It has been a minute.
I have been inconsistently writing this newsletter lately, which is supposed to come out bi-weekly. However lately I haven’t been that inspired to talk about marketing. After doing it professionally for more than 8 years, I’ve hit a sort of ethical wall that has been weighing on me. There are two reasons I have been struggling with this industry: Adtech and what people want from marketing.
First adtech. We’ve known for some time that in general adtech companies aren’t the most ethical businesses. This is partly due to how much data there is to be scraped on the internet and that marketers are addicted to it. What started as resources to see if people opened emails, pageviews, and general engagement on social, has turned into extremely creepy stalkerware.
The marketing industry has turned gross and adtech is happy to keep upping the ante. Item detection in photos, facial recognition, TV’s that secretly listen in your home, and 24/7 location tracking are all tools adtech is using to convince marketers to pay for more ads and we happily play along without ever considering any ethical implications.
Second is what Sales, C-Suite, and business owners want from marketing. Another word for marketing is manipulation. Our jobs are to manipulate people into spending money and once the do it, we increase the manipulation to take advantage of our relationship. Where our skills as marketers come in is finding a balance in that manipulation. We want customers to feel good and give them solutions to their problems, without tricking them.
But the above group knows our business is manipulation and they see that it works. So they want more. As they push for greater sales through manipulation, we kowtow to their demands. We spam our customers with emails, texts, voicemails, push notifications, and retargeting. We invade our customers lives and pass the info to Sales.
A particular practice irks me the most. Increasingly marketers are working with influencers who are not disclosing their content is actually product placement and are only getting paid to do a positive review. The number of people involved in these types of campaigns should have at least one person who is willing to draw a line that the will not cross. But paid product placement and the creator industry go hand-in-hand and has now turned into pay-for-play.
Some of this is related to the first problem. Adtech has convinced us that our customers aren’t people, they are just unique identifiers that are in a certain stage of the sales pipeline. We have removed the humanity from marketing and convinced ourselves we are still doing compassionate work. We are lying to ourselves and ethics is leaving without anyone fighting for it.
The last 18 – 24 months have left me in an ethical conundrum. I still feel that marketing can be done respectful. But it doesn’t feel like anyone wants that and they have plenty of others to hire that will merrily play along.
Nobody:— Alex Cohen (@anothercohen) July 8, 2021
Enterprise software companies rebranding: pic.twitter.com/tI4aTN1fBP
The brilliance of the flywheel
In recent discussions with two different clients our marketing flywheel came up in conversation. Small businesses rely heavily on referrals, especially in the service industry. This is why the first and last steps in the marketing flywheel are critical.
Starting with the first step, what is the first thing a prospect does after they receive a referral from one of your former clients? Call? Email? Look at Google reviews? Browse your Instagram? Whatever it is you need to figure it out and put effort into that channel. If they call, you need to make it a great experience. You can’t just let it go to voicemail and call back 3 days later. If they browse your Instagram, it needs to be high quality images of your work.
In the last step, you need to make it as easy as possible for your customers to recommend you. Remember this isn’t just to help you. Clients who can give referrals also makes them feel good. So make it easy. Write a follow-up email that is easy to screenshot and share. Text them a contact card with all your info. Give out cards with a QR code that goes to a landing page with all the first step info above.
Once you do this your flywheel will start feeding itself. Customers will give out more referrals and more prospects will convert.
No manipulation required.
Here is a great overview of flywheels to help you get started.
Marketers are not short order cooks
I don’t have much to add to this fantastic thread from Andy Budd on Twitter about the disconnect between designers and business partners. It is a must read if you are business that hires designers, either in-house or freelance.
It is this line that hit me:
They (believe they) know what needs to be built and just need somebody to manifest it.
This is more than just a designer problem, though. All of us in marketing have the same experience. Everyone we work with minimizes the work of marketing. You can tell because everyone thinks they know how to do it. How hard can it be? You just gotta get stuff out there…