5th August 2018
Really? Just this past week I read yet one more article from yet another marketing expert claiming that marketing is in the process of disruption. ‘Disruption’ is another of those over-used words which is quickly becoming meaningless. Which is unfortunate; it’s a good, strong word when used in the right context. But for marketing?
As I often do, I went to the Oxford English Dictionary to remind myself of its definition: ‘A disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process’.
The Cambridge Dictionary goes further and defines the word in the context of business: ‘To change the traditional way that an industry operates, especially in a new and effective way’.
Ah, that’s more like it. But while I would agree that there’s been an awful lot of change for B2B marketers, marketing in and of itself hasn’t changed at all.
Over the past few weeks and months I’ve been speaking and writing about my 3 enduring fallacies of B2B marketing:
I remain concerned that we as B2B marketers accept too readily many of the glib, often throw-away, headlines and statements that all too frequently end up having a profound impact on what we do.
So, in this and my next few posts I’m going to delve a bit deeper into each of my 3 fallacies of B2B marketing in turn.
We’ve all seen the headlines across our marketing media:
‘Marketing has changed more in the past 5 years than in the past 500’
‘Marketing has changed more in 2 years than in 50’
‘Marketing has Fundamentally Changed in the Past 10 Years’
‘Revolutionary Changes in Marketing Since 2000’
‘The Digital Age Has Changed Marketing Forever’
These are but a sampling – when I did a Google search on the topic, there were an astonishing 337 MILLION results.
I physically shudder when I read or hear these pronouncements. As if there has been a cataclysmic disruption in the fundamentals of marketing.
But let’s look at and think about what’s really changed.
For my session at B2B Ignite I created a brief timeline of the major technology inventions of the past 800 years. Starting with the invention of the printing press in 1440, the pace of technological change has kept on moving faster and faster.
Newspapers and magazines – first published in 1668 and 1731 respectively – were just the beginning of our ability to more widely communicate and consume information. The inventions of radio, television, and the telephone in the early 1900s enabled us to reach even farther beyond our immediate environs. The development of the PC and mobile telephone in the latter part of the 1900s, followed by the broad adoption of the internet, social platforms and the smartphone in the 2000s, further opened up our world in astonishing ways.
Technology has enabled us to discover so much and to touch more people in ways that were once unimaginable. And it’s continuing to move so fast that the impact on marketing has become quite overwhelming.
In particular, the marketing technology landscape has exploded over the past 7 years.
Scott Brinker has been tracking the MarTech Landscape annually since 2011 and releases a ‘super-graphic’ every spring. The 2018 MarTech Landscape is simply mind-boggling. To appreciate the magnitude of this chart, the size of the 2018 MarTech landscape is equivalent to all of the previous marketing technology landscapes put together! In 2011 there were just 150 martech solutions on this chart. In April of this year there were 6,829 marketing technology solutions from 6,242 unique marketing technology vendors.
No wonder we feel like the ground beneath our marketing feet is crumbling and that technology is fundamentally changing our profession.
But technology is not the challenge; there will always be new technology – think about the transition from word-of-mouth marketing to newsprint, radio, telephone, television and the internet. Each of these inventions – alongside the PC and smartphone – have given us new ways of communicating with each other, as well as new ways of finding, accessing and consuming information. Which, in turn, has given us as marketers new strategic and tactical opportunities.
Today is no different at all; sure, we have a whole lot of new channels, and a whole host of new tools, all of which makes marketing a LOT more complicated and a lot more interesting.
But we are marketers. And as marketers we evolve – we adapt and we adopt the tools and technology that help us to do our jobs better. Because no matter the external environment, the fundamental role and purpose of marketing does not change.
Marketing always has been and always will be about getting the right product to the right customer at the right time in the right place for the right price with the right message.
This is the 4Ps pure and simple – or the 7Ps or 7Cs or whichever version you subscribe to – and the 4 essential building blocks that underly them: Brand, Strategy, Customers and Measurement
Understanding what drives and grows a business, a relentless focus on the customer, delivering what the customer finds of value, and finding relevant customer insight based on the available data, as well as creative ideas and design, this is what makes great marketing and great marketers, no matter the era and no matter the technology.
Technology will continue to transform our lives. Granted, the pace of that change just keeps on accelerating, until we feel like we’re barely keeping up. But it’s precisely during these times of change that the foundations of our profession become more important than ever. Going back to the marketing basics refocuses our thinking on what’s necessary to address the incredibly big challenges our B2B businesses and customers are facing in these unparalleled times.
There will always be something new that we will need to get to grips with during our long marketing careers. But it’s important that we look at and understand how and if the ‘new’ will impact our marketing or be useful, so that we can quickly discard what’s simply not relevant for us.
Going back to my headline, it’s a sensationalist and false assertion that marketing has drastically changed. Yet we’ve gotten so caught up in this fallacy that we’re constantly being distracted from what really matters.
We simply must stop for a moment and focus not on the technology but on the very human outcomes we’re trying to achieve. Only then should we look at what we need in order to realise those outcomes.
And it all starts with strategy, which I will explore further in my next post, after the summer holidays.
I’m off on my summer holidays! And, as I do every August, I’ll be limiting my social media and online activity while I’m away. But stayed tuned! I’ll be back blogging in September. See you then 😎
Need a good summer read? If you don’t have yours yet, check out my book B2B Marketing Strategy: differentiate, develop and deliver lasting customer engagement on my book page, and then buy it from Kogan Page publishers or Amazon everywhere.
Heidi Taylor is an award-winning senior marketing strategist with 25 years' experience of helping organisations engage with their customers, creating impact and differentiation. She is a sought-after speaker at marketing conferences in the UK and internationally, and regularly contributes articles to marketing journals in print and online. You can follow her on Twitter @TaylorMadeInKew.