The Availability Of Marketing Tools Has Created A Glut Of Mediocre Marketers

Marketers would be forgiven for not understanding we’re in the middle of a Marketing Rebellion, that neither formal marketing education, nor self-taught, ‘tech-first’ marketers typically understand. Clients should take note: managing marketing tools is not ‘marketing’. Not by a long shot.

As George Lucas used to say about filmmaking technology he popularized: “The typewriter didn’t create more great writers.” It allowed mediocre writers to submit more elegant and ‘professional’ manuscripts.

In truth, it produced more work for agents, editors, and publicists, who now had to sift through mediocre writers who only superficially seemed good.

With filmmaking, motion capture, match-movement, and CGI -similarly – were simply tools. In the hands of a mediocre filmmaker, when used to present a weak story, they could not shore it up.

We couldn’t agree more, and the same is true about marketing technology: access to powerful tools has made it harder for the untrained eye to discern who actually understands marketing, particularly in the last decade

Access to powerful web development, SEO, analytics, tracking, tagging, and CRM tools hasn’t made more good marketers. It’s saturated the market with  more people who believe that managing these tools is ‘marketing’. It’s not. 

Let’s take a minute and look at some of these classes of tools: 

  • For Your Website: Wix, Weebly, WordPress: While WordPress offers a self-hosting option, all these solutions have gotten far easier and more powerful than they were even 5 years ago. They all use templates or themes that allow even amateurs to rapidly deploy skin, color, font and logo changes. While this is all great and suitable for many applications, fewer and fewer web designers consider site organization, complimentary creatives (like custom icon sets), the quality of web copy, and so forth.
  • Paid Ad Platforms. Google AdWords has a new ‘rookie’ dashboard; signaling they’re happy to take about anybody’s money. While you can opt into the ‘expert’ dashboard, this feature just signals how common formerly rare tech skill sets have become.
  • iPaaS (Integration Platforms-As-A-Service): Even integrations have gotten easier (often drag-and-drop user interfaces), with many solutions (Calendly to Zoom; Hubspot to AdWord) already integrated, off-the -shelf. Microservices, automation, chron jobs, dependencies are all easily managed by GUIs if a solution doesn’t already exist from MuleSoft or another provider.
  • Analytics Dashboards. This is probably our favorite. You can now watch every aspect of your startup failing to make profits, in real-time. Just kidding. But seriously, the visibility provided by these tools is often excessive. Especially because, while they have gotten easier to deploy and more and more powerful, they effectively conflate watching things happen with executing; we also feel, when overdone, they tend to provide a false sense of control.
  • Integrated Frameworks. More and more solutions are turnkey. Hosting providers come with Google Mail integrations, or web security options. Virtually any integration you can think of is getting ‘baked in’ to other platforms and services they’re commonly used in combination with.

To wit: it’s hard to find good marketers, not because the technology is difficult to master. It’s difficult because many marketers conflate managing a marketing ‘tech stack’ with marketing.

Many marketers, whether self-taught or trained in college programs, just aren’t any good. 

When you look at average click-through rates (2% for search, .2% for display), that’s obvious. All the best targeting just becomes stalking when you don’t understand that the Sales Cycle or Buyer’s Journey is buyer-driven, and offer content for consumers to find while searching rather than interrupting them with ads.

The average person steadfastly sees (avoids) up to 7,000 ads a day, while they spend 7 hours a day consuming content. Most consumers feel most ads are interruptive; only 19% of marketers feel this way. 

Fundamentally, marketing is most often done wrong.  How many ads did you avoid today? How many brochures did you dodge? How many sales calls did you ignore? It’s self-evident that marketing is broken. 

The most common reason for the former cause of failure – in our view – is that self-taught, ‘tech first’, marketers focus on quick wins, newfangled technology, and never understood what motivates individual buyers or drives demand; they don’t market as they buy, and objectify and intend to use and exploit customers. They see marketing as a type of sales, rather than existing primarily to help, people. They fail to understand the primary drive consumers have when they engage in buyer-driven search, viz, they want to be left alone

The chief reason for the latter group failing is typically that – in college –  they learned how marketing worked in the 1940’s era of Ogilvy or the 1950’s Golden Age Of Marketing (‘Four P’s’, etc.), which went out the window with the transition of power to buyers and the Web 2.0 Marketing Rebellion

They’d both be forgiven for not knowing we’re in the middle of a paradigm shift, thanks to the advances in communication speed and power, because of dynamic social media and mobile/smart platforms. 

We’re a big fan of toolkits, tech chains and tech stacks; we use them all (we’re often gutting them and fixing them for clients), but they have their time and place.

They are and forever shall be great servants but cruel masters – as George Lucas observed in 1981.

Marketing technology can make a marketer believe he is doing more than he is. They can get her believing she has more control than she actually has.

And lastly they can force opportunity cost, because just managing unwieldy technology stacks becomes a job in itself.  

While losses are averted by smartly-assembled technology chains and stacks, you can’t create wins without actually marketing.

  • This means web design that’s not turnkey.
  • It means inspired content that helps rather than interrupts leads. 
  • It means understanding individual human behavior (the laws of self-interest).
  • And anymore, it means conducting your business like a ‘small business in a small town’, where reputation and good manners are everything. 

And ideally, you want to have both the technological and the psychological understanding, even if one is far more determinative for marketing outcomes than the other.