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’s marketing podcast, Six Pixels of Separation, off and on for several years now. 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 digital world. Some time has passed since he talked to Brian Clark, the founder of Copyblogger, about Clark’s basic marketing principles, but I think they are perennial.
Here’s an overview of what I took away from that conversation about reputation, visibility, and tribe.
My Consumer Perspective
Although these two guys talked a little about advertising and how social media platforms seem to be relying, as Google has done, on advertising for revenue, I got the distinct impression that they struggled to find value in advertising as a marketing investment. To me, ads feel like an anonymous blast of mostly nonsense (but some of it is amusing). I see how knowing an online user’s interests can focus the types of ads I see, but what if my most important need is one that isn’t related to the catalogue of ads available to the website I’m looking at? I don’t know how many times Google’s YouTube has asked me to pick a product out of three, and none of them are things I’d ever buy.
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. Putting ads on social media outlets doesn’t really make sense because people are not necessarily in consumption mode there. I agree. I don’t want to see ads in my face unless I’m actually looking for something. We Baby Boomers have had enough of mass-market advertising. If you want to sell me something, you’ll have to respond as an option when I’m looking for something, or you’ll have to have an ongoing relationship with me as a customer.
My Provider Perspective
Advertising, cold calling, “closing the sale” mentality; all these things have always felt disrespectful to me. I know my reluctance comes from my early socialization of “don’t bother others” with your stuff or your needs. 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 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?
I have reputation settled in my oldest business (publishing services like editing), but not as much in this newer business of website design. I am building a portfolio, though, and my customer service reputation, regardless of the type of business, has always been one of my great talents. The question for me is how best to make that reputation visible.
Looking at it from the potential client’s perspective, I want to be searchable when someone is looking for publishing or site design services. This means being visible on the Web in a regular way that catches the search engine’s attention. That’s what SEO (search engine optimization) strategy is for. By organizing posts like this one and other content in a way that makes the search engine happy, I will be more visible. I can also pay to be more visible in search, but I haven’t seen much return from the couple of times I tried that (Google ads).
Relating to Your Tribe
And being visible to the machine is not enough. There’s the tribe. I also want to be visible to real humans who are 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 relationship there. This is where social media activity and what is called “content marketing” come in. By maintaining conversations with customers through posts, newsletters, interactive groups, and video (not just ad postings over and over) I can stay 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 growing my 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?