Marketing: what, exactly, is it now?

I had breakfast earlier in the week in New York with marketing wiz Neil Glassman. He’s one smart guy. We spoke about the interplay between sales and marketing, and he had some ideas about marketing that made me curious, annoyed, and excited. I’m going discuss some ideas I had as a result of our conversation and offer my confusion or questions (and annoyance, of course). I’d love to start a dialogue and hear what you have to say about it.


Let me begin by saying that the very baseline of the new, new marketing thinking is faulty. The focus is on ‘content.’ Whether it’s offering content, getting links to content, gathering content/data – the assumption seems to be that content drives decisions.

But in fact, people only need content when they have gone through their internal decision criteria, achieved necessary buy-in for change, and decided that taking an action would be better than the status quo. It is only then they begin to consider what content they need.

Marketers seem to think that they truly have control over the buyer’s buying decision. When I attempt to discuss the ‘behind-the-scenes’ and often unconscious decisions buyers make privately before they can even consider making a purchase or needing content, I’m told that marketing can get everywhere – even into the bedroom.

Do marketers really believe this is possible? Are they not aware of the unconscious aspects of decision making that happen through time as a decision gets made and are personal, idiosyncratic, and relational? If I’m having a fight with my husband about retiring, and he wants to move to be closer to his job, no marketing in the world would make me pay attention to an ad for a realtor.

Marketers think they know how to interpret the data they get from digital footprints. Really? Just because you watch one person peruse a site, you know what they are thinking, their weight among others on the Buying Decision Team, their percentage vote for bringing in a solution, and what/who else they are considering purchasing from? I find that an arrogant, specious belief! And by believing this, they aren’t doing the real work of discovering how to help buyers manage their behind-the-scenes decision issues.

And what is this analytics stuff?  What, exactly does it give you? You know what pages people are going to – so do you pump up those pages? Make them easier to convert? What makes you think that someone looking at a page is a buyer? Or that your content – and the way you are presenting it – fits the criteria of their partner (who is the real buyer)? So many assumptions!

Yes, marketing is attempting to own the revenue pipeline. But what, exactly, does that mean? Until or unless a buyer goes through some sort of internal change management and buy-in, they ain’t buyin nothin‘. So who owns the pipeline? Until or unless marketing starts earlier in the buying decision journey, they can talk about ownership all they wantbut it’s not true. They still have no idea where buyers are at, what they are doing behind-the-scenes, and the timing on what’s going on in the buyer’s world.

We never, ever make a decision that goes against our highly valued criteria. No marketing in the world will get me to smoke, or harm anyone. And as marketers know, most decision criteria are unconscious: and no content will make me change my highly valued criteria. I would have to do some sort of difficult internal change to do that. Buying Facilitation® helps people do that.

Marketing works at too superficial a level. And, yes, I’m aware that the field does massive research on the psychological underpinnings of decision making. But they are getting to buyers very late in their decision cycle. It’s very easy to get there earlier – just not with marketing as it is now.

Find out more about Buying Facilitation™ digital selling.

5 thoughts on “Marketing: what, exactly, is it now?”

  1. Roger L. Cauvin

    Marketing can be much more than outward communication of content. Peter Drucker said, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” The idea is that marketing is not just pushing messages outward or even monitoring inbound traffic; it is also interviewing, observing, and understanding customers’ needs and then defining and developing products and messages that fit these needs.

    By now, I imagine you’re getting annoyed reading what I just wrote 🙂 Because marketing is certainly limited. No product “sells itself” to a customer until the customer is ready for change. And marketing will never understand what each customer will need to know or do to be ready for change.

    There’s a role for marketing – both learning about the customer/market and the campaigns that will build awareness of the product. But that role is a small part of the equation. It doesn’t replace buying facilitation.

  2. IMHO a decsion to buy must proceed any distribution or revenue generation. and it’s not simple – all — all — all of the aspects that will touch a final solution must be incorporated into the change decision (and all purchases are change management decisions).

    1. Sharon-Drew, I do not disagree with what you are saying at all. My comment was on “revenue pipeline.” The selling process by itself does not manage the internal change management decisions–as you have so often pointed out. BUT..the buying process does not manage the distribution channels from which purchases are made from.

      1. Don’t forget that the distribution channel is filled with people who must make decisions as well. Usually we approach all of this activity as if it were just that: activity that has to be done. But there are people every step of the way that must agree, buy-in, do the right thing, etc.

        I’m running a webinar at 1:00 CT with Customer Think about the ‘trusted advisor’ role that you might want to attend.

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