For years we’ve evangelized Responsible Marketing on this blog, in speeches and anywhere else anyone will listen. Recently, the Seattle Times asked me to write a short article on the topic for their Marketing News newsletter — a newsletter I actually look forward to receiving. Here’s the text from the article in it’s entirety. But you should subscribe to the newsletter, too.
Responsible marketing: How marketers can build trust in an untrusting world
By Patrick Byers
Frustrated with your marketing results? You’re not alone. Marketers face tremendous challenges today:
We’re overwhelmed by interruptions and information. We’re bombarded with thousands of messages per day — enough to bring down super computer’s hard drive. The human brain simply can’t process all those inputs, so it skips ads and low-value info automatically.
We’ve become cynical about everything. In entertainment, sports, politics and business, we’ve been let down again and again. Heroes are hard to come by, and just about the last person someone is going to trust is a marketer peddling another product or service of dubious value.
Marketing is broken. Flavor-of-the-month distractions often drown out the important work of executing quality marketing planning, staffing, resourcing, budgeting and measurement.
There’s no marketing silver bullet, but don’t give up. The formula for building trust isn’t top-secret, and I’m not going to make you suffer through a 15-minute video and ask you for your personal information to get it. Here it is:
Competence + Character = Trust
One won’t work without the other. You’ll seldom buy anything from anyone whose competence or character is in question.
Outsource Marketing has been evangelizing seven keys for building trust since 2007. The first four keys are about improving competence:
Whether the focus is on research, positioning or execution, you have to start with strategy. Without an overall strategy to guide the marketing game plan, budgets get misspent, priorities get shuffled and projects end up out of sync.
Nearly every profession follows defined protocol and procedures, but marketing departments seldom do. Process variation is the enemy of efficiency, so execution responsibility demands that you:
- Require all marketing initiatives to flow from a strategic plan
- Use best practices instead of best efforts
- Maintain timelines and budgets
- Develop metrics to evaluate effectiveness
- Apply lessons learned after projects
We once helped a company whose marketing team consisted of a manager who was given marketing responsibilities (on top of other duties), an agency run by a friend of the owner and a bevy of lowest-bid freelancers. Our advice was to create a strategic plan, then deploy a best-fit team of talented people selected for their ability to execute that plan successfully.
ROI responsibility starts with one of the cornerstones of true integrated marketing communications: a zero-based budget. Baseline assumptions or industry averages have little value. Instead, build your budget based upon what you’ll need to achieve your organization’s goals. Then measure, test and measure some more.
The final three keys are all about helping you develop and communicate character:
No more fluff. No more lies. No more shouting. Marketers need to respect all their audiences. To do this, we must tell the truth, make the message clear, avoid clutter, speak in a human voice, seek permission and honor privacy.
More than 40 pounds of junk mail is sent to every person per year, and more than 40 percent of that is never opened. Sometimes digital is better than print. Sometimes lumpy mail sent to fewer people will generate greater ROI. Sometimes a 20-item pamphlet will outperform 300-item catalog. And sometimes it makes sense to offer recipients the opportunity to “opt-out” so they won’t receive unwanted mail. It always makes sense to test more environmentally friendly options to reduce your marketing’s carbon footprint.
By 2050, 90 percent of U.S. population growth will have come from minorities, who will collectively become the majority. Understanding your customer is always critical, but it’s not just about capitalizing on racial, cultural and gender growth. It’s about understanding your customer beyond marketing personas.
“Good to Great” vs. “Firms of Endearment”
Most people would love their company perform as well as the “Good to Great” companies like Gillette, Kroger and Nucor described in Jim Collins’ book of the same name.
But here’s another book to consider: “Firms of Endearment” by Raj Sisodia, Jag Sheth and David B. Wolfe. Over the last 15 years, responsible businesses like Patagonia, Costco and IKEA are outperforming the S&P 500 by 14 times, and the “Good to Great” companies by six times.
With so many obstacles facing marketers and so much evidence supporting a more responsible approach to business, the time has come for responsible marketing.
Patrick Byers is the founder of Outsource Marketing, a company that’s helped some of the region’s most respected organizations and promising startups achieve responsible results since 1997. He blogs, writes and speaks nationally on responsible marketing, personal positioning and marketing tech. Patrick taught marketing in the evenings at the UW for five years, and was a 40 Under Forty honoree. His company has been recognized by King County as a “Best Workplace for Recycling” every year since its inception in 2006.