As I’ve watched the definition of the ambiguous word “marketing” evolve over the years I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on what the word actually means (currently).

I mean, we all know the various components, right? Brand, positioning, messaging, image, targeting, lead generation, events, digital, public relations, nurturing … (need I go on?)

Stay in school kids, please. But …

Before I dropped out, I found my college marketing courses to be relatively ineffective. Some essential basics, a lot of textbook’y theory and very little practical guidance coming from the true experts in the industry.

I never underestimated the importance of studying the marketing experiences of authentic thought leaders.

So I decided to embark on my own version of a marketing degree – finding and reading a ton of books written by the real experts. In fact, I’ve been asked at several of my speaking engagements for a list of books that inspired me most. Some of my early favorites consisted of:

I love social media. But, man, it’s allowed a lot of people to destroy the term “thought leader”
Back when the only way I could find readings by “experts” was to walk into Barnes & Noble, at least I knew I was reading stuff written by one of the elites. Today, it’s nearly impossible to sift through the noise and determine:

Who’s writing about things they’ve actually done and achieved successful (proven) results from?

Who’s merely a social media “expert” whose only success has come from writing about this stuff, not actually doing an ounce of it … ever?

Marketing should be 10% time spent in conference rooms and 90% doing.

I get the importance of Brand. And nobody can deny that a clearly-defined marketing strategy is essential. Plus, in the world of Digital, there are critical strategic elements that require a lot of thought: personas, customer experience and journey, etc.

Perhaps you don’t have your brand, positioning and messaging clearly defined. So sure, take that 10% of your marketing time and do it now. But don’t let that discovery phase drag on for months while your competition is doing actual marketing and consequentially stealing market share from you.

So back to the question: What the hell does marketing even mean?

What I’m not going to do is the very thing I criticized so-called “thought leaders” for earlier in this post. I’m not going to arrogantly proclaim to know the exact magic marketing mix or the “10 Tactics to Ensure Marketing Success in 2018”.

But I will tell you this: I’m writing from the actual front line, not a social soapbox. I only have 4,000 Twitter followers, not 200,000. I’m not a social media guru or expert. I’m running a real business with 50 employees and a lot of overhead to support, so I only have time to think, read, write and talk about things that will support and grow my business.

To me, “marketing” means:

  • A tightly-defined strategy that will be executed by the best marketers I can hire
  • Clear definitions of our target markets, decision makers/personas
  • A ton of high-value, impactful content that will appeal to buyers at each phase of the marketing/sales cycle (sorry that sounds so buzzword’y but it’s critical)
  • “Content” means blog posts, white papers/e-books, case studies, articles, videos, website copy, online courses/webinars, e-mail and social.
  • All of that content needs to be perfectly optimized and distributed effectively and consistently to the right folks in the right places (not just plastered recklessly to make me feel good)
  • It will mean finding that perfect mix of e-mails, phone calls and social engagement with our prospects, tweaking the mix and doing it relentlessly
  • It might even mean reintroducing some print and direct mail back into the mix (crazy I know!)
  • It will mean sales and marketing working together, collaboratively and intelligently. Knowing the data on our prospects, feeding them the content they desire, utilizing CRM, marketing automation and sales intelligence tools to optimize our entire lead generation and nurturing processes
  • It will mean salespeople engaging in Account Based Marketing (ABM) and Social Selling, supported by excellent content provided by their marketing department

And it will mean cutting out all of the fluff and crap that won’t lead to a dollar in revenues and focusing only on those that will.

Next, the difficult task of putting all of the above in action. Stay tuned for the results …