Marketing strategy and best practices have been changing wildly over the last couple of years. However, it’s a change that has been a long time coming. This change is accelerating the shift toward basing marketing on timeless principles rather than the newest, shiny tactics.
There has long been a dividing line between lead generation and branding. Direct response marketing has been the clear way to get results, as all of the modern attribution-tracking software will show you. If you want to grow, run some ads to a landing page and split-test everything so you know how to get more sales.
Warning: The next statement will be polarizing. Direct response marketing has done more harm than good.
I’m a Google Ads expert. The guys who wrote the best-selling internet marketing book of all time send me their toughest cases. I love ads and I have nothing against them, but the days of relying on Google Ads or Facebook ads to grow your business are over.
Can ads help you grow? Absolutely. The problem comes when you design your growth strategy around channels rather than customers.
The same can be said for SEO, social media, influencer marketing, outbound sales, email marketing, traditional advertising, account-based sales, content marketing or any other channel. These are all useful, but they aren’t where you should be focusing.
You should be focusing on spending time with your top customer segments, understanding how their life changes from the time they realize they want something to the time when they seek to satisfy that want. Stop designing your marketing and growth strategy around how you do business and around best practices for each channel and design a marketing strategy that aligns with how people actually live their lives.
People know how to research their problems. They know how to look at all of the possible solutions and weigh the best options for them and their situation. In fact, a lot of customers know more than the marketers who are trying to get them to buy things. In those cases, you get a marketer trying to convince a well-educated buyer to believe something they know isn’t true. Marketing has gone downhill because marketers are trying to sell, not market.
The best marketers of the future will be the ones who recognize that leads don’t increase because you’re spending more money trying to convince people to buy. They’ll recognize that you can’t convince people to buy at all – that you can only influence and harness market demand, not create it.
The best marketers will be those who understand the customers best, not by guessing, but by spending time with them and seeking to understand them and their journey better than anyone else.
The future of marketing is about building relationships and showing that you care. It’s about humans connecting with humans. All of the channels I mentioned earlier have a place, but they should all serve as a piece of a comprehensive growth strategy, not as a stand-alone lead source.
Additionally, trust your customers. A lot of marketers aren’t gating their content anymore, trusting that people will come back even if they’re not bombarded with a drip sequence. Customers know how to buy without being led through your funnel.
The single most important thing you can do to improve your marketing is identify your ideal prospect and then meet and talk to as many of them as possible with the intent to understand them, not to sell to them. When you find out that every customer journey involves complex and “untrackable” actions, you’ll then need to stop doing only those things that drive directly trackable revenue.
To really grow, you’ll need to connect to your market and provide value before they’re ready to buy. You’ll need to trust that they’re not ignorant sheep and can find the information they need, and you’ll need to be the one who understands them and provides that information for them. You’ll need to stop focusing only on revenue and the actions that directly affect it and broaden your scope to see the directions that lead to greater revenue down the road.
The marketers that win in the future will be the ones who focus on the long game instead of trying to grow more quickly. They’ll invest in relationships, in-person, virtual and digital, and they’ll be valuable to their customers before they’re ready to buy, when they’re ready, and after they’ve bought.
Focus on building relationships at scale, provide value, track what you can and trust the process even when you can’t track everything.
Ryan Baker is the founder of Kingly Consulting. He’s a certified Google Ads specialist and the author of “The Market Journey Path: How to Demolish Growth Barriers & Build Lasting Success.” He can be reached at email@example.com.