Marketing is for Humans

The subject line caught my eye, promising a free download on “The State of Marketing,” so I opened the email from salesforce.com.

I started reading the report, and, at first, I liked what I read. It said that successful companies are more likely to have their marketing departments focus on customer touchpoints throughout the entire lifecycle of a customer’s relationship with a company. I read that “64% of marketing leaders say their company has become more focused on providing a consistent experience across every channel as a result of changing customer expectations,” and that “high performers are 12.8x more likely than underperformers to heavily coordinate their marketing efforts across these channels.”

“Bravo,” I thought, since I have spent years encouraging marketing departments to look beyond their traditional marketing tools. Marketing’s job is not just to create awareness or to get the first sale, but to support the nurturing of customer relationships throughout the entire time the customer is involved with the company.

But as I read further, I saw that this was really nothing new. Sure, many of the channels referred to in the article are relatively new digital options, but at its core, this sounds like a story from the 1980s.

When I started my marketing career in the 80s, similar articles were written that talked about how smart marketers are complementing their advertising programs with public relations, direct marketing and sales promotion. Now we’ve added digital advertising, email marketing, mobile apps, video advertising, etc., to that list.

Channels Aren’t People

What all of these marketing channels have in common, whether they are analog or digital, is that they are inanimate. They don’t breathe. They don’t eat. They don’t have a pulse. They aren’t human.

Through my work as an advisor, public speaker and workshop facilitator, I have interacted with tens of thousands of executives from thousands of companies, and conducted research on many of them. I have witnessed this clear truth: For most companies, the human interactions they have with their customers are more powerful and influential than any inanimate marketing tools.

If you work for Amazon or Google, this may not apply to you, but most of us don’t work for Amazon or Google. For most of us, our most powerful customer interactions, outside of our actual delivered products or services, are the interactions that people who work in our companies have with people who are customers of our companies.

Yes, traditional marketing tools still have their place, and it is incredibly important to understand the roles that new digital marketing tools can have on your business. But you can’t delegate all of the heavy lifting of customer interactions to inanimate marketing objects. Human engagement still counts.

I’m a good case in point. Digital marketing has been great for my business as a speaker, by generating leads and bringing traffic to my website, but it is the human interactions I have with potential clients that make the real difference in whether I am hired to speak at a conference.

If you want to be a really high-performing company, don’t just have your marketing department focus on the tools marketing has used for decades, supplemented only by the new digital tools that are available. Yes, all of those things are valuable, but ensure that your marketing department looks beyond these non-living means of communication and focuses on what really counts: Humans.

Marketing is for Humans, in Two Ways

  • First, don’t try to delegate all of the heavy lifting of customer interactions to inanimate objects. Ensure that you support and enable the humans in your company to deal effectively with customers.
  • Second, remember the humans that your marketing efforts are actually for: your customers.

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