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Is marketing really as complicated as it seems?

I’ve certainly caught myself referring to the marketing technology landscape as “an ever-changing environment,” or, in a few instances, describing it as “pure chaos.” And there are certainly elements of marketing, this constant torrent of new technologies among them, that might make any sane professional anxious or overwhelmed.

A Simple Mantra for Marketers

Marketing isn’t complicated. People are.

Ok, maybe that’s a rather rude, “It’s not me. It’s you” way of saying it, but as marketers, we’re not serving ourselves in what we do. I’m not marketing for “me.” I’m marketing to and for “you” – my audience, my consumer, my buyer.

Keeping the scope of our work as marketers simple helps us be more flexible when it comes to catering to the complicated needs, interests, preferences, and behaviors of our audience.

Repeat: Marketing Isn’t Complicated. People Are.

Fundamentally, marketing boils down to appealing to people in order to drive desired actions for businesses. Remember the Four Ps? They’re in service to a fifth: People.

Price – What an offering is worth to People

Product – The thing People want / need from your organization

Promotion – Informing People about your product or service

Place – Where People access/acquire your product or service

None of the changes in channels, technologies, and marketing approaches have disrupted these marketing fundamentals.

Marketing originated in bringing goods to physical markets for sale or trade. Setting prices, showing products, promotional shouts of “Get your apples here,” all happened in one place back in those days. Even in the decentralized, digitally enhanced world of today, marketing remains marketing.

What people want, what they expect, and what they prefer as buyers/consumers, though, has changed, is changing, and will continue to change, often in undeniably disruptive ways. By staying level-headed and recalling that marketing retains its simple, uncomplicated foundations, marketers can more clearly focus on the people to whom they market.

At the end of the day, effective marketing efforts are those that continuously evolve to satisfy the complex, changing patterns and preferences of buyers. If we wanted to be angsty about it, we could say, “Marketing wouldn’t be so complicated if people stayed the same, gosh darn it!” But if we simply focus on appealing to people in the best (i.e., most effective and appropriate) ways possible, we often find that this complexity brings out the best in marketers.

As a matter of fact, this appears to be the case for many in the Best-in-Class. Aberdeen Group research shows that a slight majority (53%) of Best-in-Class marketing organizations (the top 20% based on key performance metrics) report being “effective” or “very effective,” at responding to market, industry, or technology disruptions.

Of course, the fact that almost half (47%) of the best marketing organizations still struggle in the face of changing conditions outside of their control, is telling.

Looking at the bottom end of the performance spectrum, we find that a mere 27% of Laggard organizations (the bottom 30% of respondents based on performance) report such adaptive effectiveness. In other words, as one might expect, if something is hard for many in the top tier, it is going to be especially challenging for those at the bottom. (I said marketing was simple, not that it was easy!)

Interestingly, 72% of Best-in-Class marketers report effectiveness at developing and executing against clearly defined strategies. Only 39% of All Others (Industry Average & Laggard performers combined) say the same. This suggests that, even though some in the Best-in-Class may be better than others at rolling with the punches, the vast majority are capable of establishing and following through on marketing strategies.

Remember: Best-in-Class organizations enjoy business results that set them apart from All Others. For this reason, it’s safe to say that imposing the simplicity of a defined strategy on one’s marketing efforts is an important key to marketing success.

And, as we’ll see in Part 2, that simple foundation can help you tackle the actually complex marketing challenges that do arise.

Image Source (Creative Commons): Mike V.

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