The Internet Only *Seems* Free The Actual Price Of Admission Is Being *Awesome*

New marketing technology has engendered a smug attitude of omniscience and omnipotence that entirely clash with the New Rules of Marketing.

Take a deep breath, because this is going to hurt:

  1. Your customers don’t see you as you see yourself;
  2. When you show an ad – even if they’ve expressed interest with a keyword in a search – you’re interrupting;
  3. Them wanting what you have doesn’t make them a ‘lead’, because hundreds of other companies *also* want their business;
  4. Customers have more options and information than ever;
  5. YOU, YOUR BUSINESS, YOUR LIFEBLOOD, YOUR DREAM, DO NOT MATTER TO THEM. You can point your marketing ‘gun’ at them, but in the end – just like you – they’re self-interested, and will go with their researched best interest over your desire, every time. 

If you’re in sales, and your leads come from the Internet, you might want to look for a new career. Most of the decision to buy or not is decided by the time a lead contacts your company. 

Before you slit your wrists and slip into a warm tub, it gets better: The consumer is all-powerful, informed, choosy, self-interested, and has more options than ever, but they are also vocal. This means you can turn them into your marketing, for you.

“You can bleed energy, time and money with energetic marketing, where you expend resources and literally fight to be seen and heard, or – from your product to your after-sale engagement – you can put yourself in the position of the consumer, and be *awesome*, thereby permitting exergonic marketing, where your message, product, brand and service are spread by The Almighty Crowd.” ~ Zack West

To wit, your money, your paid ad budget doesn’t matter. But if you can find a way to make it benefit a self-interested lead or consumer to share your product or service, you start dealing in their currency. The actual currency that runs marketing and the Internet is *awesome*. It’s easily 20X more powerful than moneySo, whatever your problem is – your product, your differentiation, your website, your customer service, fix it. The Internet is the dead X-ray of commerce; it sees all.

Just throwing out a website for a ‘presence’ won’t cut it. Importing useless widgets from China is going to be a hard go. Make or do or be (or all three) something awesome, and the crowd will share and market for you.

Create content that captures imagination, and your fans will market for you. 

What happened to weaponize marketing? 

The interruptive marketing we all take as ‘normal’ is, in fact, not; that’s why people dodge ads, 99.9% if the time (aggregate of GDN and Adwords click-through rates).

Though targeting technologies have improved, increased reach has begotten an attitude that any given potential lead is disposable. As we describe elsewhere, the technology has more or less weaponized marketing. 

Sensitivity to context, timing, framing, and the frame-of-mind of the buyer; basic rules of psychology, ethics, and relationships – that you have to give to receive, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you – have been forgotten. Instead, we leverage creepier and creepier (your telephone listens to you, so Google and Apple and Amazon can better serve you unwanted, interruptive, ads) technology. 

  • We forget the myriad options the Internet has provided people means any given vendor has almost no power, leverage or import;
  • We forget the Internet has invited permission marketing (credit to Seth Godin), vs. interruption marketing;
  • We forget it’s a selective consumption economy, and that we must listen and offer more than tell and ask;
  • We forget the sales process is buyer-driven, high-info and contemplative, and that pressure turns people off;
  • We forget to be nice and respectful and to provide objective value offerings, up-front, and instead we offend from the get-go, offering subjective value materials (brochures about us).

To wit – advances with marketing technology or advertising technology need to be accompanied by advances in understanding, which is yet to happen. We need to behave like small shop owners, in small towns – where word-of-mouth reigns supreme and we are visible from all angles. We need to understand social currency, the favor economy, that content is currency, and that we now live in what Gary Vaynerchuk calls The ‘Thank You’ Economy.

Analytics help reduce loss; it doesn’t help create wins.

Analysis always provides an understanding that is downstream from any given phenomenon; it’s an answer with a question mark. The Scientific Method doesn’t help you come up with the original question or hypothesis. It helps you validate it. Where the original notion, hunch, insight, or inspiration for a theory comes from, nobody knows. The point is we’re always chasing a phenomenon by the time we can observe it. 

And it leads to more questions, more validation. A great thinker once said all the criticism in the world doesn’t amount to a work of art. All the analytics in the world cannot surpass an understanding of foundational principles. They are reductive, zero-sum, bean-county, inspiration-quelling, after-the-fact, left-brained.

They are how you mitigate the loss; the win is right-brained. It’s big picture, it’s holistic, it’s collaborative, it’s non-zero-sum.

I am not advocating that anybody abandon technology; my career(s) as a product manager for an innovative startup I bootstrapped, and as a network engineer before that, and as a database administrator before that, betray a love and solid grasp of technology.

I advocate yoking them in the service of marketing wisdom, for a one-two punch of technology paired with an understanding of people and our new market realities.

The rules of marketing have changed.

There’s been a massive shift in consumer attitude in the last 10 years, even (it started before that but was accelerated after Big Social and the crowd/barter/share, Web 2.0 revolution, circa 2006), and the technology, alone, isn’t sufficient.

  • You can’t bull-horn people like you might on a Bronx street corner in 1953, even with Facebook or Twitter.
  • You can’t sell by suggestion, like Edward Bernays did with cigarettes in 1935, on LinkedIn.
  • You can’t appeal to vanity or fear, like Ogilvy and the Madison Avenue set taught us, with your click-funnel video.
  • You can’t ‘drip’ market, with email.
  • You can’t ‘ambush’ market, with a pop-up.
  • You can’t blanket market with account-based placements.
  • You can’t hard sell with remarketed display ads.

I mean, you can do these things, but they won’t work, in the long term. You’d be breaking the New Rules, and you’ll see much smaller returns than if you follow the rules of the Selective Consumption Market and the ‘Thank You’ Economy.

The Internet only seems free. Successful marketing costs in a way you can’t measure, or perhaps in the only way that matters: it’s really about what you give, that’s real and that works. It’s not a popularity contest – you don’t have to be liked by everybody, but you do have to stand for something, and it helps to have people who love you. It’s about identity, humanity and authenticity. It cannot be bought. You can pay to get traffic, that won’t convert, so you’re back at square one. 

You cannot game SEO, traffic (you can pay for it, but it won’t convert), virality, or sales. We are talking Game Theory – interacting with an intelligent and dynamic system; strategy, not tactics. You aren’t interfacing with a dumb input-output system, like a crab, or a snail. You will never outsmart the public or the crowd. If you want the experience of being awesome, you must actually *be* awesome, now more than ever.

Exergonic vs. Energetic Marketing has arrived

And it starts as foundationally as with your product or service offering. If that sucks, you’re going to have a hard time. In 1999, you might could make a go of it. But with word-of-mouth, review sites, and the like – you won’t be able to hide a shoddy product. 

The hierarchies have been flattened, and any single person has become as powerful as his or her voice. Information is not only democratized, barriers have been removed, and the power and force is in the crowd – to make something go viral, or utterly destroy a company.

You could call this exergonic marketing, meaning, the product or service is put to market, and the crowd does the rest. Compare this to energetic marketing, where you must constantly feed the Google or Facebook maw, constantly pay for a space in people’s heads, through these ‘attention markets’. 

Again, no budget can match the power of the crowd, of the mob, of the masses, of the public, and it is now not just advised, but imperative to do right by them.

This means from the conception of your product, to delivery; from your content to your customer service; from sale to after-sale: follow-up and email engagement with them.

The consumer is king, so why are you pointing your ad gun at them and acting like they’re disposable, en masse?

The consumer is almighty. You are but a humble servant, and if the omniscient consumer detects even the slightest bit of presumption, irony, disrespect, sarcasm, disregard, discourtesy – it will cost you. Even insincerity will cost you.

We are now in a kind of marketing panopticon, where everything you do is visible, and you are transparent from every angle.

The consumer is a wrathful but loving king – it’s really a schizophrenic landscape

This is true in an environment that never forgets. That is the New Reality. You are stripped down of any pretense, subject to the forces of how you are perceived and utterly helpless to control outcomes, beyond accepting this reality and adopting an attitude of generosity and service.

You have to give to receive. This is a universal truth, but businesses got away with being bad to customers for so long – for interrupting them to ask to take from them, later – that it was forgotten. You have to be a friend to make a friend. And you can’t fake it.

The risks and rewards of today

It’s never been easier to hang up a shingle and call yourself a company, and this is part of the reason we find ourselves in this new marketing landscape: options for consumers.

And the same is true of marketing – it’s never been easier to jump in and start ‘marketing’; access to marketing tools has never been greater. So, there are lots of people operating marketing tools, but not really marketing. The availability of the technology – the heady rush of big budgets and often young marketers – finds many embracing an outmoded mentality, coupling that with the powerful technologies of today, for an almost weaponized approach to marketing that chases customers away.

Besides marketers, the vendors of marketing software and sales enablement software and tools, don’t know, either. It’s a conflict of Interest for Salesforce to limit their market to marketers who actually understand Selective Consumption. So amateurs buy the software, and go out with the equivalent of weaponized marketing tools, and they absorb the lion’s share of the marketing fails and costs, fueled-on only by the occasional and arbitrary win. I don’t blame novice marketers for trying, or even for believing they understand marketing, because they have access to marketing tools. ‘Failure’ is feedback, a), and b) I once was a young marketer who didn’t know ‘typing’ wasn’t ‘writing’, and operating AdWords was not ‘marketing’.

Marketing doesn’t work the way it seems to work; not really

The principles that govern successful marketing are not intuitive. Again, it doesn’t work the way it seems to work. And the Internet only seems free. You put these together, and you’re going to get big losses, absorbed by the people who don’t understand the governing principles of marketing in the Selective Consumption world.

Billions are being lost, by the many. Billions are being made, by the few. It costs, but not everybody. My goal is to help make you one of the few who can return a positive ROI for their investment of time and capital. We don’t have a problem of too much or too little technology; we have a problem of too little wisdom operating it.

The typewriter did not create more Ernest Hemingways, and your marketing stack – or ABM or Profile Matching or Geofencing or Asynchronous Tracking Codes or Analytics Dashboards or Programmatic Marketing – cannot save you, on their own. No new or affordable channel will deliver your quarterly targets. No budget allocation. No strategy. Not. One.

They’re all just fancier sonar, in the hands of an amateur fisherman, putting you where the fish are, but leaving you unsuccessful, because – without content or a respect for the consumer, you’re fishing without bait.

These are but reductive and analytical, left brain ideations, trying to mitigate loss. They are studying  the trees, unable to see the forest; the critic, unable to create a work of art. There is no marketing technology that does more than the competency of the operator; and most of them wont’ tell you that 2 people in 1,000 clicking your ad is a horrible click-through rate.

If you want the experience of being awesome – the financial rewards and the status – you must actually be awesome

Google only loves you after everybody else does.