The Marketing Muddle

July 24, 2012

Whenever I conduct a marketing training event, I enjoy asking the question: “What is marketing?

After a short pause while participants collect their thoughts, the responses begin.

Invariably advertising, promotion and sales are among the first answers. The come terms like networking, direct contact, referrals, and keeping in touch. Internet-savvy participants offer up website, email, blog and social media.

A little prodding helps generate concepts like research and communications.

My pleasure comes when I advise the group that all of the answers are correct…but they all are also wrong.

All of the responses are correct in that each is an element of marketing.

However, they are all wrong because marketing is more than the sum of its parts.

As a planned activity, marketing was initially developed to help dairy farmers sell more cheese.

Since then it has become the tool of choice for virtually everyone from the neighbor staging a yard sale to the world’s largest business and non-business organizations.

Along with the information explosion generated by computer and Internet technology, there has also been what might be called the marketing muddle.

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Even though there are some generally accepted principles for starting and maintaining offline conversations with others, there are no standard requirements that everyone must follow.

In practice, this means that to interact effectively in person, we apply the generally accepted rules of good conversation, including correct grammar and pronunciation. As individuals, we customize these generally accepted principles.

The principles of good conversation, together with the rules of grammar and pronunciation form the framework for our interactions. Guided by these principles and rules, we enter into conversation with others, exchanging information and ideas, but doing it in our own personal style.

These are the kinds of user-friendly marketing conversations that take place in personal networking situations.

Not surprisingly, we follow much the same process when using social media to interact effectively online.

The most obvious difference is that instead of interacting in person or by telephone, we are communicating through the Internet.

Sure there are technical considerations to manage. But these technical issues are more obstacles in our minds than they are in actual fact. And besides, whatever problems we may encounter with social media, there is no virtually no limit to free and easily accessible online help.

Realistically, if you can carry on a worthwhile conversation by e-mail, you can do the same thing using social media.

Of course, with more experience and resources to devote to social media marketing, you can expect better results. But it all starts with online conversations, just like those conversations you have with friends and family using e-mail.