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Modern Marketing: A Shift in Focus

Wildbit's take on marketing

For some, the word “marketing” comes with baggage. For product-oriented people, this quote might be the first thing that comes to mind:

Marketing is the price you pay for being unremarkable.

Robert Stephens came up with this great sound bite, but the sentiment is off-base. It’s an oversimplification that misses the mark. Even the companies creating the most advanced consumer products in the world invest in marketing. The best tools in the world can’t help someone if that person doesn’t know they exist or that they can perform a job that people need to be done in their lives.

The idea that just building a great product removes the need for marketing is misleading at best and harmful at worst. Marketing can be evil, but that doesn’t mean that it is inherently evil. It depends on your approach.

The biggest problem with the sentiment in the quote above is that it’s about whether your widget is remarkable or not. What truly matters, however, is whether your widget is creating a remarkable impact on your customers’ lives. It’s the difference between…

“Marketing is the price you pay for being unremarkable.”

and …

“Marketing is the price you pay for failing to make a remarkable impact on your customers’ lives.

That only fixes half of the problem, though. Marketing isn’t a just a cost. It’s not just billboards and banner ads. Marketing is much more than an advertising budget. In many cases, marketing doesn’t even involve an advertising budget. Every interaction and experience a customer has with a business is marketing.

Most would prefer a world without billboards, banner ads, or TV commercials. Add in things like multi-level marketing, growth hacking, affinity marketing, extensive tracking, and it’s not hard to see why marketing has a bad reputation. The most visible tools of marketing are one-sided, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Marketing is much more than just the unpopular tactics that some employ. Marketing is research, communication, education, understanding, service, and more.

The part of marketing that most dislike is the purely self-serving marketing. Self-promotion. Manipulation. That’s the dark side of marketing, but it’s not the only side. While paid promotion can be done tastefully with a focus on relevance, few companies are committed to that approach. They end up focusing on cost-effectiveness, and cost-focused marketing by its very definition isn’t focused on improving the lives of customers.

There are other components of marketing that we all inherently understand are included, but that we don’t necessarily think of when someone uses the term.

  • Customer service is marketing. Great service generates great word of mouth. Terrible service amplifies negative word of mouth. Help people succeed with your widget, and you’re marketing.
  • Manuals, guides, and educational materials are marketing. Teach someone how to do something or help them recognize that they’re capable of something they never thought possible, and you’re marketing.
  • Helping people see all of the possible applications of your widget is communicating value. That’s marketing.
  • Understanding your customers’ pains and difficulties is a function of marketing.

Marketing is about promotion. It’s difficult to disagree with that. But marketing focused on customer success, which relies on understanding customers, data, and everything we create to help our customers be more successful, is just as important. If traditional marketing is about a company screaming “Hey! Look at us!”, modern marketing is about finding ways we can help people say “Wow! Look what I did!” and removing the friction that enables that story to be told.

At Wildbit, we occasionally consider paid advertising and some traditional marketing, but we rarely go that route. Marketing dollars and effort only serves us. It’s cheap and easy, but it’s not meaningful. Our feeling is that marketing isn’t about advertising so much as it is about creating, sharing, and teaching.

We want to create more guides, free tools, and other things that help individuals and teams become better software developers one step at a time. Yes we’re a business, and we want to gain customers and grow. But we want it to be because we helped you learn something that saves you time or impresses your clients, not just because it increases our revenue.

I’d like to propose an alternate quote. Its not the tidy little sound byte wrapped in a pretty bow like the original. And it may even be a little pedantic …but it feels more appropriate to me.

Spending money or talking louder to get attention is the price you pay for failing to make a remarkable impact on your customers’ lives.