Marketing Technologies Weaponized Marketing

Marketing stacks and technology promised to provide intelligent, signal-responsive, targeting – to basically ‘mind read’ – and thoughtfully match us to helpful products and services. It was to be a long-awaited era of enlightenment and courtesy. This did not happen. In fact, the opposite happened. Marketing was weaponized, and the spoils now go to the best 3% of marketers.

Sophisticated targeting tools, sourced from user-generated content on social media platforms, Internet history, search, behavior, and engagement analytics, fed through smart phones and devices, leveraging location and even audio signals – all terminating into big data clusters with artificial intelligence and sophisticated machine learning algorithms – was supposed to proffer us stuff we wanted. It was supposed to be an enlightened age. Courteous. Thoughtful. Effortless. Accurate. Timely. 

That didn’t happen. Instead, we got something disruptive and dumb. We’re effectively in an arms race to evade ever-more-disruptive and intrusive marketing practices. I fully expect marketing messages to emanate from my toilet any given morning. 

The truth is we got some of what we wanted. We got a pairing or a matching of us to products; they do seem to know what we want.

But what each company doesn’t realize is that sales are buyer-driven, and that means their content, which is seller-centric, leads to a situation where 20 suitors are asking the same woman for a dance. Except in this metaphor, they all have GPS to know where she is every moment of the day. They can now all effectively stalk her.

Sounds delightful. This is what happened to marketing. Sure, they may have what she wants, but the selection process, which is hers, driven by her, is entirely ignored. 

And like any given company’s ads, the ‘suitors’ aren’t honest, not objective. They have their wants, and yes she wants one of them (or maybe not!), but their needs clearly overshadow her process. What they say about themselves, next to their actions and her contemplations, just isn’t that helpful. 

And honestly, we don’t have to cisgender this; in any market where there’s pursued and pursuer, this can be the case. There are others after them, also. And they cancel each other in their competition. They overwhelm the subject. 

This is how modern marketing – over-utilizing ‘technology’ – works. This is what happens when you don’t realize buyers drive the Buyer’s Journey with search and that they don’t want to see your brochures or ads. They want to discover content and find you their way, on their terms, in their timeframe.

Buyers, including you – and including the young lady in our metaphor – want to slow down, to search, get to know and consider options before buying, or dating or getting married (to extend our metaphor further). 

So, the targeting has never been better, and most marketers and companies think that’s sufficient. But it’s not. 

Look at click-through rates. About 2% for search, .2% for display (newer statistics say 1.91% for paid search, and .35 for display – which is shown much more frequently). That means 99.5% of the time (the weighted average) – even when you have exact keyword or search term alignment nobody wants to click your ad.

They don’t want to read your brochure. They don’t want a sales call – at least not until the very end of the Buyer’s Journey, when they’ve pretty much decided on what they want. Like the ‘suitors’ having GPS, companies now have the technology to precisely target you, to interrupt you, and talk about themselves.

And the cycle of technology being mistaken for ‘marketing’ continues, ad infinitum, with old ad-tech platforms offering diminishing returns and newfangled ad-tech platforms offering temporary gains for mediocre marketers before they, too, become ineffectual. 

We would go one better and say they weaponize marketing.

We now have the tools and technology to literally stalk and harass people – at scale – using a ‘stack’ of enterprise marketing tools. 

Here’s the pattern:

  1. Low-hanging technology attracts a amateur marketers, who confuse managing the technology with ‘marketing’. They know 10% more than their clients, and are happy with click-through rates of 2%. 
  2. In a search for better results, they embrace newfangled (usually invasive) technology – be it for targeting, or lead-scraping, or lead-validating, or some new paid-placement channel or platform. Note: there is nowhere people want to be interrupted. Not in Google search. Not on Facebook. 
  3. The technology offers unskilled marketers some limited gains, and more jump aboard. 
  4. As more compete for attention, and buyers get sick of being interrupted, the returns diminish or die, until…
  5. Demand (from marketers) drives a company to create a new marketing type or platform. 
  6. Rinse and repeat.

We aren’t dissing marketing technology. We’re saying it doesn’t address how people actually buy today, and offers limited wins – on its own. Ad-tech and mar-tech need to be repurposed toward content marketing and the New Rules of marketing.

Because most marketers’ attitudes haven’t really evolved with the technology, they are now unwittingly fusing aggressive, 1950’s ‘Don Draper’, ‘Push’ marketing, approaches with powerful marketing technology – a ‘worst of both worlds’, where ugly ‘Push’ marketing uses unprecedented technology.

They are now capable of scraping thousands of email addresses, stalking people across the internet, across channels, and even listening to their mobile devices. It’s horrific.  

But this is not how marketing ideally works. It should be content, and work from consent. Buyers drive the Buyer Journey, and companies can only offer buyer-centric content to aid them: helpful information for their search, for them to research and consider. 

This reality is why you ignored a few dozen emails today, and a few thousand ads. You didn’t ask, didn’t care, and those companies wasted their money. 

Oh wait, it gets better: because marketing is so often done incorrectly, the distribution of wins is now heavily-skewed to companies who know this secret, and who market correctly.

Everybody wants the best. One company’s website can gather all the leads, whether a company can service them or not. If Company A is better – more helpful, more knowledgeable – than Companies B-E – everybody will contact them. 

This isn’t socialism; it’s a meritocracy. Second place will lose to what appears to be the best, every time, on the Internet, whether it’s search traffic, or business.

And, again, if Company A can’t service them, they’ll simply scale or grow, so they can. Or raise their fees. The point is the distribution disparities you can see in this era of the Internet are dramatic and theoretically limitless.

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