New Terms, Same Principles – Smarter Marketing

New Terms, Same Principles – Smarter Marketing

In marketing terms, I am a baby boomer. Because of that one might consider me, not a technophobe but a late starter. It took me until 2010 to fully embrace the potential benefits of modern technology and its connectivity (with the help of a MII digital marketing course).

Whilst now I have a good grasp of most channels and platforms for modern marketing, I must admit that Snapchat just doesn’t ‘ring my bell’. Then of course maybe it’s not supposed to.

I learned my trade in a marketing environment where, when you had something of value to sell, you then went about telling relevant people about the benefits. Some of you will remember that time of the 4Ps, the right place at the right time, Philip Kotler and wondering which 50% of your advertising budget was being wasted. There was little technology, as such, so marketing was very human, I suppose – focused on people.

It was a time for Mad Men to be sure. I’m still not sure why any of this this would encourage Howard Hughes to ask me to share my thoughts on being smarter about business marketing. Maybe it’s a test? He gave me the title and asked for something in under 1,200 words and all of this amidst shiny new objects and fake news!

There is no denying that the pace of technology has definitely changed the way businesses market. Just to keep up with the crowd, modern marketers need to manage new and increasingly complex processes. However, what I constantly come up against almost every time I meet a potential new client is that they want to talk about the shiny new objects and most have forgotten the power of traditional marketing.

My first question to them is “what is your business objective?” I firmly believe that when they have an answer to that, only then can we consider how marketing communications can help. I ask this question because to me, the principles of marketing have not changed over the years. Some of the terms have but success still relies on being smarter about marketing by aligning it to the business.

There is no easy marketing button. Read the 5 bullet points below. Do you notice any difference in the wildly held marketing truisms from decades ago to those of the modern day? I can’t.

– If you personalise the value of your offering, people will notice
– If you are relevant and authentic, people will engage with you
– If people are emotionally motivated – they will buy
– People value face-time in the right context
– Relationships are built on personal connections

Regarding the last two points – I’m reminded of event sponsorship. Sponsorship has survived throughout the ages. Why has it not been disrupted? It is because event sponsorship is still probably the most versatile marketing tool available to businesses. Rather than disrupt it, modern technology has improved the effectiveness of sponsorship by allowing more engagement.

Marketing and technology can live together but we must be careful not to allow it become technology-led.

Marketing Techniques That Are Not Gone Away

Similar to sponsorship, there are many traditional marketing methods that still deliver results today. Yes, some are in decline, but others remain strong as they suit the audience and/or the budget. For SMEs, TV and radio can be costly whereas signage and flyers still have their place. And, yep, I know that PPC campaigns have ensured that print media is not the only game in town but rather than dying, the print industry is evolving. Here are a few traditional methods that are still delivering:

Signage: have you noticed the creative digital signage around sports events?
Billboards: Hard to ever see these disappearing due to the power of pictures
Direct Mail: Continues to evoke emotions and leads the way with brand recall
Business cards and Flyers: no matter how many apps I have on my smartphone – I still carry business cards. Flyers are a low cost promotions for bricks and mortar retailers offering discounts
Networking and Events: will never, ever go out of fashion for face-to-face lead generation.
Sponsorship: tangible and physical engagement evokes lasting memories
CSR: Community engagement is an integral element in building relevancy, authenticity and trust

I think we can all agree at this stage that no matter what methods are used, good marketing cannot sell a bad product and the reverse holds true as well. While marketing in a digital world definitely presents new challenges – marketing is still a skill derived from traditional techniques.

What I really like about these digital tools and technologies is that they can improve measurement effectiveness. Also, they can facilitate an improvement in data collection thereby improving your knowledge of your audience. Think of the ability to build one-to-one relationships through videos, tutorials or social media channels. Email continues to prove that it is not dead (look how easy MailChimp has made it) and word-of-mouth reach has increased staggeringly through the advent of the internet and social media. All are welcome developments in the marketing industry.

My point here is that although many of these new tools and techniques assist marketing activity, the challenge is that we still need to keep it personal, relevant and human. Just like in the old days.

New Terms, Same Principals – just be Smarter

No matter what new technology is available the same old business objective will remain – build a customer base that will provide return business. To do this a business must build credibility. How? The same way that it always has – by giving the customer what they want, be that better choice, relevant information, cost savings and/or quality (where required). All people want to see is that a business fulfils its promise.

Tips to build credibility:

– share examples of satisfied customers (don’t use vague superlatives)
– be visible online – at least check your SEO for search and claim your name on Google
– use no jargon, and build your credibility with easy-to-understand language.
– be human in your ‘about page’ on your website – use no stock photos
– chatbots etc. are great but supply human back-up or at least a contact number
– change your communication methods to match your customer’s requirements

What Can You Do Right Now?

I believe that there is no perfect time to review your marketing activity. So do it all the time – live in google analytics and see what’s working for you. If you don’t have the time, or the expertise well then outsource! It will be a good investment for your business.

Anyway, as we are approaching the last quarter of the year here are five things you can do right now to make sure that you are being smart about your marketing.

– Review your Google Console/Analytics (they’re free) and see what is working and what’s not.
– A little online research into your competitor’s marketing activity would be insightful.
– When is the last time you reviewed your website content and projected image online?
– Don’t forget the traditional methods. There are still many offline activities you can try out.
– Examine the potential for sponsorship/CSR to get people talking about your brand

To summarise the above 1,199 words I’m going to finish with the clichéd French saying:
“plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.”


Jim Kelly is a communications professional that works with SME business owners, sole traders. sports clubs and non-profits. His company, O’C&K, offers a hands-on approach to all aspects of marketing focused on brand development and business growth.

Jim can be reached at or 0867830444

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