The most important thing companies miss when it comes to marketing (especially content marketing, or inbound marketing if you prefer) is that it’s about making a connection with a person.
I’m using the word “person” intentionally here. Businesses talk about their customers, clients, and partners when talking about the people that buy things from them. You talk about suppliers, partners, providers, and network when you’re talking about the people on whom you depend for the materials and support to stay in business.
We should be thinking about Robert, Tammy, Dave, Rosa, Neville, Jeremy, and Staci – the people we work with.
The people we’re doing this FOR.
An interview with Seth Godin, author of Permission Marketing and the godfather of content marketing (as well as a personal favorite of our own Lindsay Kelley), got me thinking about a disconnect between marketing as viewed by many in this industry and how that prevents marketing from being successful.
You Can’t Fake Caring
You can’t fake it. You need to authentically give a damn about your customers. That’s one of the reasons I respected former client Robert Caldwell from Datamax Texas. They had a focus on creating Raving Fans. When you add a copyright to a phrase that focuses on making a point of great customer service, you’re serious about customer service.
I worked with Robert for 3ish years and he was always focused on making sure we created content that worked for his customer. Sometimes he struggled with the sales side of the house, but marketing was absolutely customer-focused.
On the other side of sales, I had the great good fortune to work with John Pulley. He’s a sales guy that gets it, During our time at Prospect Builder he wanted us to succeed, but he was also constantly pushing us to make sure his prospects were able to succeed too. Just for the record, that was everyone’s goal!
Having worked with a series of “sales people” who thought putting a menu in front of a client and asking them what they wanted, working with Pulley was a refreshing change. It was instructive to watch someone actually sell by uncovering a potential clients’ needs rather than just shoving something in front of them and asking them to buy it.
How many of you have had some variation of the following conversation with a salesperson:
Me: Sales, if you were on the receiving end of this marketing approach you want to sell to support our product, would you respond to that as a customer or be turned off and no longer trust that company?
Sales: I’d ignore it. And probably the company again, unless I already trusted them.
Me: OK. Cool. Let’s think of a different approach then.
Sales: No, we need to sell it that way because that’s what our sponsor wants and that’s just how I need to sell it.
I wish I were kidding.
People respond to authenticity and make connections when they care. Fool them or break their trust and you lose Robert, Tammy, Dave, Jeremy, and the rest one by one.
Why This Matters With Inbound Marketing
Here’s where this intersects with inbound and content marketing and what content marketing agencies and consultants do. The entire interview is excellent (read You Need Editors, Not Brand Managers here). The question and Godin’s answer that really got me thinking is this one:
But then there’s the whole obsession now with tying content to revenues—in other words, tracking whether people who are consuming your content will eventually buy something from you, and putting a hard number on each piece of content you create. Do you think that’s misguided?
Godin: Oh, I think there’s no question it’s misguided. It’s been shown over and over again to be misguided—that in a world of zero marginal cost, being trusted is the single most urgent way to build a business. You don’t get trusted if you’re constantly measuring and tweaking and manipulating so that someone will buy from you.
I don’t have any problem with measurements, per se; I’m just saying that most of the time when organizations start to measure stuff, they then seek to industrialize it, to poke it into a piece of software, to hire ever cheaper people to do it.
The challenge that we have when we industrialize content is we are asking people who don’t care to work their way through a bunch of checklists to make a number go up, as opposed to being human beings connecting with other human beings.
As a writer and editor, of course I love this answer. As someone still trying to master marketing as a career (and as a customer) this makes a ton of sense to me.
But it’s scary to do the hard work required to create that trust – to embed that goal as the core of your business. It’s a lot easier to track stats, watch the numbers grow, and call it a success.
You have to do both.
When I was writing for Robert or Tammy or Monique, the goal in the back of my mind was to write something that’s going to be useful for THEIR Roberts and Tammys and Moniques.
This Is Scary As Hell!
I understand that this is scary for you.
I’d encourage you to think about who you do business with regularly – do you buy your car from the dealership that earned your trust or do you go back to the one that you worry just shafted you on your last car purchase?
My guess is it’s the business that earned your trust. That was human and showed personality and made a connection with you. I didn’t buy a Ford Explorer from Apple Ford, I bought it from Steven (who looks a little like Steve Carrell).
It’s a funny thing we do when we go to work, especially sales and marketing people. Many times, we get into the office and get lost in the minutia of doing what we do without remembering why. We focus on tactics and the goal of getting people to do what we want and risk missing that connection and losing trust.
I wrote about trust and marketing in a blog post, Always Be Human, a while back. IMO, it remains good advice.
Two final side notes, from an inbound marketing perspective, the article I quoted from is an example of evergreen type content. The interview with Godin was published in February 2015. It’s still as valuable and as interesting a read now as it was 5 years ago.
Secondly, I DO believe in tracking and metrics. I also believe that there will be a progression of metrics that matter in every content marketing engagement – some will be basic, others will be more advanced. Without trust and connecting though, I also believe that the metrics will never really matter because you’ll just be treading water as a company.
Need help creating your content marketing strategy and/or content? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, reply below, or give me a call (or text, text is better, what with all the phone spam) at 301-275-7496.