Thursday, December 10, 2009

Myths And Facts About Marketing

I received a fascinating response to an old post the other day. Go ahead and read it. Then come back.

So I've been meaning to write a response to this for a while, but each response turned into a lengthy diatribe. So I thought I'd better post it here. This is an attitude on marketing that I confess I used to have before it became critical to my business's survival. Once I hit that point, i lost a lot of my hesitancy about it right quick. But more to the point, once I thought through some of these objections to marketing, I realized they didn't hold water.

Myth 1: Marketing requires an advanced degree. The poster says that "Marketing is not a way of life. It is a highly specialized skill set. Colleges teach classes in it and offer degrees in it. To say that the typical small business person should "market" themself is to demand that they undertake a specialized area of activity for which they have no particular qualification."

OK, in some positions and especially for larger companies, you might need a marketing degree. You might need to conduct market surveys and gather data and orchestrate nationwide, multi-media campaigns to numerous target markets. But for many small businesses, that's not what you're doing. You're writing up a brochure to leave with clients. You're creating and mailing some simple postcards with VistaPrint. You're calling or emailing five or ten people a day and telling them about your services. Or maybe you're joining a business networking group you found through That's it. No special degree required.

As to your chosen marketing methods, you could cold call, send postcards, send emails, set up a regular e-zine, or do all of those--or something else. Just try a bunch of things and see what works, and most importantly, what you'll stick with. You don't have to have an advanced degree to market your skills. Persistence pays off.

Myth 2: Marketing is universally annoying. The poster stated that "I have always found marketing and the marketing mindset offensive. Why, then, should I try to market to others?" The thing is, while most people just put up with ads, sometimes you see ads for something you actually want, and at a good price--and then you're probably glad you saw that ad.

Marketing isn't universally annoying--especially to people who want and need what you offer. A successful "marketing mindset" starts with the idea that someone out there wants what you're selling--and if you don't believe that yourself, maybe you should find a different line of work.

"Tooting your own horn" is somehow bad. The most interesting thing the poster said, in my opinion, is this:

"Marketing basically involves creating the illusion for the potential customer that you are better than the other people in your line of work. Unless you're somebody fairly exceptional, you're probably NOT appreciably better at your profession than the competition. If you really ARE the highly talented cream of the crop, you will stand out and gain a reputaion by that fact alone. There's no need to involve yourself in a 'snow job' that is degrading of your own self-respect and demonstrates contempt for the discernment of your potential customers. "

The idea that marketing involves creating the illusion that you're better than others in your field is NOT necessarily true. Your marketing need not contain any mention at all of others in your field. Instead of making negative statements about how you're better than them, you can make positive statements about why you're the right fit for their company. Maybe you have a background in the industry. it doesn't have to be implicitly insulting to someone else--and it shouldn't be.

Just because you're willing to stand up, wave your arms and shout "Over here!" doesn't mean you're also shouting "Everyone else stinks!" When I market, I'm not doing it with the mindset that I'm better than other copywriters. I'm doing it with the idea that I might be a good choice because I'm a better fit for that company. Or maybe I'm the only one who stuck my neck out to get noticed. You don't have to be "fairly exceptional" to have the right to market your services.

If you're the best, the business will come to you. Boy, do I wish this were true. There's nothing I love more than a meritocracy. But the real world doesn't work like that, as countless famous, highly gifted artists who died in poverty will tell you. Half the financial success of an artist lies in marketing. Nobody will buy your novel if they can't find it in stores, even if it's the best work of your generation. And nobody will hire you as a copywriter if you don't tell them you exist.

Marketing is not an implicitly insulting or shameful practice--or an arcane discipline that only a chosen few can understand. It's persistence, plain and simple. It's showing up. It's putting yourself in front of clients on a consistent basis, doing a great job, and building a relationship over time. It's also how small businesses--and large businesses--survive and thrive.


Lori said...

It's pretty obvious he's not understanding the basic concepts of marketing. And I would pose the question - if you don't market, how exactly do you let others know you're there?

When you respond to a job ad, you're marketing. When you send a Christmas card to a client, you're marketing. When you ask for any job, you're marketing. Just because the word is connected to a degree doesn't mean you're not doing it correctly. Writing and journalism have degrees attached, yet you don't have to have a degree in order to write.

So I wonder how this guy gets word out about his business? Does he have a business? That may be the issue for him. He may work for a corporation, in which case he may not see the need to connect with clients directly. But if he has a boss, he has to convince that boss he's due for a raise, right? That's selling one's value to someone else, which is exactly what marketing goals look like.

Marketing can be annoying if you don't know how to do it. I'm totally against people coming up to me, agenda in mind, and hard-selling me on their fabulous company. You want to win me over? Befriend me. Ask me questions about my business. Learn about me and then tell me what your business can do for me to make my life a little easier. And don't turn off the charm the minute you realize we don't have an instant reason to work together. I've had marketing connections for five, six years before I've done one ounce of work for them. That's fine. I have one more ally in the industry, and that's never a bad thing.

Yea, I have to stop now. This is my lengthy diatribe!

Jennifer Williamson said...

Hi Lori,

Exactly--if you don't market, how can you hope to have any kind of financial success? I'm sure there must be some company out there that has zero need to market, but that's probably because it lives off a single contract or two--and when that contract goes, the business owner might as well be a laid-off full-timer.

home based internet businesses said...

Sending postcards are really good tool to impress your friends and customer with your products and services.

marketing programs said...

Fabulous Post!! Good understanding of basic myths of marketing!!