Thursday, May 20, 2010

Don't Listen to Seth Godin - Keep Talking!

Seth Godin is one of the most influential marketers of our time. He’s also one of the most prolific bloggers and is known for writing posts that become critically acclaimed marketing books. Today’s post is a bold proclamation of “marketers should do this or they’ll die.” I don’t know about you, but I love stuff like that.

Here’s what he has to say about it:
Good at talking vs. good at doing. This is the chasm of the new marketing. The marketing department used to be in charge of talking. Ads are talking. Flyers are talking. Billboards are talking. Trade shows are talking. Now, of course, marketing can't talk so much, because people can't be easily forced to listen. So the only option is to be in charge of doing. Which means the product, the service, the interaction, the effluent and other detritus left behind when you're done. If you're in marketing and you're not in charge of the doing, you're not going to be able to do your job.
I have an issue with this, mainly because it seems to fly in the face of A LOT of conventional, (and contemporary), wisdom. We live in an age where there is, literally, more information available on anything we want to learn about than we could ever consume, and marketers who’ve published that information measure it not only by its effect on the listener, but by its effect on the listener’s social network. Seth’s argument seems to be that because traditional marketing output; static, corporate marketing messaging; is no longer as relevant, then marketing messaging is no longer effective.

I agree with the first part, not with the second.

Yes, static, corporate marketing messaging is no longer as effective as it once was. The conversation is moving too fast and the customers have too many choices for a business to rely on “one message fits all”. But that doesn’t mean that messaging or branding, on its own merit, isn’t critical. It’s now even more critical. Marketers can no longer be satisfied with building one message and seeing how it plays. We have to build 10x more information assets, consumable in every way that it can be built up or broken down into parts depending on what’s needed to satisfy each individual customer. Marketing can no longer survive on producing sculpted, iconic, messaging vehicles that are designed to last for 6-18 months. We need building blocks of infographics and 300 word narrative and case studies and business analysis reports, videos and tweets that we can repackage and deploy depending on the appetite and education level of the consumer. Its no longer good enough for marketers to be content producers, we all have to be content strategists.

“Saying stuff” isn’t less effective in the information age where every beautiful graphic or insightful remark by a satisfied (or dissatisfied) customer has the chance to go viral; rather it’s more important than ever before. Different? Definitely. Less relevant? Absolutely not. As Seth has said previously, marketing is the conversation. Your new marketing department won’t be made up of billboard artists, but experts in the practice of steering and adding to the conversation that moves your product.

There’s a conversation happening out there. We need to be part of it. Can’t do that by not talking.


Phil Dunn - said...

Great post Lasandra. You're on target - modular marketing... content "atoms" that you can mix and match as needed are the key. I find myself doing this more and more.

Also, I suspect that some of my clients are packing a bunch of content into a piece (a white paper, for example) then stripping it out to suit different needs. You can pack almost anything into a WP (case studies, sidebar bullets, elevator pitches.. etc.).

Not a bad strategy.

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Natalie Wood said...

Thanks Lasandra for highlighting the ongoing validity of "talking." I believe as you that both actions of "doing & talking" are needed as a way to fully engage with customers and people in general. With the current shift in the buyer cycle happening, companies large and small are looking for more creative and meaningful ways to engage with their target audiences. To create ongoing conversations requires some thought and strategy on the company’s side around what is relevant to the customer. By incorporating thought leadership strategies along with social media engagement models, a company can create more relevant, helpful points of view and become part of the larger community conversation as well.

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