Suddenly Marketing

Brand Messaging | Content Strategy | Writing

Let’s Forget About Marketing for a Minute

To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.
– Douglas Adams

I rarely attribute a business’ success to its marketing. Yep, that’s right. Though I am a marketer by profession, I don’t think the fruits of my labors are the key to making or breaking a business. Sure, I think that good branding can create affinity, strong PR may help increase awareness, and strategic content marketing can educate and persuade your audience. However, when it comes right down to it, a business lives or dies by the quality of its products and its service.

Period.

Good marketing can give your business an initial boost, temporarily pull you out of a downward spiral, or provide some much-needed spin during a crisis; but marketing cannot make your widgets or your service better. Marketing is just a mirror, or – in some cases – smoke and a mirror. It can only reflect what’s already there. Dishonest marketing distorts reality or even masks it. (Hence the common misconception that all marketers are on the same evolutionary level as sleazy used car salesmen.)

If you really want to succeed, you should focus less on your marketing and more on your products and services. Stop worrying so much about how to package and promote everything. Start worrying about whether your widget is the best widget out there. Worry about whether your customer experience provides customers with end-to-end bliss, or feels more like a slow and painful descent through the nine circles of hell. These are the things that will make a real difference to your success …

… in the long run.

Applying good marketing to a bad product is a short-term solution. Marketers are not magicians (though we understand the confusion on that point). We can help put you and your brand in the best light, highlight your best features while taking focus off the less-than-stellar bits, and give your company a voice that people can relate to. What we cannot do is turn a sow’s ear into a purse … at least not for real. In pixels and print, we can create all kinds of positive perceptions; but once our work gets a prospect to pick up the phone or send an email it’s up to you. At that point, it’s no longer about whether our marketing lives up to your expectations but whether your product or service lives up to our marketing.

People don’t care about your marketing. It may help them to better understand your offering, encourage them to initiate a conversation, or even convince them to make an initial purchase; BUT what will sell them on your company isn’t what you say …

It’s what you do.

Do you deliver what you promised? Do you stand behind your products? Do you treat people with respect? Do you really care? These are the things that your customers will remember. These are the things your customers will share – with their peers, and their social networks. These are the things that really matter. The qualities that are valued in a human being are the same qualities that make a good company: honesty, courtesy, trustworthiness, reliability, friendliness, authenticity, and so on.

This isn’t rocket science, people.

The bonus is that if you focus on just doing the best, most honest job you can do, you’ve just made it easy for your marketing team to make you a star. When you’re doing things right, you don’t need to struggle over how to position your brand or how to convince people to work with you – all you have to do is tell the truth about what you do.

Marketers, do you find that your clients worry more about how to make themselves look good vs. actually being good?

Brands, how much time do you spend on improving products vs. creating an amazing customer experience vs. marketing. Are your efforts off balance?

Image Credit: Kevin Dooley

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4 Comments

  1. Hi Jaime, and thanks for this article. Although I see and partially agree with your points, I would also argue with the idea that a business lives and dies by its quality.

    Let’s use the classic example of McDonalds for instance….I’d argue that ‘quality’ is clearly not their top, top priority. In fact, I’d say it’s more like:

    1. Incredible marketing/branding
    2. Price point
    3. Consistency of product
    4. Quality

    Let me also give another example. Other than my marketing ventures, I also own swimming pool company. Over the last 3 years, as the economy has been in the tank, I’ve seen many businesses with a great track record and tremendous service go out of business or hit the financial rocks. What’s been their biggest problem during this time? Marketing…Lead generation…Because they haven’t kept up with inbound marketing and web 2.0 principles.

    Notwithstanding, your points are very legit, I just feel that it’s critical to embrace both.

    • Jamie

      Marcus,
      First – thanks so much for stopping by & for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment. Glad to have you here!

      Second – I heartily agree there is a balance to be struck. I included “… for a minute” in the title of the post for just that reason. (That, and I certainly don’t want to talk myself out of a job!)

      There’s no doubt that many completely average, lousy and/or useless products skate by because of solid marketing. Fad products, for instance, or a few banks and cable companies I can think of.

      Marketing/lead generation is undoubtedly critical to any business’ success, but I think that to build the kind of business that lasts for generations, people need to pay as much attention to the other components of their business – products, services, customer care, etc.

      Thanks again for stopping by. I just RSS’d your blog and am looking forward to reading what looks like a great mix of posts.

  2. I think you are right. I think it is important to establish quality before branding/marketing. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jamie

      Hello, Blessing.
      For the kinds of work I enjoy most – those that are heart-centered and come from somewhere more vital and vibrant than just wanting to make a buck – I agree … there’s foundational work that needs to come before the branding and marketing. Though, as Marcus commented, there is a balance to be struck, I like to think that the best, longest-lasting businesses are based in something bigger than just the marketing.

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