What makes marketing good or bad?
To answer this question, let’s first address a more fundamental question: What is marketing?
Here’s my definition of marketing:
Marketing includes all activities an organization produces that influence customers to behave in ways that affect the organization’s business results.
This definition is based on the following section of the
Brand Harmony Results Model:
As the model shows, from right to left, your business results are impacted by the actions your customers take. Customer action is driven by the kinds of beliefs customers have about you. Your customers’ beliefs about you are determined by all interactions customers have with your company.
Every interaction a customer has with your company that can influence customer beliefs and actions, and therefore affect business results, is part of your marketing. Marketing is not just the product of your marketing department; it can include anything your company does that affects the experiences customers have with you.
This definition of marketing has a very important implication: It is customers, not marketing people, who decide what a company’s marketing is. If customers are influenced by it, it’s marketing.
Marketing professionals may bristle at this, because it downplays the significance of their lofty art. Sorry, if anyone is bristling, but that’s just the point. When you look at what really influences customers to act, in most cases, it is not the product of marketing departments. Customers’ attitudes are highly influenced by product and service experiences, interactions with a company’s employees, logistics of doing business with the company, etc. Be sure that your marketing focus includes all the touchpoints a company has with its customers, in order to focus on what really makes a difference.
Good marketing vs. bad marketing
Now we can return to our original question: What makes marketing good or bad?
Here’s the answer: What makes a marketing effort good or bad is the extent to which it impacts the business results of the company, product or service being marketed.
It’s that simple. Good marketing has a positive effect on business results, and bad marketing has a negative effect or no effect on business results.
Every other measure of a marketing effort’s quality, such as “we reached 3 million people,” “we really stood out from the competition,” and “we built awareness” is a secondary measure that only counts if it eventually leads to business results. It doesn’t matter how many people you reach, or how many people know about you if it doesn’t lead to improving the state of your business.
What this means: Don’t evaluate your marketing by how great the ad creative is, or how flashy the website is, or how clever your Facebook posts are. The only measure of whether your marketing is good or bad is how well it encourages customers to act in ways that improve your business results. If the accounting department comes up with a new payment policy that leads to increased repeat purchases from customers, and the marketing department comes up with a new social media program that doesn’t drive business results, then you need to accept this truth: Your accounting department has done better marketing than your marketing department.
What if you can’t measure those results?
Hold on to your seats, because I’m about to share an important principle that is not intuitive: Good marketing can produce results that can’t be measured.
You’ve all heard the adage “if you can’t measure it, it’s not worth doing.” It’s not true. There are many things you can’t directly measure, but you know they are good for your business. An example: Can you measure the ROI on having your receptionist smile at guests? Do you believe that it is better that she smiles than if she snarls?
The receptionist’s smile, like many other customer touchpoints, contributes to better business results because customer beliefs about your company are formed by the way many different touchpoints blend in brand harmony to communicate one clear, integrated story about your company and/or its products and services. Good marketing becomes great marketing when every point of contact your company has with customers blends with every other point of contact to create a wonderfully integrated customer experience that encourages customers to act in ways that drive your results.
In summary, marketing includes all activities an organization produces that influence customers to behave in ways that affect the organization’s business results. And when those activities lead to improved business results, you have produced great marketing.