It sucks but it’s true:
There’s a lot to dislike about marketing these days.
It can be ugly, manipulative, insincere, meaningless, distracting, lazy and even downright dishonest.
So much of it is basically BS wrapped in shiny paper.
Wow I’m doing a great job of advocating for my industry today, huh?
But that’s honestly how I feel about so much of the Bad Marketing that floods our lives and competes for our attention – and it’s not like I’m alone in this.
Whether they want to admit it or not, anyone who works in digital marketing has witnessed its shady side…
Some choose to ignore it, some choose to exploit it (sucks but true part 2: in the short term at least, the shady stuff often turns a fast buck)… and some choose to acknowledge it and try to improve it.
Because despite marketing’s many faults, we really need it
Specifically, we need Good Marketing – and more of it, to combat the bad.
Good Marketing, after all, is what helps talented people like you connect useful products and services with the people who need them, changing their lives for the better.
At its core, I believe that Good Marketing is really about honestly communicating your true, unique value to the right people.
That’s a simple principle I want to continue to work in service of.
The problem is:
Many, many people outside of the marketing-land bubble now have a negative perception of ALL marketing, due to constant exposure to the bad stuff.
You can’t blame them…
We’re surrounded by empty hype, clickbait, fake news, fake scarcity, rigged algorithms, hacks, shortcuts and loopholes, sleight of hand tactics, hardball upsells and those popups that try to shame you out of dismissing them when you just want to read the damn content you came for…
Then there’s the whole ongoing F***b**k debacle, as one of the world’s biggest
social media advertising companies continues its ethics-trampling quest to redefine our definitions of privacy and honesty…
So whether we marketers and entrepreneurs like it or not, many decent, free-thinking people can’t help but think a lot of marketing sucks.
And it matters because they’re our friends, our family, our colleagues… our customers.
Which makes you wonder:
How the hell did we get here?!?
Ok that’s probably a (lengthy) discussion for another time, preferably over a stiff drink or three…
But it sometimes feels to me like a lot of Bad Marketing is just Good Marketing that’s lost its way.
It’s become too easy for ambition to push entrepreneurs and small businesses towards bad habits as the concept of what’s “ok” or not gets skewed by common practice.
It’s hard for ‘the little guy or gal’ to take a stand if they’re constantly seeing the limits being stretched by companies who get rewarded for shady ‘growth tactics’…
And it’s hard for entrepreneurs to take the higher ground if they hear Tony Guru and Todd Millions preaching profit at ALL costs, and worry about the consequences later (if at all)…
The silver lining to all this though, is that swimming against the tide and choosing to strive for Good Marketing gives you an opportunity to stand out.
When you reject the ‘sleight of hand’ and other Bad Marketing tricks so many others use, and focus instead on helping your prospective customers & clients understand how you can help them, they’ll recognise and appreciate it.
You’ll be able to inspire others, and demonstrate you can be trusted.
It may not happen instantly, but it’ll happen.
So how can you stay on the right track?
The author and storytelling advisor Bernadette Jiwa refers to marketing as a “helpful conversation”, which I think is as good a north star definition as any to keep in mind for your messaging.
Here’s a simple exercise to keep your marketing on the right side of the divide (because it’s not always obvious when you’re looking from the inside out!)…
Ask yourself these key questions whenever you sit down to create or deploy a new marketing message:
“Does this help my prospect better understand how and why I can help them?”
“Does this answer an important question they likely have already in their mind?”
“Is this consistent with the other messages I have out there, or does it contradict them in pursuit of a short-term goal?”
One more question to close with today:
With hand on heart, do you feel like your most recent marketing message is part of a ‘helpful conversation’?
Hit up the comments below to let me know how you feel about that. I’d love to get your take on this.