Marketing Guide: Introduction

Are you a young marketer? A small business owner? An entrepreneur who’s looking for common-sense marketing advice? This series goes over some basic components of digital marketing strategy. These basics can serve as the foundation for a bootstrapped startup, or scale to long-established businesses. Ready to dive in?

Introduction: Marketing Is The Goalie

One of my most memorable job interviews was conducted by a man who seemed to have a military background. He spit questions rapid-fire, trying to rattle me. While sweating it out, I received one golden piece of wisdom: “marketing is the goalie”.

A solid goalie hones their reflexes in preparation for the shots fired against them. A marketer does the same, crafting a brand that takes into account the many ways customers judge a business. These goalie-marketers take a defensive position to maintain a trustworthy, authoritative voice.

Customers are pretty judgmental people. And since so many of our judgments happen subconsciously, before we’re even aware of them, marketing has to deflect against these judgments at light speed. Otherwise, the customer gets on a breakaway of encountering, assessing and rejecting your brand.

I recently read "They Ask, You Answer" by Marcus Sheridan, a book that’s been generating a lot of buzz among online marketers. It’s built on common sense: if a customer trusts your brand, it saves your sales team time and elbow grease. The way to build this trust is to demonstrate transparency through your content. Think of all the questions your prospective customers are asking. Those questions are going to be exactly what’s typed into Google. Most businesses miss that opportunity to assume the role of teacher because they’re coming at content from the wrong angle: they aggrandize themselves instead of genuinely trying to help the customer.

I fully agree with TAYA’s stance: offer customers what they want. Show them your full price list. Disclose any caveats. Provide an easy experience, while your competitors are being cagey.

There’s a major asterisk* with all I stated above: make sure your content is good!

One of the first ways customers get a feel for your brand is through written content. Grammar errors, awkward flow, over-repetition, inconsistent capitalization…all of these signal quality control issues behind the scenes.

It’s what distinguishes this:

example of a phishing email

From this:

IBM landing page, displaying good marketing copy

Bad writing and poor grammar will turn off so many potential customers. Maybe your customers aren’t editors by trade, but they can still spot bad punctuation. I don’t have to be a professional chef to walk into a restaurant and know that something stinks.

Poor writing makes inbound marketing efforts a moot point, and puts salespeople in a compromised position. There are too many opportunities for customers to become sketched out and bounce off a touch-point. I partially blame the slogan “content is king” for this perceived emphasis on quantity over quality. Putting out more content volume isn’t a way to get recognized by search engines and reel in more clients. As content quality diminishes it will only damage your brand, confuse your message and give customers more reasons to walk away.

There’s only one way for your team to score a goal: you make a sale, the contract is signed, and then you hit the gong and have a drink with your teammates. There are innumerable ways you can lose clients, shatter their trust and make them consider alternatives (your competitors). Many of these ways defy measurement. It’s up to marketing to build a defensive fortress that signals brand authority and trustworthiness if you want customers to do business with you happily.

The goalie is rarely the obvious hero of the game, but just watch what happens if you leave the net empty! That’s what my interviewer was trying to get at. It’s a logical approach to marketing no matter the size or budget of your business. By making sure the foundation of your house is strong, it will be better able to weather any incoming storms.

Content is king, quality is queen, and the customer’s perspective is your north star. The rest is just details.

Come back next week for Chapter One: Building A Basic Marketing Strategy.