Do new marketing ideas really make for better marketing?

I’ve probably asked myself that question a hundred times over the past five years or so.

As marketers, have you?

If you have, what conclusion have you come to?

Although I can’t yet boast some incredible breakthrough on the matter, I can say I’ve recently gained clarity to the fact that I am at least headed in the right direction.

For most marketers we are currently overwhelmed, overworked and under delivering as we struggle to keep up with new marketing tools that seem never-ending. It’s a hard thing to admit to, never mind say out loud. But, the consumer data staring us in the face is undeniable. Customers are tired of being sold to, and just want to be heard. What are we doing about that? It’s our job to do something about it! Businesses are depending on us.

We either have to look at it, consider it and adjust, or we will soon lose our effectiveness. If we haven’t already.

With hundreds of social platforms, boasting millions if not billions of users there is a never-ending demand for increased digital knowledge that monopolizes our time and clouds our judgment. One of the biggest challenges marketers face is the need to be able to squeeze just a few extra hours out of our day to accomplish a mounting to-do list. Never-mind, find the time to master marketing communications through the differentiated nuances of some of the world’s most used amplification tools to further our marketing efforts.

In many cases we fall short because let’s be real, we don’t think we have the time to learn each rising platform’s language and use each uniquely. It’s one of the main reasons why we struggle to gain brand visibility and certainly a contributor to why we feel overwhelmed by the content creation process.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Marketers don’t have to feel defeated by the vast social platforms available. We can thrive in an multi-channel digital marketing strategy and it all begins and ends with understanding our customers better. Not simply their demographics (age, gender, income, geographical location) but their psycho-graphics (lifestyle, mindset) as well. If we were to focused more on customers and less on keeping up with trends I truly believe we wouldn’t feel the overwhelming burden of having to always “keep up.” We must trust that our customers will lead us in the right directions, help us make better decisions, and ultimately become an extension of our marketing efforts.

We actually have very few examples of effective multi-channel marketing efforts. The ones I have seen, go largely ignored by consumers. In fact, Mark Schaefer talks about the phenomenon in more depth in his new book, “Marketing Rebellion.” Mr. Schaefer goes on to explain the shifting consumer trends that marketers can no longer avoid. “Marketing is going through an existential crisis. The biggest challenge, we are falling so far behind on everything and things aren’t working the way they used to. The world is moving way ahead. But marketers, are not!” So, it’s not a tech savvy marketing approach that needs to be applied to fix wound, but a deeper customer connection formed authentically across multiple platforms that will bring balanced health to industry standards.

Consider this. With its 2.2 billion users, Facebook is not guaranteed to be here in another ten years. Remember MySpace? Depending on how old you are, you may not either. Once a popular and well trafficked international social platform, is all but remembered as society’s first major fail at communicating digitally. How about Meerkat, Google+, Vine, or iTunes Ping? All, low trafficked and long forgotten. That being said, I don’t assume to have insider tips on the future of Facebook or any other platform. I’m just simply realistic about the statistical likelihood of a platform’s likelihood to come and go based on its capacity to understand what customers want.  Apply that same trend to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube to see their longevity is not guaranteed either.

In the end, it was overenthusiasm and under execution that caused MySpace to fail. We see the same trends dominating the marketing and advertising world as well. Causing a further divide between the necessary customer connections to grow a thriving brand. As marketers, we must be aware and keep our motives in check. See, it’s not about the platforms. It’s about our ability to leverage the current tools to build a stronger relationship. When we build the proper relationship, customers will continue engaging regardless of wheat platform you met on or even what platforms pop up in the future.

As marketers we must have more of a plan for a social strategy other than, “because everyone else is using it right now.” I mean, is your customer even using that platform you are trying to convince your boss to be on? Then, when you do jump on the platform what’s your plan to connect? Let’s say your customer is a female photographer between the age of 20 and 25 who spends her mornings at Yoga, afternoons with clients or editing, and evenings at art exhibits with her friends. In that case you most likely won’t find her active on LinkedIn. However, if your customer is a 35-45 year old mid manager male looking to add to their growing ad agency team you have a very good chance of entering into a conversation on LinkedIn.

Thankfully, we are knee deep in the age of technology and have access to data driven tools that allow us to ask the right questions to the right people to gather specific customer trends into realistic marketing solutions. The beauty of having such a deep understanding of your audience is, you can be where you know your audience is. It takes all the headache, guesswork and confusion out of having to master the plethora of available social tools and allows marketers to spend precious time where it matters; communicating with actual customers.

Okay, great! Let’s say you fully understand your audience and can articulate the full details of their demo and psychographics, what’s next? Now, it’s important to take advantage of the communication options across a variety of your audiences preferred platforms. The easiest and most cost effective way to make that happen, content creation! Using the same above example of the photographer the content creation context, process and posting schedule becomes much clearer. Not just any content though, but the kind that clearly resonates a message that matters to her across a variety of platforms. The tricky part, doing that without posting the same content on every platform. In fact, using multiple platforms to further a marketing strategy is about developing a seamless user experience, not a duplicate one.

Our ability to identify the why behind the customer purchase process, rather than just the how, is what determines marketing success. However, content can’t just be created for content sake. Each piece must be thought of as a lasting touchpoint representing what customers can expect from doing business with us. For that reason, the content created must be carefully analyzed and executed in order to deliver maximum engagement results. There are many different ways to create, use and distribute content to convey the right messages.

The question then becomes, do we currently have examples of successful multi-channel marketing campaigns to learn from? The best examples I’ve seen so far, are simple conversations that draw a niche target market further into a private (yet valuable) conversation on a very specific topic that interests them. That’s exactly what Marie Forleo does to promote her annual B-School registration. Her “ads” are often as simple as her going live on her back porch having an honest, transparent conversation about what small business owners struggle most with. Using this classic inbound marketing tactic, when visitors arrive on the landing page her past B-school attended testimonials speak for themselves. In a world where close to 90% of consumers making purchasing decisions rely on peer feedback, it’s no wonder this strategy plays a major role her community marketing strategy; selling out of B-school slots year after year.

Here Marie shares, 3 secrets to B-Schools success.

The problem we are currently contending with, marketers from the tippy top to the bottom of the totem pole all have the same hurdles; turning a multi-channel strategy into human connections. It’s not about how well you know technology or your ability to wield the tools. It’s all about our ability to continue to learn more, understand and listen to the target audience. When that is the true focus, I believe the proper multi-channel options will naturally emerge based on what’s best for that particular audience.

In conclusion, new marketing is not necessarily better marketing.  

So, how can brands make use of the vast social media platforms to further their marketing agenda? Easy! Marketers need to find more ways to use social tools to foster human touchpoints, and not focus so much on automation for the purpose of increasing sales. Forget the bandwagon and work on truly connecting and communicating with customers and you will ALWAYS win at marketing regardless of what digital tools come and go.