Marketing is a Scam

There are a lot of scams out there. One of the largest, yet least talked-about scam of them all is the entire field of marketing.

Marketers are all scammers, greedy folks out to convince people to spend money on things they don’t need for reasons they don’t understand, all to increase the revenues of their respective companies, and, in turn, line their own pockets.

It’s a dirty, dirty business. We spend billions of dollars every year to reach consumers like you – on your television, phone, computer, commute, newspaper, magazines. We pay other people to promote our products so that it sounds like you’re just getting a recommendation from a friend. We pay for your personal information so we can learn more about you and find new, sneakier ways to get our message across.

If our products were any good, you would hear about them or find them yourself. You don’t need us to tell you about them. We have no incentive to tell you the truth. Our only incentive is to get you to buy, to give us your money.

Marketing is a scam. Right?

Here’s the part where I tell you I’m just having a little fun. That I’m just kidding and marketers are all honest, thoughtful people. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. Most of what I said above has some truth to it.

This isn’t a manifesto. This isn’t me blowing the whistle on my field. This is a call to arms.

It’s time for marketers and companies the world over to put in a little more effort. Make your products great. Treat your customers well. Sell in an honest way.

And it’s time for consumers to reward those companies with your business, and to punish the ones who don’t evolve by leaving them behind.

Not all companies can be great companies. Not all marketers can be great marketers. But we must, all of us, strive to be better.

Marketing is not a scam. But it’s seen that way by a lot of people, both inside and outside the profession. It is in our power to change that.

Underrated Series – A Look Back

Over the last nine weeks, we took a look at some of the most underrated components of marketing strategy, the things that companies and marketers alike tend to ignore or undervalue in their quest for success.

Sadly, the weekly blog series has come to an end. But I wanted to provide one last chance to review the series as a whole.

Here are all nine parts, in order:

Zach Heller Marketing Week in Review

One of the most important things that marketers can do is work on improving their communication skills. Good marketers are great communicators. We need to communicate effectively to consumers, team members, and with bosses and other stakeholders. And we need to communicate effectively in many different ways, in person, on the phone, online, in ads, etc. Improve your communication skills and you will be better at your job. I promise you that.

Here’s a look at last week’s posts:

  1. Underrated Series – Part 9
  2. Marketing Skills to Learn
  3. Are You Using Marketing Personas?

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Are You Using Marketing Personas?

If you are a marketer or small business owner, you likely have a sense of who is buying what you’re selling. If you don’t, you have bigger problems.

In the past, we have referred to this group of people as your target market. They are the consumers most likely to shop with you, the ones that you “target” with your advertising and marketing efforts.

For a local bakery, this might be adults and families in a 10 mile radius. For an online college, this may be adult learners who wish to go back to school and get their degree.

But as you can see from both examples above, the target market likely includes a wide variety of different people. That’s where marketing (or buyer) personas come in.

The marketing community realized that generalizing about their target market, trying to create strategies that apply equally to the broadest swath of people, wasn’t the right approach. A better one would be dividing that group up into sub-groups, based on different demographic or psychographic qualities that they share.

Using our examples above, the bakery might divide their market up by age and gender, or cake buyers and bread buyers. The online college might divider their market up by physical location, degree or job type.

Doing this allows the company to develop marketing strategies that are more directly targeted at individuals within the larger group.

Then, to make these groups feel more real, we assign names to them. We create a “persona”, a profile of a customer that most accurately represents the real people in that group.

So instead of your bakery marketing to “young moms”, you market to Jennifer. And instead of your college marketing to “technical careers in California”, you market to Dave.

These personas are representations of customers that help your team develop strategies that relate to them as real people, and not just some vague group of consumers in your target market.

Are you using marketing personas? If not, you should be.

Marketing Skills to Learn

Just like any other professional, it is vital for marketers to continue to learn new skills as they proceed in their careers. The dynamics of the world around us are changing so fast, that if we don’t continue to grow, and learn, and adapt, we will be left behind.

But with so many options available to you, it can be hard to figure out where to start. What should you learn?

Step 1 = What are you passionate about?

Figure out what you want to learn. Start by making a list of all the areas you are interested in. Ignore for now whether or not these subjects have anything to do with your current job. Just brainstorm as many different things as possible.

Step 2 = Where will your career take you?

This can be tough for many of us, but take a moment to picture the future. Where do you see yourself in 3, 5, 10 years? What kind of career progression are you looking for? Do you want to stay with one company, or move on to something bigger? Do you want to stay in your current field, or do you want to jump to a new industry? Answering these questions will give you a sense of what skills from your list are most applicable to your growth prospects.

Step 3 = Search

Taking your list from step 1, and analyzing it through the lens of step 2, certain subjects will rise to the top. These are the things you are personally interested in, which are most likely to help your career. Now it’s time to figure out how to learn them.

Online courses from Coursera, Udemy, or Lynda are a great start. In person classes like those offered by General Assembly or your local Community College are another great option. Books, articles, and blogs may exist on those subjects as well.

Some topics today’s marketers may want to learn more about:

  • Statistics and data analysis
  • Public speaking
  • Leadership and management
  • Strategy and strategic planning
  • Accounting/Financial management