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The Great Marketing Hoax


Search for ‘marketing agency’ on Google and you will find 293m results. From back bedroom outfits to global players, the marketing industry is worth billions.

Yet, traditional marketing is dying. And many marketing agencies are the ones with blood on their hands.

If I rewind to the start of my career, successful marketing was placing an advert in a relevant publication, it was getting as much coverage as possible in the media, and it was spamming people with direct mail.

Back then we were measured on ‘eyeballs’. I could go and tell a client that based on readership and postbox figures the campaign had been a success.

Wind forward a few years and creating a website and spamming people with email was considered successful.

Today, successful marketing is seen by far too many as doing a bit of everything. Marketing professionals have bowed to the pressure of believing that they need to be on every social channel, writing lots of blogs, sending frequent emails, exhibiting at conferences and no marketing professional in their right mind could ignore the power of inbound.

The idea that doing a little bit of everything to be successful is by far one of the biggest hoaxes in the business world.

In fairness, successful marketing all depends on how you define success, but you'd be amazed at how many companies forget to think about defining success at the start of a new strategy, instead, choosing to judge success of the number of views a blog post gets or the number of new followers they gain.

How to define success

A question I always ask a client at the start of the relationship is ‘in 12 months time when we’re sat around this table, what needs to have happened for you to deem the relationship a success?

If they say, ‘30% increase in website visits’ or ‘coverage in all the major vertical press’ or ‘20% increase in my social followers’ – I know it’s time to walk away.

My ideal client isn’t someone who wants marketing, it’s someone who wants to grow their business.

When asked the same question, this type of client would reply along the lines of ‘I want to grow my revenue by 20%, this is based on increasing customer retention by 10% and winning 2 new customers a month with an average spend of 200k per annum. In addition, I want to achieve a net profit margin of 15%. Prove to me that working with you has got me closer to those objectives and I will deem the relationship a success’

Boom. This client is commercial; this client is focused; this client doesn’t care about marketing; this client cares about growth.

How to achieve business growth

I stand by my earlier comment about the fact that traditional marketing is dying.

However, if you combine marketing with sales and internal operations it’s very much alive. Why? Because when businesses integrate their sales and marketing strategies and look at how to deliver their product or service as efficiently as possible, they take into account the entire customer journey.

In doing so, they achieve results (real results) and, on the back of that, growth.

Marketing agencies need to adapt if they are to survive, if they continue to look at marketing in isolation they will become the next Blockbuster, the next HMV, the next Woolworths, the next Toys R Us and they will take their clients down with them.

Agencies need to move away from delivering ‘stuff’ and instead look at how they can add value to a business. Not just implementing marketing campaigns, but by defining the pre, during and post sales process, how they can nurture existing customers and ensure that internally they have the right people in the right place – all following the right process. Agencies need to become business consultants to add real, tangible value.

If someone offers you marketing, just say no!

So, if an agency or marketing professional is talking about different marketing channels or creative ideas or increases in website traffic they have achieved for other clients – it’s time to walk away.

If they are they are talking about objectives focused on growth, listen up – chances are they will help you get there quicker than going it alone.

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