The Real Marketing Question

22 03 2014

I have to admit it.  I plead guilty.   Oh yes, the question was:  Are you a digital marketer?   If you are a marketing person today, you cannot answer anything but in the affirmative.  But the real question should be why do you even have to classify yourself as such?

I was at a marketing executive meeting the other night on “How to pick the right digital tactics.”    The great hubbub today is around digital and social marketing as we all know.  Why is that?   Many CEOs and heads of companies want someone with that background because the airwaves are filled with noise and comments that the new world of marketing, of getting a customer’s attention, is through digital channels- via the PC and most likely through applications like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Taking that one step further, the digital footprint extends to a smartphone or other mobile device. 

There were many at the event whose primary job was social media and digital marketing.  As they said, to a hammer everything is a nail.  But a significant number (although outnumbered) of us are CMO type people and our perspective has to be different.   So we took a step back and asked a different question.

Isn’t the real question relating to what do we need to do to help the company achieve its business goals and secondarily what is the best way to achieve that?   This is sort of self-evident to most executives who have a broad marketing i.e. business focus first.  Once we determine that answer, at that point we can narrow in on the ways to achieve those results.  Certainly digital is pervasive.  Regardless of what we as marketers do or how customers are receiving the messages, there is a huge digital footprint.   As they say:  “we hold these marketing truths to be self-evident.  Everyone is using a computer and most people have a smart phone or two and/or tablet.  Even if you have an older generation flip phone, you can still can get email and text.  So, in essence everyone will be under a digital footprint.

The key is marketing however, is to look at the business problem and put that in context of the markets you are trying to serve and the problems you are trying to solve. Context is critical as well as the target segments.  Let’s say I am developing a gaming app aimed at the millennials.  Clearly they are a digitally oriented segment and I would probably focus on digital and social media.   Let’s say I was trying to market to plumbers.  May be your plumbers are different than mine, but they tend to be less digital and more traditional.  Therefore, I would market to them differently.   Let’s say I am aiming at the Laguna Woods crowd- the senior adults mostly over 65.  I am not sure tweeting is going to be the right thing to do.  Maybe advertising on Facebook is gaining in importance because they are using their Facebook to stay in touch with family.  So a sponsored post or Facebook ad might be appropriate.  And maybe they want to build relationships with other people or brands so applications such as Social Toaster, Share Magnet, Hibe and Power Rewards (Bazaar Voice) would be better.   (How many of you know seniors NOT wanting to get a discount coupon?)

So when I hear about digital marketing or social marketing or any other types of marketing, I sort of grimace.   The real questions we have to ask relate to understanding customers – that where it starts- and the marketers have to select the right tools at the right time.  Depending on the company and the need, then you fill the boxes with the right skill sets.  The system looks like this:




By the way, we also raised the issue of should digital report into marketing?   Hard to believe that question is even asked.  If the senior marketing person is in charge of the strategy and the tactics of “going-to- market,” It is hard to justify anything other than a singular and unifying leader.

I would be glad to hear other thoughts.  I tend to be a CMO, very much like a Swiss army knife… specialized but clearly all business.  What are you? 




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