sharing conversations on social media. I guess the bottom line is that I don’t want to see ads in my face unless I’m actually looking for something. I’m not a potential buyer until I say so. We Baby Boomers have had enough of mass-market advertising and the whole consumerist economy, for that matter. If you want to sell me something, you’ll have to respond as an option when I’m actually looking for something, or you’ll have to have an ongoing relationship with me to keep me as a customer.
My Provider Perspective
Advertising, cold calling, “closing the sale” mentality; all these things have always felt wrong somehow. I know some of my reluctance always was the socialization of “don’t bother others” with your stuff or your needs (in this case for income). And yet, there are many good matches out there; folks who do need and are looking for just what I can do or be for them. But advertising always feels like bragging and begging, and cold calling feels like just begging. So, how to be visible to those who would really be great to work with for an appropriate energy (usually monetary) exchange?
Visible Reputation for the Tribe
I have reputation information already since I’ve either got lots of talent and experience (editing, etc.) or talent and training (Tarot reading). So, the quality is there. How and where to make it visible to connect with prospective clients is the question.
Looking at it from the potential client’s perspective, assuming that it’s similar to my consumer perspective, I want to be searchable when someone is looking for editorial services or Tarot readings (depending on which of my businesses I’m coming from). This means being visible on the Web in a regular way that catches the search engine’s attention. Which is why marketing folks spend so much bandwidth on SEO (search engine optimization) strategies. There’s your passive visibility thing (the blog, website, keywords in social media posts).
That’s not enough, though. There’s the tribe. I also want to be visible specifically to folks who are generally interested in what I provide, even if right this minute they are not looking to consume my services. That way I’m in the back of their minds as a quality provider when it comes time to fill a need. But I don’t want to do this part with advertising. There’s no real ongoing relationship there. This is where social media activity and what is called “content marketing” come in. Establishing conversations (not ad postings over and over) will keep me connected in a positive way with folks who generally share my interests, with folks who do what I do and can create referrals, and with customers who can spread the word about my reputation.
Organic growth of customer base then occurs over time. This is authentic marketing for me.
How about you? What’s your approach if you own your own biz, and what do you look for from a potential service or product provider as a potential customer? And lastly, do you see a future for traditional advertising, and if so, what would that look like?
For some great insights on this topic of marketing, and the ethics of it, don’t forget to check out Lynn Serafinn’s 7 Graces of Marketing blog series (she’s also got the meat of her perspective in book form. Lots of great ideas from the more philosophical to the eminently practical.