As a marketing professional, I have found that the marketing departments of companies around the world (and at agencies) are in continuous flux. People join; people move on; people get laid off. In good times the marketing department grows; in poor times it shrinks. Companies’ quarterly and annual revenues most often dictate this. And at the same time marketing is not sales.
So what is it about marketing that makes it so vulnerable within a company’s organization? Today, marketing is way too company self-absorbed. Companies build brand stories without enough consideration about and feedback from their target audience. Marketing needs only one objective – audience development. Audience development is outward focused; not inward.
Thus, what used to be called marketing should now be called audience development. This is not just a cute label de jour, but rather a complete representation of focus and purpose. Every “marketing” activity should be directly related to audience development. “Marketing” has become a company inward focused position. Most people in marketing emphasize corporate communication, advertisement, and other activities that attempt to highlight who they are and what they stand for. I propose that these activities be put on the back burner. Yes, it is very important for companies to have a well-defined position and know exactly who they are. But now this is ONLY important to help define how they communicate and engage with their target audience. Audience behavior and response MUST dictate brand communication. Brand position and definitions are the starting point for communication. Know who you are, but modify communication based upon audience behavior.
If we change all marketing positions to audience development positions, we must make sure that we balance both long-term and short-term objectives. Let’s start by using the traditional sales-marketing funnel as an initial guide for audience development objectives. Audience development means that you create brand awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy. If you actually traverse your audience through these stages, you are driving real meaningful results.
The secret is to build a strategy that includes long-term brand development that is most compelling to your target audience while executing tactics that drive the five stages of the sales-marketing funnel.
I want to drive the point that the difference between marketing and audience development is that the first is inward and the latter is outward. As people have more and more control and influence on brand reputation (due to the prolific social and digital world), brands must transition from their historic “this is who we are” communication “push” marketing to audience empathy, focus, and engagement.
Changing marketing to audience development is not window dressing. It is the first and most important step in changing your brand focus on your audience and to drive real “marketing” results. Maybe if brands make this change, the “marketing department” will not be in such a flux.
Make It Happen,