I’m still trying to figure this out. I don’t have a marketing background, a technology background, or even a business background. I have a sales background – I’ve been dealing with people, confronting their hangups and counselling them through difficult decisions for most of my life. Solving problems for people is a part of my make-up, a core piece of who I am. When people ask what I do at work, it’s difficult for me to admit I fall into the category of a retailer, or even a salesperson. Retailing and sales are related to marketing, certainly, but it’s more of a kissing cousins relationship than a fraternal twins relationship. The perception, however, is the same of all three; high pressure pitches, manufacturing concept whenever we’re not begging for coerced permission.
That’s not my process. I’m a facilitator. I build a bank of information, contacts and products and then I get people what they need.
So when I see companies purporting to do the same thing I do (whether in the same space or not), but failing terribly at communicating this, I get a bit frustrated. We all get a little freakedout by businesses behaving badly, even people pretending to be businesses, and its worse when I see it locally. Part of this, I’m aware, comes form my lack of understanding of the space – sales is as different from retailing as it is from marketing, after all, and with so many self-declaring experts around, it’s growing increasingly hard to tell who’s legitimate and who’s not.
Is it positioning, or is it posturing?
The first important question to ask if you’re trying to figure out anything about how someone’s acting is whether they’ve got something real backing them or not. Snake oil salesmen talk a certain way, dyed in the wool producers speak an entirely different language. Part of my job as a facilitator is to learn to speak every language there is, and communicate my bank of options to whomever I speak with in a way that matches their understanding and perspective. Still, it gets really easy to tell when someone wants a massive television because they think it’s going to be some kind of social proof for them, or when another person wants the same television because they sit ten feet back and have poor eye sight.
What does this have to do with marketing?
As I understand it, marketing is sales on a macro level. For decades, it’s been a disconnected medium, broadcast and wait. Over the last few years, the gap between people and their brands has been shrinking at an increasing pace, and the process is leaving a lot of brands frightened, stiffening like deer in the headlights of an oncoming locomotive. People are getting bigger than their own skins, and brands are getting smaller as their mass media efforts take more and more of a back seat roll in the sales and business growth cycle. Will these channels ever disappear? Not likely. But we’re certainly seeing other avenues become far more measurable, effective, and ubiquitous. Why? Because everyone’s participating. People are more interested when they can serve themselves.
Remaining Meta Together.
There’s a power to celebrity that’s universally enticing. We all like to escape, to believe we’re kings and queens. And when we all have the ability to move so far beyond facilities served by others – Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and so on – and build our own platforms, our own brands, and do our own marketing… Well, that’s even more exciting than following celebrity, it’s becoming celebrity. Creating these self-legitimizing personal platforms creates a kind of power for us we could never have had before, and it’s one that corporations aren’t yet equipped to process.
Because they can’t process it, the ball is in the court of anyone who can build that personal brand, and get just savvy enough to fake importance without looking too much like they’re posturing. It’s mostly a bluff. But it’s creating a brilliant, and very different skill set for those willing to explore the space with real curiosity, genuine interest, and an eye toward how the new world of ubiquitous, instant, and most interestingly thorough information exchange.
The place of passion in the land of liars.
As part of a promotion for The Art of Marketing, Mitch Joel ran a contest on his blog, asking for people to define marketing in 2010. Naturally, I tried to weigh in – but on further inspection, I think my answer was a little lacking. It felt like posturing, more than positioning. Mitch was asking about passion, drive, and innovation. Listening in on new channels, and deciphering their value is nothing new. There’s no innovation there. Is it necessary? Yes, absolutely. But it’s also done. Listening at the point of need is an integral part of what any business should be doing. Defining and recognizing new channels is nothing more than adding new sets of ears.
What is Marketing in 2010?
The short answer? I have no idea. So far, it doesn’t seem much different than marketing in 2009. Or sales in 2009, or 2008. What’s different isn’t part of what I’m doing yet. It’s nothing I can, in my daily work, do differently to increase my utility to others, their utility to each other, or my ability to grow the business I’m involved in.
The long answer? A lot more complicated. Whatever marketing in 2010 is, I’d love to find out. Because with all this attention and excitement going into it, I’m sure curious.
Wouldn’t you be?