If you’re in the field of marketing, get over yourself. You’re a commodity. At least that is the way a lot of people will see it, even if you actually are as awesome as you say you are.
Looking at marketing as a commodity is something people can understand. That’s because if they see it as all the same, it just comes down to the dollar amount, and that is what feels the safest for most people.
As it applies to the majority of people buying marketing services, the dollars which are easiest to concentrate on are the dollars going out, but without adequate forethought or examination of the incoming dollars the marketing produces.
It seems that a lot of people think of it like throwing those dollars to the wind and hoping some of them will float back.
That’s not the way it works when marketing is done well, but it is the easier way to digest. In the real world of business, marketing should be based on qualified mathematics, demographics, psychographics, and other principles of qualified market research and forecasting, but that is enough to make most people’s head explode. That kind of marketing comes with an investment and a commitment beyond commodity-style thinking about marketing. Many people confuse that as a risk, while the real risk is when marketing is based on guesswork and crossing fingers.
Here is perhaps the biggest problem about marketing: The number of dollars spent becomes the easiest measure. It is counterproductive when people look at it this way, but it is a true depiction of the current market of marketing … especially online.
I’ll describe how the trend of “commoditized marketing” goes completely wrong. I hope you’ll take some qualified advice from somebody who has been around the block, and no longer wants to accept your money. In fact, this is my formal announcement that I Quit.
I have made my 2012 New Year’s resolution, and that is to stop offering marketing services for hire. I’ll give you some good advice and try to help you, though. The only things I would like to ask from you are your friendly wishes on my new career path away from providing marketing services for hire, and maybe a little discussion.
What Do You Want to Do With Your Life?
What Do You Want?
I believe that everybody should periodically ask themselves the question: “What do you want to do with your life?” That’s a tricky one, isn’t it? At least it is for me.
I’ve been asking myself this question a lot recently, and I’m seeing some things with much greater clarity. It’s still a bit blurry to me, but one thing is clear … I absolutely do not want to sell marketing services.
I finally reached the conclusion that selling marketing services for hire is a twisted soul-sucking racket filled with liars, and it has led me to ask this very important question of what I want to do with my life … and why I keep letting people suck me back into building their success while neglecting my own.
Knowing the answer to what you want to do with your life is vital to professional and personal growth, and it’s why my career is about to take a sharp turn, which I’ll announce one day soon.
The big life question I’ve addressed here was perhaps most famously asked in the 1984 music video “I Wanna Rock” by Twisted Sister. For your amusement, I’ll share that piece with you as you contemplate your answer.
I guess you could call it my mid-life crisis that brought me to this point. After all, I am about to turn 40 years old, my beard is going gray, my belly is getting bigger, and my job is sucking the life out of me. I’ve done most of the things I ever wanted to do. I’ve raced cars, authored books, been a CEO, earned squillions, retired, un-retired, and even created a family complete with three kids and a wife, but now I largely hate this job. As much as I love the work I do, dealing with a public who really want to believe that marketing is a commodity sucks a little more soul out of me every day.
I’m simply not willing to participate in the “marketing as a commodity” mentality, and I honestly hate to even watch it from a distance. I’ve got better things to do than demean myself by taking peanuts for my skills and dealing with clients who don’t have a clue how much I am worth to them if they get out of their own way. Nosiree, Bob, that’s not my bailiwick … not in the least!
I previously promised myself to quit the addiction of accepting marketing clients by mid-2011, but as the end of 2011 draws near, I plan to stick to my guns. I’m not going to play along with the absurdity of “commoditized marketing” any longer, but I’ll tell you some good reasons for my decision, and leave you with some keys to help make more people flock to you like a free bacon sandwich covered in sex appeal.
While I take this turn away from selling the services of marketing, I’ll give you some indications of where this mentality is taking companies.
“Flat Broke” is Popular in Business!
Average Marketing is Failure
Many companies are flat broke these days. Being broke is very a popular trend in business, but in most cases, they have a competitor that is raking in the profits. Decades ago, I made it a career objective to help people understand some of the reasons this is the case.
Helping companies to create success has always been very inspiring to me, but it also comes with a lot of challenges. Now, more than ever, I see a lot of companies making bad decisions about their marketing, and I see a lot of fear.
Why did it get this way? I have my ideas on the matter, and I’ll start with this: Marketers got lazy, and while they did, people’s confusion of marketing being a commodity was booming right along with the Internet. Fueled by that confusion, the barrier of entry to a marketing career was lowered to the level that any intern can pretend to be the equivalent to a Chief Marketing Officer or Marketing Director without being called out as an obvious fraud by the general public.
That’s for the fakes and liars, but as the frauds became more believable, the true marketing professionals with an ounce of integrity still faced the same old challenges.
The Challenges of Marketing Professionals
It has always been a challenge of marketing professionals to help people understand marketing concepts like customer modeling, targeting a market, and many other components to effective marketing.
Most people really don’t need or want to fully understand these things, and trying to explain it can often bore them to tears. So it is fitting that the client often just assumes these are things the marketer is using to confuse more money out of them.
A much tougher concept to explain is that marketing is not a cost, but rather an investment. This one stumps many good marketers, because companies either “get it” or they don’t. In my experience, most companies only understand their market very fractionally, and doing what it takes to achieve their potential scares them.
Other companies are complacent, and they are certainly beyond help. You can give some people case study after case study of successful marketing campaigns, and you can explain that it is the difference between growing a company or shrinking it, but if they refuse to help themselves, you cannot force it on them.
These things have never changed, but one thing that has become clearer is that marketing is increasingly viewed as a commodity.
Commodity:“used to describe a class of goods for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market. A commodity has full or partial fungibility; that is, the market treats it as equivalent or nearly so no matter who produces it.”
I’ve provided marketing services to clients for a very long time. I’ve watched marketing change dramatically since my start in the 1980’s. I watched it change from small companies trying to chase unicorns with $1,000,000 catalog mailers and newspaper ads, to chasing unicorns with $300 ecommerce websites and marginal blogging efforts. More recently, I watched it change into the popular notion that hiring an intern to send tweets and update the company Facebook status is what marketing is all about.
I often find that marketers lean in one of two different directions: There are marketers who are great at selling marketing services but stink at actually performing them, and then there are marketers who are just great at performing marketing services, but stink at selling it. I am the latter of the two.
Something you should know is that good marketers don’t need to lie, and don’t like to sell.
An analogy I think is kind of funny is that I rank quite nicely if you search for “how to sell SEO” (search engine optimization), but I am absolutely terrible at selling SEO. In fact, if you google “SEO hell“, that’s where you’ll find me.
If They Can't Prove it, Move On!
A point I want to drive home for people is that if you’re talking to the right marketers about marketing services, there is not a sneaky agenda up their sleeve. The good ones are hard to find, and most of the best ones are not seeking your business. There are good reasons, too. They can earn far more money building their own company than by building yours.
From my experience, I’d suggest seeking the the ones with the highest prices and finding out why their rates are so high. That’s what I do when I’m looking for marketing help, because I understand that this is not a commodity … I accept it, and I embrace it.
I look for the ones who are doing it for the right reasons, and who made success for themselves and others. Then I make them prove it, and if they can, they’re in!
There are more than enough “Johnny Come Lately” marketers out there, so you have to be diligent. Watch this video to see my take on them, or read “Bashing SEO and Social Media Experts: Humor or Hazard?” to see real life examples of it. Without their proof, you’re just guessing, and good marketing is not about guesswork!
$300 Unicorn Ride to Planet Success
I can show you a metric squillion instances of people seeking unrealistic profit from minimal commitment. It has become so convincing that some people will try almost anything, as long as it’s cheap.
What went completely wrong for me is that I am one of those marketing marketers, and not one of the selling ones I mentioned. I’ve had sales reps to handle sales for me, but most of them have been just as confused and in the dark about the value of good marketing as the general public. Besides, you just can’t train somebody to overcome apathy … people either want more, or they don’t.
I am entirely unwilling to let people pay me to deliver them mediocre results. That is my curse, and my Achilles heel. I just cannot see letting people believe something is going to help them unless it is actually going to help them.
I’m not willing to start offering $300 unicorn rides to planet success, and as long as people see marketing as a commodity, somebody else always will. I thought about stooping to the cheap side of marketing, but my integrity always gets in the way.
I hope that you can believe my words more than ever by knowing that I’m out of the consulting business, and I’ll turn you down when you come waving a wad of money in my face. Well … I guess it depends on the wad, but it let’s just say that it would take a signed letter of commitment and a lot of money before we sit down for lunch to talk about changing my mind. Plus, I’d have to really like your brand.
Farewell to the Mediocrity of Commoditized Marketing
If you are one of my many readers who makes it to the very end of my articles, I hope you will at least give me a good send-off with a “hello” or something to let me know you’ve been reading. I hope you will know that I really feel the words I write, and that this is not an easy step. I also hope that you will look forward to hearing more from me, because I have many working drafts for articles to come.
To those knuckleheads who were just lurking around, waiting and thinking about contacting me to help them grow their business: You waited too long. I would have worked a lot harder and could have achieved a lot more for your business than you gave me credit. On a positive note, there’s probably a 15 year old kid in Pakistan who will do the same thing for fourteen bucks. Yeah, it’s probably the same.
I hope that my work (including my books) has, and will continue to help you move forward in your business and personal desires. I sincerely believe that my integrity is fully intact and I have never been misleading in this blog. I know there is a lot of benefit for those who continue to read my archives … and my tales of what’s to come.
Now I’d really appreciate hearing from you. Please take a moment to add your comments and help me create a discussion of what you’ve just read. It means a lot to me.
I don't just write about marketing - I do it professionally, and I'm delighted to help. If you like what you found here, take a moment and get to know me. I welcome you to contact me here, or on any of my favorite social networks.