The rules of marketing have changed.
I am seeing more and more evidence that bigger companies do not get what small, strappy entrepreneurs have figured out. The way we need to reach, connect and attract customers has fundamentally changed.
Recently, I got to speak to two good friends who are both marketing execs at Silicon Valley tech companies. Their stories sounded identical. They have crafted plans that include a lot of awareness activity via social media, content creation, blogs, video, etc. And while some people get it, others still want them to do the “old” lead generation stuff”: events, email offers, etc. And we’re talking about some of the most forward-thinking companies in the tech industry.
Marketing and branding is much more complex than it was even 5 years ago. The old ways of “generating leads for sales” do not cut it anymore. Now, you absolutely need to build a thought leadership and expert brand (especially if you are B2B). You need to have a viewpoint, a philosophy, a personality. You need to connect with the real human beings making the buying decision on a personal and conversational level. People are out there, doing research and searching the Web. You need more than just your home page to come up if you want to make your sales numbers.
A must-read for any business owner, entrepreneur, c-level exec or marketing professional is Content Rules How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, eBooks and Webinars (& More) That Engage Customers and Ignite your Business (Ann Handley and CC Chapman): It’s a how-to book on how to create effective content through various media, such as podcasts, video, blogs, etc. But the reason I think execs and CEO’s need to read it is that they need to understand the new paradigm, which the book explains very well. They may not need the nuts and bolts of how to do do it (leave that to their marketing teams) but the book provides ample case studies (including a whole section on B2B) about how this strategy impacts long-term success and sales.
It used to be that a differentiated brand strategy was to promote yourself as an advocate, expert and though leader. Now, it is a brand imperative. If you want to create a relationship with customers long before they are ready to buy so that you are top of mind, you absolutely have to start marketing your business in this way.
Practically speaking, what does that mean? If you are a hair salon, it means you need to provide content on the latest styles, proper hair care, how to protect your hair from sand and sun in the summer, and which products are best for which hair type. You could create content around trends, celebs, do’s and don’ts and hairstyles for any occasion. If you are a business ;lawyer, you need to do what my lawyer (and client) Equinox Business Law is doing: Michelle provides a monthly business seminar on all sorts of topics: branding, succession planning, real estate – and then tags on the legal perspective in dealing with those issues. She also reuses such content in her monthly newsletter.
The book has tons of case studies and I highly recommend it. If you are not ready for this paradigm shift in the market, I don’t care what size company you are or what industry you’re in: you will get left behind.