Telling the truth about SME life today

Why marketing is a load of b*****cks

Religiously the marketers apply their “marketing toolkit” a selection of irrelevant and inappropriate, if not anachronistic, techniques to a world that no longer follows the imaginary rules that the imaginary triple-segmented, double-qualified, sub-divided and over-researched consumer is meant to adhere to.

It will never be 1950 again. Or 1960. Or 1970. So why pretend that all that old school stuff still works?

In a world where you get sacked for “thinking outside the box”, everyone keeps applying the “inside the box”, safe, redundant theories. The classrooms are full of pretty SWOT analyses, BCG matrices, Product Portfolio Analyses, Porter’s Five Forces and case studies of the “successful” global brands. All abstract, intellectually fascinating but, well, irrelevant.

The hyper-growth years of obsessive consumerism are gone. Behind us. They are not going to be back. Ever. And what people won’t admit is that the “pile it high, sell it cheap”, do the numbers, measure the ROI, advertise-the-life-out-of-it approach isn’t working. This is LAZY MARKETING and it’s broken. 

Marketing is all about getting more customers to buy more, more often and ideally at higher prices. However, hiding behind your broken CRM systems (does yours work, really?) sending your broken emails to improve your broken customer transactions is not the way. 

Time to throw away the old obsessions with measuring metrics and models and get back to basics. And the basics are summed up in SIMPLE questions like “Why should people bother to buy from your business when they can buy from the competition?” and “What makes you different from the rest?”. It isn’t about the messenger (the endless debates: twitter vs email, TV vs radio, etc); it’s about the message. More importantly, it’s about the customer and what they think of you and your product. Are you giving them what they want today” And what about tomorrow?

Somewhere in the past 20 or so years “marketing” (sorry about the inverted commas) went from being at the interface between the company and the consumer (the relationship) to becoming a function, a cost centre with its own internal rhetoric and logic for analysing the customer journey. Getting paid for “doing marketing” has come to mean something to do with media, communications, PR and product placement. Pardon my ignorance but I thought that marketing was all about the customers” All about their experience All about how to increase revenue by understanding what the customer really wants and what they might want? 

Right now I just see more and more fancy techniques and fancy theoretical models, people shouting louder about lower prices. Meanwhile, you, as a customer, turn the volume off on the TV ads, ignore the full page spreads and get driven mad by endless cold calling. 

So why do you think your potential customers behave any differently when you hit them with your so-called “cunning, innovative and carefully designed” high volume campaign? 

They, the potential customers, are no different from you. They are bored. Fed up. Over-stimulated. Underwhelmed by product promises they don’t believe or that don’t actually apply to them.

The fact is everyone is hiding behind “doing the numbers” when they should be “doing the thinking”. Time to get back in your box (safe, warm, comfortable)” Or time to get out of the box?

Robert Craven spent five years running training and consultancy programmes for entrepreneurial businesses at Warwick Business School. He is the author of business best-sellers Kick-Start Your Business (foreword by Sir Richard Branson) and Bright Marketing. He now runs The Directors’ Centre and is described by the Financial Times as “the entrepreneurship guru”. For further information, contact Robert Craven on 01225 851044, [email protected]


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