It’s Official: Marketing, As We Know It, Is Dead

Marketing always has been ­misunderstood and open to manipulation. It’s like politics—it can attract two-bit hucksters and those whose egos have far outgrown their expertise. Everyone thinks they’re experts on ­marketing.

So how do we know it’s dead?

Here’s a clue: In a 2012 lecture, Peter Thiel, cofounder of ­PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, said, “You should have zero advertising spend. If your growth isn’t viral, it’s fake.”

But most businesses don’t go viral on social media. Most plod away, day in and day out, with no results at all. This is because social media users already are bored to death by “me-too” ­businesses with their so-called latest offerings. And sadly, most businesses are anything but unique. Thus, several million businesses are stranded in the middle of a marketing desert. The popular social channels aren’t working for them (by “working,” we mean driving sales, not just collecting followers) and neither are traditional marketing channels, which are fast disappearing.

We’re convinced the solution is to stick with existing customers. They’re the ones who know about and believe in you. ­Re-engage with those who trust you and work on retaining them. Focus on low-cost ways (or, as Thiel says, no-cost ways) to let potential customers find you. Do this by providing answers to their questions.

And acknowledge this: Your business solves a problem. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t exist. Focus on the problems you solve and be present at places where people might come looking for answers to solve those problems. If they’re most likely to find you online, then be there to assist them. Stop trying too hard to sell to them; let them come looking for you.

One of the main reasons why marketing has failed is because of its intense focus on sales at the expense of solving the customer’s problem. The less it looks like a sales pitch, the more likely it is to land you a buyer. Here’s a practical example of this: Many moons ago, we owned and operated a furniture store. There were many staff members on the floor to answer customer queries, but who did people ask questions of most frequently? The cleaning lady! This is because they knew she wouldn’t try to sell them anything.