Learning The Art of Marketing

Image from jcestnik via Flickr

Image from jcestnik via Flickr

The following is a guest blog post from Mike Klein. Mike is an online communications strategist for the University of Saskatchewan. He’s an avid reader and he loves to write about marketing strategy on his blog: http://www.michaelklein.ca

On June 1 I had the privilege of attending the Art of Marketing seminar in Calgary (thanks Mike!). It was an event that brought together some of Canada’s brightest marketing minds to listen to a roster of heavy hitter business and marketing thought leaders. Speakers included Chip Heath, Sally Hogshead, Mitch Joel, Gary Vaynerchuk, Max Lenderman and Sir Ken Robinson. Instead of just recapping the event, this post will focus on my key learnings (there are great recap posts here (http://harleyrivet.com/blog), and here (http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/digital+marketing/3175072/story.html).

The State of Marketing Today

The art of marketing has changed forever, leaving many marketers scratching their heads wondering, “What happened? And, what should I be doing now?”

In just thirteen years the interweb has revolutionized the marketing industry. Whether it’s newspapers, television, radio, magazines or outdoor,  there isn’t a traditional form of media untouched.

We have witnessed (notice the past-tense) a fundamental shift in culture, and a dramatic shift in human behavior. And, yet, during the last decade the response of many marketers has ranged from a “let’s take a wait and see attitude”  to artificially drawing a line in the sand proclaiming, “it’s all just a fad.”

The inarguable truth is the internet is here to stay and there is no going back to the old world. As Mitch Joel states, “We need to burn the ships!”  The sooner we all come to grips with this fact, the sooner we can get started on marketing in the new world.

We will never go back to the ‘glory days of advertising’ where all we had to do was interrupt enough people and rake in the sales. There is no going back to the days where we felt that we ‘controlled the message’. The curtain has lifted and we will now stand forever naked for the world to see and talk about, and your customer’s amplifiers can now “go to eleven”.

Disclaimer: If you are with me so far, then keep reading. If you can’t accept the last paragraph then please stop reading and find a new profession. I’m serious. It’s time to get over this debate.

The State of Marketing Today (in the Future)

If the art of marketing has fundamentally changed, then what does it look like today and into the future?

Gary Vaynerchuk describes the new marketing as a return to ‘small town rules’. It’s a world where organizations need to truly care about their customers. It’s a world where friendship and connections can’t be purchased, but instead rely upon building and maintaining social capital by continuously adding value and engaging in meaningful conversation. No longer can organizations ‘talk at’ their customers they must truly, as Gary puts it, “give a sh*t.”

Caring about your customers doesn’t sound that difficult, but for some reason marketers are still resistant. When Gary polled the audience on how many people were not on Twitter, 70% of the crowd put up their hands. He was shocked (He shouted to the audience, and I quote, “go get a Twitter account you stupid mother f#*kers”), and frankly so was I. 70% of the marketers in the room were ignoring a tool that allowed them to listen and converse with their audience in a way that was never before possible!

But, as Chip Heath explained, “Change is hard (nay, futile).” It’s one thing to know the path, but totally another to muster the emotional will to walk it.

As humans we are naturally schizophrenic about change. Our emotions often disagree with our minds. Chip argues that it is a mistake to rely entirely on our conscious mind to guide or decision-making, as our conscious attention is often easily exhausted and overtaken by our emotional desires.

How to Prepare for Today (the future)

What’s a marketer to do if we are hard wired to resist change? Using Chip’s framework from Switch I’ve provided three basic suggestions to help marketers in the new world.

1.  You have to Direct the Rider

In Chip’s framework the rider is the logical, conscious part of you and the people you are hoping to change. To direct the rider you need to overcome ‘paralysis analysis’ (over analyzing the situation), make goals actionable by scripting critical moves and point people to the destination.

To overcome ‘paralysis analysis’ Chip states that marketers must ‘find the bright spots’. Instead of focusing on the enormity of the problems that we are facing with the explosion of new digital marketing tools/methods, we should instead focus on scaling what is already working.

Do you have a department that is successfully blogging? Start by analyzing what is working in that situation and seek to replicate it in other areas.

Is there an employee who is particularly skilled with Twitter? Again, analyze what’s working and replicate that success in other activities.

Once you have an idea of where to start you need to make your goals actionable by scripting critical moves. It’s not enough to say to your employees ‘care more about your customers.’ You need to tell them how. Describe in detail what caring looks like and provide a clear actionable goal.

Finally, frame the future differently by providing a clear vision of what the future looks like. Try writing a description of what your marketing looks like in five years. Better yet, make a 30 second commercial of ‘the new and improved marketing department’ or create a product box that makes the vision tangible to everyone.

2. You have to Motivate the Elephant

The Elephant is the emotional, more instinctual part of you and/ the people you’re hoping to change. To motivate the elephant you need to spark emotion and squash fear.

There is no better way to spark emotion than to show the evidence. Take videos of your customers using your website in frustration. Make posters out of your customer complaints. Pile the money you wasted on your last billboard campaign on your boardroom table. Forget about telling people the stats, instead make the new world real.

Once you’ve got the ball rolling and sparked that emotion, then seek to shrink the change. Seek out quick wins and use the momentum to make change feel possible. Use the happy customer whose problem you just solved by tweeting to garner more resources for your Twitter activity. Demonstrate that new doesn’t equate to bad.

3. You have to Shape the Path

Finally, recognize that our resistance to change is not necessarily our fault. We can lay some of the blame on situational forces that have shaped our behavior. Instead of beating ourselves up over it we can recognize that successful behavioral change can come from changing our situation.  We need to tweak our environments, build new habits and rally the herd.

As marketers we need to design our environments so that it’s easy and intuitive to do the right thing. How about providing extra incentives for your employees to start work-related (or even personal) blogs? What about encouraging your employees to take one day a week to work on experimental ideas? Why not provide team-based merit?

We need to build new habits. Mitch Joel suggests, “Burning the ships.” Why not tell your staff that they aren’t allowed to use traditional media for the next six months? No newspaper ads. No radio. No billboards. Form new ways of thinking by abandoning the old.

Finally, rally the herd by highlighting those who are trying to operate in the new world. Use the champions to bring everyone else along.

Quick Wrap Up

Sir Ken Robinson once said, “The solutions to our problems won’t be invented by this generation; they don’t have the creative capacity. They will be created by the next generation, as they will have created new ways of problem solving; new ways of thinking.”

The Art of Marketing was a call to arms. It was a rally cry for the next generation of marketers.

The good news for all of you laggards out there, is that this new marketing is still in its infancy. As Gary puts it, “The internet is still a teenager. It hasn’t even had sex yet.”  So, don’t despair. Instead jump in and get started.

The Art of Marketing was my wake up call. This is yours.