These days, most marketers will tell you that marketing is ‘all about relationships’. In most cases, they are talking about your relationship with your audience. Who are your audience? How well do you know them? How do you communicate with them? What do they really think of you?
When I work with clients, we spend a lot of time exploring their relationship with their audience. But while I agree this relationship is indeed a major factor in the effectiveness of our marketing, I believe there are many other relationships that play a part as well. Surely the relationships we have with our businesses and even our relationships with money are major influences in how we behave as marketers.
But how many of us take the time to consider our relationship with marketing itself? Indeed, how many of us are even AWARE that we have a relationship with marketing? And if we do, what does that relationship look like? What are the factors that influence it? And how does it impact the way we actually market our businesses?
Our Relationship with Marketing – as Consumers
When it comes to marketing, I believe many business owners forget one crucial truth:
They are consumers first and business people second.
Like it or not, each and every one of us is a consumer for one simple reason: we buy things. Just the fact that we run businesses doesn’t mean we stand outside the parameters of consumerism or that we are immune to the influences of advertising. Even those (myself included) who like to believe we are not brainwashed by ‘consumer culture’ are consumers all the same. The only way for us NOT to be consumers in this day and age is to mine, manufacture, hunt, gather and grow everything we need and want. Personally, I don’t know anyone who falls into that category (and surely not anyone who would be reading a blog post).
Businesses do marketing so they can speak to the consumer – whether that consumer is the end user or another business in the ‘supply chain’ in a B2B operation. Thus, every one of us is subjected to some form of marketing as a consumer. And whenever we come in contact with marketing, we inevitably have an emotional response to it. We might feel resentment or anger. We might switch off and simply ignore it. We might be dazzled and allured by the entertainment factor or glamour of it. Or we might even feel the urge to ‘talk back’ (either positively or negatively) via consumer forums, reviews, social media, letters to the editor or other modes of communication.
I believe that our attitudes and behaviours towards marketing as consumers inform our attitudes and behaviours as marketers. For example, if we are attracted to the glitz, glamour and entertainment value of marketing, we will probably want to emulate it by being glitzy, glamourous and entertaining. We imagine that, because we find this attractive, our audience will be attracted to it as well.
But there’s a flaw in this assumption. Our audience are not necessarily attracted to (or motivated by) the same stimuli we are. Before we can understand what our audience thinks and feels, we need to be able to differentiate it from our own thoughts and feelings and understand what lies behind our own attraction. For example, maybe we like the glitz and glamour because we are unconsciously ‘hooked’ (as a consumer) by other people’s advertising campaigns. And if that’s the case, then our marketing isn’t coming from an empowered place within us. Rather, it’s a conditioned response. If we create marketing from this perspective, it will be inauthentic and superficial.
While inauthenticity and superficiality are fine for many marketers, I’m pretty sure it’s not fine for anyone who is interested in integrity, service, ethics and – most of all – their customers.
KEY POINT 1:
If we wish to become conscious marketers,
we must first become conscious consumers.
Our Relationship with Marketing – as Marketers
I’ve met many business owners who feel insecure as marketers. These people will often imitate what they have been told is ‘the’ way successful businesses do marketing (such as the ‘glitz and glam’ example above). But again, this creates a problem. Unless their styles of marketing are genuine expressions of who they are and what they do, their marketing will end up formulaic and incongruent with the businesses. With such incongruence, marketing cannot communicate effectively, as there is no real way for the audience to know, like and trust the company. Unless we are present in our marketing, there’s little point in talking about ‘our relationship with our audience’.
Some business owners actually HATE marketing, full stop. They may have many ‘good’ reasons for this. They might think marketing is inherently a form of manipulation. They might feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it. They might worry that other people will think they are disingenuous. They might simply think it’s ‘not them’.
While all these may seem to be perfectly justifiable reasons to hate marketing, they will inevitably create major problems for business owners. This resistant or avoidant relationship with marketing will result in their failing to market their businesses strategically or systematically. Sometimes, they won’t bother to market their businesses at ALL (I cannot count the number of new clients who have come to me for help when they’ve fallen down that rabbit hole). With any luck, it will eventually become painfully obvious to them they will simply go OUT of business unless they take a different approach.
KEY POINT 2:
Our relationship with marketing is often formed by
our own fears, hang-ups and insecurities.
To understand who we are as marketers, we need to look in the mirror first.
Snog, Marry or Avoid?
Here in the UK, there’s a TV show called Snog, Marry, Avoid. I don’t own a TV and I actually have no idea what it’s about (nor do I want to find out). But I thought the title was amusing and that it could be turned into a little self-assessment quiz to help you explore your own relationship with marketing.
So let’s give it a go. There are only two questions (with some reflections at the end).
QUESTION 1: Which of these relationship models MOST CLOSELY describes your relationship with marketing as a consumer?
- A) Snog: You love TV commercials. You think they’re fun. You like seeing them on the big screen at the movies/cinema. You might even watch or share videos of them on social media. You love to look at glossy pictures in magazines. You like to look at and buy ‘stuff’. You spend money on products based upon the advertising you like best, but afterwards you sometimes feel ‘buyer’s regret’. You have lots of stuff, but you also depend on credit cards.
- B) Avoid: You hate commercials. You channel surf when they come on TV. You come late to the cinema so you will miss the adverts (even though this means you can’t find a good seat!). You don’t buy commercial magazines. When you want to buy something, you don’t really know one brand from the other. You might delay buying things you need because you are worried about making the wrong choice. Historically, money has frequently been a ‘problem’ relationship for you.
- C) Marry: You accept advertising’s right to exist, but you are not blind to its faults. You speak up (either online, on the phone or in print) when you think something is fraudulent. You are aware of brands, but do not automatically take things at face value. You read the ingredients on food labels. You read specifications on electronic goods. You read reviews and speak to other people about products before buying them. You buy things when you feel confident about your decision. You have what you need in life. You spend when you have the money in the bank to pay for it.
QUESTION 2: Which of these relationship models MOST CLOSELY describes your relationship with marketing as a business owner/marketer?
- A) Snog: You love marketing. You hire the best graphic designers for your web pages. You use the most expensive software for your mailing list management.You love the thrill of the chase. You love having flashy sales pages. You set up six months’ worth of auto-responders in advance, going out to your list two or three times a week. You feel a thrill when you see your subscriber/follower numbers go up, up, up. But you always reach a ceiling where your numbers stop going up (and sometimes go down). By hey, that’s business, right? So when that happens, you find something else to sell and start the whole process over again.
- B) Avoid: You hate marketing. You avoid it like the plague. Everyone tells you to get onto social media, so you set your accounts but haven’t a clue what to do with them. You set up a blog but have no idea what to write or how to get people to find you. You haven’t made a single penny from your efforts. You decide it’s all pointless and a big waste of time, so you don’t do it. You try going to business networks, but you feel awkward and you don’t know what to say to people. You have very few customers. You’re starting to worry about money. You’re starting to think, ‘Maybe I’ll have to go get a job…’
- C) Marry: You see marketing as an integral part of business. You develop strategies and systems to get it done and always include it in your (or your team’s) timetable and your budget. You see marketing as an outward expression of your personal and professional values. You know the importance of creating a strong brand identity through your marketing. You take care to ensure your marketing communicates the unique quality of your company. You know that marketing is not really about sales conversion but about developing long-term relationships with actual people. You know that the stronger your relationship is with your customers, the more they will refer others to your company. Your cash flow is healthy, and you trust the ability of your company to ride out the occasional ups and downs you might experience.
REFLECTION: What did you notice when you answered these questions? Did you choose the same letter (A, B or C) both times? What can you do with this information? What would you like your relationship with marketing – both as a consumer and a business owner – to look like? How will you start to create that relationship?
The Relationship with Marketing is one of the 7 Key Relationships in my book The 7 Graces of Marketing. It’s also one of the topics we explore deeply on our Foundations of Ethical Marketing course. We’ll be starting the next round of that course in just a few weeks, in October 2014.
If you’re a business owner (whether established or just starting out) who wants to create and nurture deep relationships with your Self, your audience, your business and your marketing and to create a business that supports you AND serves the world in a meaningful way, we invite you to attend our FREE information call about this course:
You can attend online via webcast (all you need is your computer or mobile phone), or over the phone/Skype if you prefer. In case you cannot make it to the live call, it WILL be recorded. Just register, and then you can download the replay of the call and listen to it at your leisure.
I hope this article made you think about your own relationship with marketing. Let me know what you thought about my little ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid’ quiz. Just leave your comments at the bottom of this post.
19 September 2014
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)