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Making Marketing a Noble Profession

“Oh, don’t get me to buy anything.”

That’s the reaction I got at a party once when I told someone I was in marketing. And at Inbound 2012, HubSpot co-founder Dharmesh Shah told a story like mine when he announced the new HubSpot 3 software.

I’m sure every marketer has a similar anecdote. It’s a cold hard fact, nobody likes marketing as they know it. And honestly, I don’t like it either. Marketers have been interrupters for decades, finding a way to get a message in front of someone whether the person wanted to see that message or not. The effectiveness of those techniques, as anyone who has done marketing for more than 5 years can attest, has declined just as the cost of those techniques has risen.

And it’s only going to get worse. Back in 2000, when the oldest millennials were nearing adulthood, teens were subject to 20,000 commercial messages a year. An entire generation (mine) has grown up distrusting old-style advertising and marketing, and knows how to tune out. Twelve years later, the change has happened. It’s done. And the more marketers refuse to change, the more people will dislike us. The new marketing model, as HubSpot says, is to create marketing people love.

Education Beats Promotion

The goal of marketing is still to increase sales. How we do it is completely different. Marketers need to stop interrupting with messages about products and start educating.

Users looking for information online that solves a problem. If you’re selling security software, you should write about keeping a computer safe. Or if a cyber security alert is announced, you should be the first person online writing about that. This can work for anything from cupcakes to because now users are in control and only want to know how their problem is solved… not just how your product can solve that problem.

Consider this education like a first date. You’re providing enough information to see if you are compatible, and you’ve got to make that information look and sound good. If you start talking about how your genetic makeup can fill in gaps with your dates genetic makeup to create a perfect child, well, that first date will be your last date.

Personalization Beats Mass Communication

Marketing will always be about connecting with as many potential buyers as possible, but now, those buyers need to be treated more like individuals. The content on your website should be designed to target specific customer groups, based on the information you collect over time. If you are targeting specific verticals, then once you know a the industry a visitor is in the content on your site–images, text and offers–should reflect that.

Let’s continue with the dating analogy. If after the first date, you keep asking the same basic questions, your potential partner is going to think you don’t know them. Relationship over.

Lifetime Value Beats On-Time Sale

Marketing will still be responsible for delivering leads to sales, but that process doesn’t begin and end with the hand off. A true marketing ecosystem is integrated within all parts of the business, creating a better experience as the customer relationship grows and changes. From the initial touch point and nurturing on the marketing side, to final sales process, to post-sale support and up-sell opportunities, a customer should be given a reason to keep coming back for more personalized education.

This is when dating becomes a long-term relationship. You’ve already put a ring on it, but your partner will grow and change over time. To keep the relationship alive, you must be willing to grow with them.

A Noble Profession

At Inbound 2012, the big idea was to make marketing a noble profession. The first step in that process is accepting that the customer controls the message. Creating valuable, personalized content changes us from interrupters to educators. It makes us considerate of buyers’ needs and forces us to develop the informative content that will help them, not sell them.

We have the data. We know what works and what doesn’t. We’re accountable to both the company and the customer. And just like before, marketing can help innovate… but it’s based on the relationships we develop over time.