Inbound Marketing Success Blog

The Word "Marketing" Has a Branding Problem

Posted by Andy McClure on Jan 21, 2016 12:22:22 PM

We had a conversation in our house over the weekend about mindset - how critical it is to success and happiness. (Very short version, since we all get to define what makes us feel successful or happy, we should quit beating ourselves up!).

It doesn’t take much to recognize the effect of mindset on so much of what we do or say. When it comes to marketing, what is your mindset? Let’s run a little experiment to simply test your view of the word “marketing.” Answer these questions to uncover where you stand right now:

  1. If you were to hear someone mention that they are working on their “marketing,” would you A) feel sorry for them and assume this was a chore or B) feel excited for them because they have the freedom in their schedule to work on this gem of a topic?
  2. If you were to meet someone with a title containing the word “marketing” in a business setting, like a conference or a mixer, would you A) assume they were there to develop business opportunities for their own company or B) view them as a resource to help you or your business achieve success?
  3. The last time you worked on your own marketing, do you remember A) feeling resistant, lethargic and full of dread? or B) feeling eager, energized and inspired?
  4. The last time you received an email from a “marketing@” email alias, did you A) delete or skip it because you assumed it was pushy and  promotional? or B) eagerly open it expecting it to be full of useful information?

So how did you do? If you answered “A” more often than “B” then you understand the issue, and it’s full of irony: the word “marketing” has a branding problem. Instead of thinking of all the good things we offer our clients and other companies offer us, we immediately see the self-serving aspect of “marketing” -- either we’re  trying to get something from them , or they’re trying to get something from us. That’s not inspiring! And it’s certainly not a good mindset.

Meanwhile, without “marketing” our prospective clients wouldn’t know about our businesses and would end up having to buy some inferior option. The would have to suffer the loss of NOT enjoying the benefits of our product or service. If we truly believe in the value our businesses offer, then in all good conscience we need to offer our expertise so that another’s business can grow and thrive.

Here’s perhaps another way to think about it. If you were in possession of something more valuable to someone else than it is to you, wouldn’t you feel a duty to place it in their hands? Let’s use an extreme example. Imagine your company has developed a way to provide high speed Internet access for pennies per month. Because of this new service, homes and schools that were struggling to afford an Internet connection could now gain access painlessly. How would it feel to get the word out about your technology? Would it feel self-serving and selfish?

And here’s the big question - would it feel like “marketing?”

So if “marketing” just doesn’t feel synonymous with helping, inspiring, and being of service, stop using that word. Our mindset about marketing has the potential to take us off course. For more on this, check out this post from 2011. As the founders of HubSpot put it, we should think about marketing as “attracting, engaging and delighting” our prospective clients.

So if we throw “marketing” out because we associate it with negative things, what can we use in its place? How about “customer service” or simply “serving?” Some would say “customer service” only applies to customers. But if we look beyond the direct exchange of money, there are many things a prospect could do to benefit our businesses.

A non-customer who loves our service (a.k.a. our “marketing”) could leave a positive or negative review, decide to refer or not refer a friend or colleague to check us out, link back to our website or blog, talk about our business on social media… In my view, the benefits of serving ALL the people in our audience with the mindset of customer service is not only a good idea, it borders on a necessity!

Here’s to 2016. The perfect year to shift our mindset about that business function that allows our prospective clients to find us, come to greater clarity about the problem they’re trying to resolve or result they’re seeking, get further down the path they’re on, and maybe even pay us to get there faster and with greater certainty. Sounds like “serving” to me.

Question: What is your perspective? Does the word “marketing” have a branding problem?

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Topics: branding, branding problem, marketing message, Marketing Strategy & Planning

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