The always effervescent, often irreverent Internet marketing personality Gary Vaynerchuk recently made a statement that resonated with many people: “Marketers ruin everything.” He even had a t-shirt made using the statement as a slogan.
I agree with Gary’s terse surmise 100%. As a marketer I can speak from experience; we ruin everything we get our hands on, and that’s especially true where social media is concerned.
Years ago, we took blogging, which was, at that time, an unadulterated, shoot-from-the-hip-speak-from-the-heart form of communication (“The last form of honest advertising,” someone said.) and made it a medium untrusted by consumers more than any other marketing channel. More recently, we turned Facebook from a purely social network into a platform for pushing ads and hawking our wares.
Well, that day is over! (At least, I hope it’s over.) Hopefully, that day is quickly coming to an end.
Seth Godin, a well-known marketing guru and best-selling author of numerous books (one of which was entitled “All Marketers Are Liars”), recently made the following remarks during a speech at Hubspot’s inbound marketing conference.
“Marketing isn’t just about spamming people with calls and emails until they relent and buy your product. In fact, that strategy rarely if ever works. A healthier way to look at inbound marketing is this – at its core, it’s a matter of sharing ideas. Anyone can share ideas, whether they’re a bestselling author or just another face in the crowd.”
In that same speech, Seth also said, “I don’t think what humans are good at is following instructions. I think what we’re good at is connecting. We’re leaving the industrial economy and entering the connection economy.”
With that in mind, allow me to posit two “what if” scenarios.
What if, instead of hitting people over the head with marketing messages, we simply connected with them as human beings.
That would demand of us that we approach communication in a whole new way. It would require that we be honest with consumers, admit when we make mistakes, and make every attempt to maintain a high level of integrity, authenticity and transparency in every communication.
And what if, instead of spending lots of money on advertising, we created content that was really helpful to our customers and prospects; content that focused on meeting their needs, addressing their concerns and solving their problems.
I know that, for many, that’s a huge paradigm shift. But it’s a necessary one in an age when every person with a smartphone is a member of the media; where, thanks to social media, everyone has a voice; and where anyone can “out” a company for false advertising or for products that don’t live up to the hype.
The Federal Trade Commission has made valiant attempts to keep our feet to the fire, but we have to hold ourselves accountable. (Our customers certainly will.)
And if we do, I’d be very interested to hear what Gary would say to that. There could even be another t-shirt in the offing.