How to Market Without Selling
Marketing to your audience without bombarding them with sales gibberish
When was the last time you bought something purely because someone else told you to? In my experience, most people don’t like to be told what to do. There’s something innately stubborn about humans that seems to manifest itself most profoundly in our buying behaviour. We want to feel like we are making the call and that our judgement is responsible for the decisions we make.
Sounds reasonable to me. So, why are there still so many businesses out there that persistently bombard their target audience with sales pitches?
Is that really how far we’ve come? More importantly, is that what marketing means in 2019?
In this blog, I want to discuss the evolution of marketing and selling and how you can address one without ignoring the other. I also want to highlight a technique that will allow you to reconcile the two in a clear and results-oriented fashion.
What can old TV commercials teach you about marketing?
Let’s take a trip down memory lane. It’s the 1950s. The evening news has just finished, and the advertisements are on. In those days, you would have a charming man in a suit, often with majestic and authoritatively grey hair, who told you that this product was essentially the bee’s knees. Or, in the case of this 1950s Westinghouse Lynwood television commercial, a well-spoken, immaculately groomed Betty Furness, who had an unusual knack for technical specifications:
My favourite part is the bit where she says: “Now here’s something that will REALLY amaze you…”
It feels archaic and old-fashioned. We laugh and chuckle because it is so overt and in your face. It’s not trying to hide that it is attempting to coerce you into a buying decision. The whole advertisement is so matter-of-factly that at times it feels as if she is merely reading out the news.
Interestingly, this does contextualise our current advertising milieu, which uses celebrities and influencer marketing on omnipresent social media channels to shift commercial imagery from the public realm into the private one.
Advertising to Hippies
Unsurprisingly, this direct advertising method soon became obsolete, especially during the counter-culture revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Liberated youths were no longer willing to listen to the squares on television. They probably reminded them of their parents and everything else they were desperately trying to break free from.
So, advertising evolved, and developed innovative techniques to reach this audience. In many ways, corporations began to glorify counter-culture as a way of reaching these often-alienated youths. This Coca Cola advert is probably one of the best examples of this:
Take away the coke bottles and the end credits and you’ve basically got an alternate ending to the movie Hair.
Coca Cola (and many other larger corporations) quickly realised that although they might have been dope-smoking, long-haired hippies, this was an enormous demographic that couldn’t be ignored. Tapping into the psychology of these younger generations is the equivalent of hitting a commercial goldmine.
Would this have aired in the 1950s? Of course not. It’s a product of its time and ultimately, a reaction to the social forces of a specific era.
All the biggest companies were doing it: Volkswagen was for the people, coke was for those who cared about the world, and Marlboro gave you sex appeal.
How does this apply to Digital Marketing?
So, how does this influence the digital marketing environment? Well, our current advertising landscape is still largely dominated by this strange form of commercial collusion. Using scenery, celebrities, and imagery has become the predominant tactic.
It’s not just about the product. It’s about creating a feeling – a feeling so pervasive and powerful that it spurs the audience to make a purchase.
Why should digital marketing be any different? Customers aren’t just interested in the products or services you have to offer. They want to be inspired and challenged in new and exciting ways. If anything, our new digital landscape has leveled the playing field and provided equal opportunities to smaller businesses who can leverage the power of valuable content.
The Value of Intelligent Conversations
There’s nothing easier than throwing out a few sales slogans. Whether it be website Call to Actions, social posts, or blogs, there’s very little creativity involved in telling people to buy something.
“This software is the best out there! Buy it now!”
“My business is the best Marketing Agency in the WORLD! Sign up NOW!”
This rhetoric is a big slap in the face for any potential customer. And it says a lot more about your business than you may think. It can be incredibly harmful to your brand and prevents you from highlighting what makes you unique. Modern consumers don’t just want to be a sales figure in your quarterly report.
You need to formulate a brand and business culture that promotes the creation of valuable content. This allows you to explore narratives that go beyond simple technical specifications or product descriptions. Not just by employing sales-oriented mumbo-jumbo, but real, valuable content that makes a difference. Maybe it’s a technical tip or an FAQ. It could even be a revealing statistic that links up nicely with one of your premium guides.
Now, this doesn’t mean there isn’t a time and a place for selling and sales tactics. Of course there is. But that moment isn’t before you’ve even provided any initial value to a new customer or client.
To use Marketing guru Seth Godin’s terminology, you need to be remarkable, like a purple cow. It’s not enough to simply exist; you need to really offer something different if you are going to stand out from the crowd:
Invest in High-Value Content
As marketers, we know just how much time it takes to provide that kind of high-value content. It often requires you to spend hours writing blogs, designing social posts, and setting up email campaigns.
But it’s always worth it. Ultimately, if you don’t care about your customers, they won’t care about you.
Sales promotions, loyalty points, price reductions, and bargain deals are all incredibly valid marketing tactics. But they don’t make up for a non-existent marketing plan. That’s where your marketing strategy should come into play. Download our essential Guide to inbound Marketing for more information.