Doing Right is Good Marketing

By Michael Graber & Jocelyn Atkinson

Here is a short list of rapid cultural changes: Consumer and business databases. Cable. TIVO and DVR. The Internet. Search engines. Satellite radio. Podcasts. Social networks. Blogs. Mobile. The iPhone. Thousands more innovations in beta today.

The vehicles of marketing have transformed more in the last 10 years than in the previous 100 years. The communication tools and methods of the industrial era do not work in our shared world of instant information exchange.

Anyone and Everyman has the power to publish either a confidential company memo or an opinion about your product or service with staggering ease.

It does not pay to be a communications dinosaur in the age of social utilities, blogs, and mobile connectedness. If your marketing team does not stay current, your marketing may do your company more harm than good.

Take Walmart’s recent health care public relations mishaps as an example. On one hand, the public one, the retail giant acknowledged that health care was the foremost reputational factor facing the company. They vowed to do well by doing good.

Then, an employee leaked an internal memo. Within hours, it zoomed across the Internet. In essence, the missive implied that managers needed to fire the sick and aging. The company lost credibility across the globe at a time when it needed it most. The lesson: act in accord with your message. Let’s call it Do Right Marketing.

Do what you say. In this era of transparency, companies best do what they say. Changes in technology sharpen how customers research, compare and choose to engage a company or buy a product. This news is true for consumer goods companies, business-to-business firms and service businesses.

Buyers judge your company with more access to information and opinion than in any time in history. As the old folksong states, “you better get your business fixed right.”

Marketing is no longer about screaming “buy now” downstream with a pretty face and memorable expression. In fact, marketing now spawns back upstream to test the core principles of a business. My advice: apply the carrot rather than the schtick.

Actual value. Instead of playing a communications shell game, invest your executive energies bringing actual value to the world. Provide something useful and then offer an enriching, ongoing dialogue to your customers or clients. They are worth it.

Whether your marketing is created in-house or by an outsourced firm or a mix of employees and vendors, ensure that everyone who touches your marketing knows your company values, the power of social media and blogging and the importance of keeping your corporate actions and words in sync. Generations X and Y have a keen nose for sniffing out hypocrites. They vote against them with their wallets and expose them as frauds.

Every action and aspect of your company is transparent. Even the events that get shredded can be partially reconstructed. Every action is marketing and media. Everything that is transparent can be defined as marketing, an outward expression of your business.

Although you may need to stretch your mind beyond what you learned and now practice, rethink the role of marketing in your organization. See marketing as a strategic line running through every company interaction as a golden thread. This thread runs through every audience (employees, shareholders, suppliers, buyers, press and more) at the quantum speed of the Internet.

If you want to prosper, honor every hand that touches this golden thread – these are your marketing touch points. If you want to grow market share, make sure your product or service creates value for its users. If you want to attract more business and top talent, use the carrot rather than the schtick. Do right.

Jocelyn Atkinson and Michael Graber run the Southern Growth Studio, a strategic growth firm based in Memphis. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.