On altruistic marketing

Another email-turned-blogpost here. It’s a few thoughts on marketing after reading email 6 of Amy Hoy’s ‘Year of hustle’ series which tries to play off marketing as 100% helpful, sweeping some of the other issues I respond to under the carpet. It’s a bid to get people to be confident enough to sell their creations, I get that, but she’s also selling a course herself that this mailshot is building up to. So it’s a case of helping people until “we can’t help you anymore, not until you buy this box of gubbins”. Anyway I thought I’d leave it here publicly for posterity.

Excerpt from the mail:

Many creative professionals (like you!) fail at marketing because of...
* the mindset that "good work speaks for itself"
* the belief that "marketing" is manipulative, scammy, self-serving, or just plain rude
* the related belief that "good marketing" is mainly telling people "Hey my product is available"
* a mistaken focus on ads, promotions, etc.
But those are all based on a complete misunderstanding of what marketing does!
Great marketing helps people. Full stop.

Just wanted to address your counter-argument for the marketing negatives. I think you missed the point that even good marketing is biased, even if it helps, it's not impartial advice that a government or good friend would give. There's always an agenda. So great marketing in the purist sense of the word doesn't just help people, it sells products to those people. Otherwise it wouldn't have its own department in all businesses. So the 'I'm just helping' argument, which I understand and have told myself before, is naive if you don't accept that the prospect needs to understand that they are just that, a prospect, not a friend or lucky recipient of free advice with no strings. The marketer always wants something in return, and its disingenuous to portray it differently.

I don't think it's immoral to market, but I don't think you've sufficiently addressed the concerns of those who agonise over it a little more. I know you're well aware that marketing has to be done differently outside the States (you've mentioned a Euro-husband before?) with each country's marketing agencies having to adapt campaigns for local quirks (humour for UK, facts/figures for northern Europe, feel-good factor for France/Spain etc.). But I think both parties, prospect and marketer, should be made aware up-front that this 'content', 'advice', 'guide' etc. is provided in order to show that we are able to fulfil the commercial offer we are also making.

The 'I'm here to help' approach is in all the top sales books. It's how it seems top salespeople have no trouble getting in front of people and displaying their wares. But there the deal is much clearer. It gets murkier when fishing for leads, using their language (instead of your own), passing yourself off as an impartial advisor with no agenda.

The American approach works in the UK because we're very used to it at this point. Hard to put into words, but basically we don't mind being sold to as it saves us from having to put ourselves out there too much, while the marketer 'performs'. But most people are aware when the tone changes from being helped and being sold to. Trying to get under that radar and play it off as 100% altruistic... gives me issues. Am I overthinking it? Maybe. But I know most of my prospects would smell it a mile off. I would be seen as someone who cares more about signing up leads than participating in the community. I've skirted with this before, so am very familiar with the response. I can see where the fault lines can emerge, and I know that 'just trying to help', particularly with a product behind it, can alienate as many as it helps. I still think being 'found' through careful content creation is the best way to market cost-effectively at the moment, and I've no qualms about keyword advertising (as long as it doesn't track and pester beyond the initial search, even if it's effective!). And it's probably the most ethical way too. But the TL;DR is, all parties should be aware of the deal being struck with each 'e-bomb' dropped.

Not expecting you to agree, but hope the explanation helps to add another more nuanced perspective to your take on those with doubts about marketing.

Cheers again,

‘e-bombs’ are what Amy calls pieces of content. Catchy term, and suitably militaristic!



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