Contributed by Ron Marcus, ZUZA Marketing Cheerleader
Boy, how times have changed.
When I was getting my undergraduate degree in marketing some two decades ago (oops, just gave away my age!), the way we marketed was a whole lot different from how we do it today. At that point, it really hadn’t changed much for decades, and would remain pretty much unchanged until the mid 1990s, when the internet started to impact commerce and the availability of information worldwide. Contrast that today, when everything is changing almost daily.
I graduated in 1989. I studied the basics — target marketing, the 4 Ps (Product, Price, Place, Promotion), the USP (Unique Selling Proposition), statistics, market research, consumer behavior, marketing communications and marketing management. Marketing strategies and tactics were very traditional — conduct surveys, establish target markets, place ads, hand out collateral, send out mailers, go to trade shows, create a nice retail presence, test, evaluate, repeat. Ads were conceived and placed weeks in advance and run for several months at a time.
The marketing world back then looked like this:
- Consumer research was done with pen and paper surveys and face-to-face focus groups.
- Advertising media was composed of TV, radio, print publications, direct mail and trade shows.
- Faxing was the way you got documents around the world quickly.
- Email was a brand new form of communication. (“You’ve got mail!”)
- There were no PDFs.
- There were no laser printers. (Remember dot matrix printers?).
- There was no broadband. (I still remember my first 1200-baud modem.)
- Buyers got their information primarily by talking with sales people. Advertising was used primarily for brand building.
- CRM didn’t exist yet.
- Lotus 123 was the spreadsheet of choice, on PCs.
- There were no commercial web pages yet.
- There were no search engines either.
- There was no such thing as “online video.”
- Video production was prohibitively expensive.
- Cell phones were used to make calls. They were not capable of any other functions.
- Mp3s did not exist. Nor did iPods. We listened to music on compact disc, and watched video on VHS tapes. There was no such thing as a “podcast.”
- ROI of marketing campaigns was tricky to measure. Direct response marketing was the most trackable, but tracking was still a manual and laborious process.
Today’s Marketing World
If I were getting my undergraduate degree in marketing today, I suspect that the curriculum would be very, very different. The foundational concepts would be similar — the 4 Ps, the USP, target marketing, consumer behavior. But the media, buying cycle and the ways buyers interact with brands have changed completely. As a result, the rules and methods of marketing have had to shift accordingly.
The marketing world today looks like this:
- Broadband Internet is widespread.
- People are connected to the Internet virtually wherever they are all the time — by PC, tablet, mobile phone, even their TVs.
- Comprehensive information about pretty much everything is available instantaneously.
- Social media — particularly Facebook and Twitter — have given ordinary people the power to topple governments and control the reputations of companies. It has taken control of the flow of information away from marketers and given it to the buyers — what they consume, and when and where they consume it.
- Buyers are very well informed long before they ever talk to a salesperson.
- There has been a literal explosion of media choices for buyers. Buyers can curate very specific content channels for themselves. The days of mass marketing are largely gone. Today it’s all about pinpoint marketing on a mass scale, a seeming paradox that savvy marketers much now master.
- Though marketers now have to contend with a dizzying array of marketing channels, they’ve also gained an advantage: today’s media are electronic and very easily trackable. Marketers now have access to an incredible amount of consumer behavior data that the students of my day could barely dream of.
- The flip side of the above bullet is that marketers must learn how to sift through the piles of data to perform meaningful analyses and make good conclusions.
- The flip-flip side is that marketers today have access to some incredible Sales and Marketing Automation Tools that do most of the heavy lifting for us. These powerful tools give the kind of comprehensive marketing insight that until very recently only the largest companies could afford to collect. Now, even the smallest businesses have access to affordable and amazingly powerful tools for data gathering and campaign automation.
- Buyers are hungry for good content that either entertains or educates them. The Internet is their worldwide library for content. Today’s marketer needs to be a publisher of good content to win the trust and loyalty of buyers. As a result, a whole new discipline called Content Marketing has emerged that has fast become the basic currency of effective marketing.
The New Marketing
If I were a marketing professor today, I would make sure my students learned:
- How to deal with rapid change — technology and consumer behavior seems to change almost daily these days.
- How to interact with and grow trusting communities in social media.
- How to create, implement, and measure marketing campaigns using sales & marketing automation tools.
- Why content marketing is critical to a successful marketing program and why marketers must think as journalists, not masters of advertising spin. Content includes documents, video and webinars.
- How to use today’s digital tracking tools to gain comprehensive customer insight.
- The similarities and differences between B2C and B2B sales and marketing.
For us B2B marketers, the new marketing paradigm today is to implement what I’ll call the “trifecta of marketing empowerment.”
- CRM – Customer Relationship Management tool — such as salesforce.com — for full visibility and tracking of sales opportunities (a.k.a. deals)
- Business Information tool — such as Hoovers, ZoomInfo or Data.com — for getting rich prospect information segmented with comprehensive demographics.
- MA – Marketing Automation tool — such as Pardot, Marketo or Eloqua – automating outbound marketing campaigns, lead nurturing campaigns and the tracking and qualifying of prospects.
In addition to the trifecta, there is another form of marketing automation, Marketing Asset Management (the type of solution that our company provides), which helps marketing departments provide custom on-demand marketing communications assets, both print and digital, at the local level with minimal effort and practically infinite scalability. This tool helps solve the paradox of pinpoint marketing on a mass scale that we mentioned above.
Today’s media mix includes (but is far from limited to):
- Traditional TV, print, radio, direct marketing and live events.
- Social media, including Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and now Pinterest.
- Email and Internet campaigns.
- Mobile platforms including smartphones and tablets.
- Webinars and virtual trade shows.
- Online video channels.
It’s a Great Time to be a Marketer.
The methods of marketing have shifted dramatically in just the past few years, and continue to evolve almost daily. This means as marketers we must never settle for the status quo, we must remain nimble, and we must be constantly learning about the latest channels, tools and best practices to engage our buyers. Today’s marketer is in school every day, and the Internet is our campus. The same rich information that is available to buyers is available to us marketers too! And while today’s media have allowed buyers to control the way we engage with them, today’s tools allow us to engage with them the way they want while letting us easily track all of our interactions with them to assess our marketing success.
I believe this is what is essential for today’s marketing school students to learn, and indeed, for all of us to embrace.
This blog post has touched on several topics we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, including:
In future posts will dive more deeply into these and other essential topics for us marketers.
Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.