Marketing people love?

Boom heart image from Valuable Content Marketing

I wonder what you really think about marketing. Is it a concept you embrace, naturally, or does the thought of it somehow leave you cold?

Ian is a client of ours – the founder of a 100-person consultancy firm. He has never been a big marketing fan. His fantastic business has grown organically, largely driven by the referrals that come from doing excellent work and the sterling efforts of his new business team. But consistent marketing? Yes of course it’s something he’s always wanted to get to grips with. He knows it will make selling so much easier, but he wrestles with the fact that, philosophically, marketing just feels a bit wrong. He’s not alone.

Julie is a good friend of mine. She’s starting up a business selling the beautiful stained glass artwork she makes. Julie’s a talented artist but detests the idea of marketing herself. Her products are great – why can’t they just sell themselves? For her marketing is synonymous with lying.

Marketing shouldn’t feel this way

For Ian, Julie and many business owners we meet, marketing feels like putting on an act. They worry that they’ll come across as pompous, self-important, invasive and manipulative, and that by marketing they will be seen as coercing people into buying things. Like a cold caller on a Sunday afternoon, or the fake-smiling actor in a cheesy TV advertisement, marketing will turn them into people that nobody likes or trusts. For many in business there’s an inherent value clash here.

I can so relate to that sentiment. Even now with a book on marketing to my name and a business I love, I still struggle with the word. Yet let’s face it; however you term it marketing is the lifeblood of commerce. You simply cannot succeed in the long term without it and I’m all up for helping those who start and run good businesses to succeed.

Can’t we come up with a better sort of marketing: an approach that customers will actually appreciate; one that makes business leaders like Ian and small business owners like Julie feel proud, and lets all of us in this game sleep better at night?

Exploding the marketing myths

I think there’s a way of attracting business that ticks all those boxes, and turns conventional thinking on its head.

We’re talking about marketing that’s purely about making connections with the people your business is set up to serve, and which doesn’t waste time or hot air trying to sweet talk people who’ll never want to buy from you.  Put the emphasis on helping your community rather than selling to anonymous masses, and you come up with an easier, more respectful, and even a kinder way of communicating.

“Put the emphasis on helping your community rather than selling to anonymous masses.”

If that sounds fluffy and ineffectual, I can assure you it is not. There’s a hardheaded business reason for marketing this way. It’s an approach that’s far more effective than the kind that Ian, Julie and so many other good business people will do anything to avoid. And in a world that hates being ‘marketed at’, it’s the only way to go in the long-term.

You’re heard We believe
The louder you shout and the harder you sell the more you sell. The harder you sell the quicker they’ll run. The more you HELP the more you’ll sell.
Put on an act. Business is personal. Be yourself. People will like you for it.
Keep your knowledge and ideas to yourself. Guard them closely. Turn your knowledge into content. Share your ideas widely. Give your content away, generously, for free.
Blow your own trumpet. Share your enthusiasm, answer your customers’ questions and tell their stories.
Know all the answers. Ask good questions.
You need a slick message to persuade people to buy from you. You need to show you understand your customers and want to help them.
Talk to as wide a market as possible and you’re bound to find someone who’ll buy from you. Be specific. Talk to one niche at a time.
Sell at every opportunity. Find out more about your customer at every opportunity. Listening is the key.
Make yourself look good. Make yourself useful.

Far more natural, way more effective

Sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it, but you’ll see far better results if you think of marketing in this way. Stop pushing so hard; show up to help not to sell; share useful, inspiring content at every opportunity and the customers you want will be so much easier to find. You don’t have to be a slicker version of yourself, just the best version of who you really are.

We’re on a mission to help good businesses flourish with marketing people love. Are you with us?

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  1. David Shaw

    Great article and 100% right! Marketing is about teaching today and people need to ask themselves am I the best teacher at what I do starting in their town then county and so on. I also feel that marketing touches almost every area of a business and needs to a horizontal across all business lines and functions and not seen as one function.

  2. Ryan James

    For me, marketing and sales are both highly misunderstood…
    At 21 years old I had the privilege of doing an apprenticeship at one of the best sales academies in the US, for a company renowned for their sales prowess, yet never did I ever get taught how to close, how to fabricate the truth or how to manipulate people.
    Instead ir was always about taking more time/effort to understand the customers’ needs and what would really help them. I won A LOT of sales in my first year and have stuck to these core principles ever since.

    Sales is merely an extension of marketing, the only difference being that sales is what happens when two people are in verbal conversation and marketing is what happens when they aren’t!
    Whichever way, good sales or marketing has always been about understanding the customer, being helpful and communicating with clarity – of which the latter two you can only do if you truly understand your customer!

    But what I tend to find time and time again is that businesses really don’t understand their audience/customer, they assume far too much and consequently forced into over selling or marketing their proposition because they haven’t done their homework. This is precisely when, where and why sales and marketing get a bad rep and are consequently become misunderstood, loathed and feared.

  3. Sonja Jefferson

    Thanks David and Ryan.

    David – marketing as teaching, helping and inspiring is a far cry from the conventional view isn’t it, but that’s the job. And how much more fun is that! I think you’re right – if you take this approach it has to go wider than the marketing function. The companies we see doing best today are getting the involvement of people from the leadership team through sales, customer service, technical experts too.

    Ryan – thanks for another great comment. Sounds as if you had some really good training there. How is it that in so many people’s minds selling and marketing has come to be synonymous with manipulation and lying when the best sales and marketing people have never seen it that way? And what can we do to change the perception so everyone enjoys it more?


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