What Is Marketing?
Is it your brand? How about mass emails? SEO? Blogs? Cold calling?
These may be pieces of an overall marketing strategy, but they are too often mistaken for all of marketing. Or, worse yet, “marketing experts” may sell you classes and consulting about one of these… but not really help you with true marketing.
Let’s take a look at how the American Marketing Association defines it:
Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
~~~ and ~~~
Marketing research is the function that links the consumer, customer, and public to the marketer through information–information used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate, refine, and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve understanding of marketing as a process. Marketing research specifies the information required to address these issues, designs the method for collecting information, manages and implements the data collection process, analyzes the results, and communicates the findings and their implications.
I’ve included both of the above definitions because they are a related and integral part of an overall marketing plan. Much more than any single effort, true marketing involves knowing your product, your audience, the target segment, how to reach them, etc. Perhaps most importantly, it includes all of the follow-up needed to know if your campaign is working, and the data needed to tweak your efforts or scrap them and start fresh. It is an involved ongoing process, but if you’re not doing the research and follow-up, you’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks.
Recently, I was involved with several colleagues in an in-depth discussion about social media and marketing. The conversation was fascinating, and provided a number of different perspectives. I’ve quoted much of it below, along with my thoughts on each quote…
(note: “…” indicates text removed for brevity)
Chris Fries started out the conversation:
Social media has been one of those juggernauts for marketing and networking, but many, including me, don’t have much understanding of it. I have a presence on Facebook and obviously, LinkedIn here. I use these sites to seek out creative directors, producers, network folks, etc., and then I post my latest commercials, promos, video games clips, whatever I’ve got going that’s relevant.
I’ve only mentioned a couple of social media sites, … What I need from you is how you use and how you can maximize your marketing and networking through these sites. Compare. Contrast. Give me pros and cons. Your favorites, and least favorites, and why?
Chris is right – social media can be a part of a good marketing strategy, and can also be useful for networking.
For me, however, the issue lies less with the tools (social media sites), and more with the process of marketing. So, I replied:
When it comes to marketing… I don’t. I do network, but it’s all on a personal 1-on-1 relationship level. For me, business relationships are personal relationships. They hire me because they know me on a personal level.
I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn (duh), and a bunch of boards and other sites. But I don’t use them to market or advertise. I just am there when I’m there. I exist. I post stuff that interests me, or that I’m proud of, or that is funny, etc. If that brings in work, it’s because they got to know me a bit better – not because I’m marketing or selling anything.
One key piece of traditional marketing that is often missed in these discussions is the metrics. How do you know what works and what doesn’t? And if you ask people how they found you, is that a turn-off?
One of my marketing rules is: If I don’t like it, I don’t do it. I don’t like junk mail, so I don’t send out unsolicited mailings. I don’t like spam, so I don’t do newsletters. I don’t like getting marketing calls, so I don’t cold call. (so, now you see why I say I don’t market…)
Howard Ellison, a voice actor from the UK, chimed in with this reply:
Joe: the very human habit of gauging other peoples’ potential reactions on the basis of one’s own. I think it is a byproduct of that quality actors all have, empathy. It releases and it inhibits. It should allow us to understand that other people can have different reactions from our own.
And I see it working against us, in this competitive biz. British inhibition and outdated ‘politeness’ hold me (and others I know) back from what I feel would be blatant self advertisement, particularly in the relatively quiet voice environment of UK. Therefore opportunities are missed to become more visible. I know exactly who I long to ‘blag’ but hesitate. Would they mind? Probably not at all: I am a resource.
I can definitely see his point. Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy. Selling yourself, or any product, can be a hard task to take on. In these cases, both companies and individuals will often turn to an outside marketing firm.
Next, Jen Gosnell added:
I’m not as organized as I’d like to be with Twitter yet, but I really do like it for a couple reasons. One, it’s a platform for discovery. You can learn so much about people and potential clients that you never knew existed, simply by looking at who folks you like and respect follow, or who’s following them. Two, it’s easy to make a casual yet direct connection with colleagues and potential clients. You can share anything at all – things you see you have in common, links of interest, attaboys or compliments, achievements, etc. Whatever makes you a real person to them. Later, if you want to do more direct marketing, the familiarity is there so it’s not cold.
When I see a person or company that looks interesting, I like to go to their website and then if I have any compliment about work they’ve done, tweet it to them. They almost always reply and retweet you. That raises your profile with their colleagues, and then you begin the cycle again of research, review, engage.
She’s obviously found a social media platform that is in tune with how she likes to work. It’s a combination of networking with a bit of marketing thrown in. Seems more organic than a classic marketing campaign, which is also what I prefer.
Chris then replied:
Jen, this is exactly what I wanted this particular post to start. Thank you! Social media can be such a powerful tool if utilized properly.
And Joe, I love your contribution to this group, but I very respectfully disagree with your approach on not marketing. Networking AND marketing should go hand in hand. My marketing efforts help make people aware of me, so when I reach out to network with them, there is hopefully some familiarity of me based on the marketing I do. I’m surprised but delighted when I’m at industry events and I introduce myself around and some of the people will say, “Oh, I’ve heard of you”, or “I know your work”, or when I send out an email to a potential client, and they reply that they like my work, or that they’re familiar with it. It’s very gratifying because my name is getting out there one way or the other, and very often I get a call or email down the line for work.
I’ve said this time and time again, you can be the best voice actor in the world, but if nobody knows about you, it doesn’t matter.
I kind of identify with you, Joe. It’s not my favorite thing to do, to market and self-promote, because personally I don’t like to draw that kind of attention to myself, but professionally, it’s imperative that I do exactly that. I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
Now if I (we) can get a strong handle on all that social media has to offer us as voice actors, imagine how much more efficiently we can spread our brand.
Note that Chris makes an important distinction between networking an marketing, and he expands on this more later. For me, networking is essential, but I’m not convinced about marketing, so I said:
Everyone has to find what works best for them. But to further prove my case… you know me. We’ve worked together. And yet, I haven’t sent you any marketing at all. No emails. Postcards. Calls. Nada. Just regular interaction as me and you.
In fact, I just published a post that you might like. Marketing is one part of it, but the rest is important too – It’s called “Voice Acting Magic Tricks”
Chris countered with more detail:
Very true, Joe, but allow me to be Devil’s Advocate further and say that you and I are networking, not marketing to one another. This is merely a forum for colleagues to exchange ideas. We are not going to hire one another.
I get it. You don’t want to be intrusive. Long ago, I tried cold calling as part of my marketing efforts, and for every one person that was receptive to accepting my materials, 10 would curse me out for bugging them. I exaggerate, but it sure felt like that. I sure hate getting those telemarketing phone calls, and I couldn’t stomach it any long. So I found by reaching out with very brief, personal emails with link attachments to my work, I got a lot more positive responses. I tried Constant Contact flyers. They looked nice, but they weren’t personal, and people largely ignored them. On the personal emails, very rarely would I get a “please don’t send me these emails”, while I got lots of “unsubscribe” notices from Constant Contact.
When connecting on social media, it’s even less intrusive. Once you “connect”, “follow” or “friend” someone, you can just post updates to your work and they can choose to check it out or not, but my goal of developing the proper audience (people who could potentially hire or refer me) is being accomplished.
I contend that I wouldn’t be at a top agency like CESD if I didn’t market myself. I would have a great manager at Cope if I didn’t market myself. I wouldn’t be having anywhere near the success I’m enjoying without marketing myself. I just went out of my way to make sure people had the opportunity to know me and then let the work speak for itself.
Chris had some excellent points, and I replied:
Marketing and Networking can be very different beasts. There is some overlap between the two.
Perhaps I just prefer the networking end of the spectrum. It’s worked well for me in my career.
As a note on what works, it’s always a little hard to get perspective on what you didn’t try vs. what you did try. Easy to tell what didn’t work if you’re not working! Not so easy to know why you’re getting work, or if it’s directly related to what you’re doing. (without direct metrics, that is… and that’s another level of intrusion).
As an analogy, picture a man at a party in downtown LA. A woman notices he’s wearing a large, ornate necklace and asks him about it. He says “It’s a jackal ward. Keeps jackals from attacking me.” To which she replies “Uh, there aren’t any jackals in LA”. And he says “See how good it works!”
In the end, if you’re working, you must be doing something right. But there is always room for improvement.
And Chris then asked to know more about “direct metrics”, so I posted this:
Well, I’m certainly no marketing expert. However, I feel that branding, marketing and sales are often oversimplified by “experts” who want to sell you classes or consulting.
In a real product marketing campaign, there will be many parts to the process, and potentially multiple phases to the campaign roll out.
For example, before any work starts there may be surveys done with potential buyers to narrow down both the campaign and the target audience. Tests and focus groups also come into play.
Once the campaign is rolled out, it is important to collect metrics to tell you how the campaign is doing. What is the ratio of material sent out that is viewed, and viewed favorably? Which marketing channel produces the best results? How can the campaign be streamlined or improved?
Instead, what I see is many folks just throwing stuff out to the ether, and possibly getting some results. But why did they get the results? And where is it coming from?
Let’s say you’ve got a blog, an email newsletter, postcards, demos, and a web site. Can you tell which of these is actually bringing in business? And which ones are driving business away? Without having a way to measure your marketing (via some kind of metrics or survey), it’s like flinging spaghetti at the wall and hoping some of it sticks (ewww).
So, rather than do a poor job of branding, marketing, sales, metrics, etc. I choose to do an excellent job of being me. And just networking on a personal basis. In the end, I truly believe that it’s these personal relationships that bring in the most work for me. How do I know? Because that’s my only “marketing channel”. I don’t do any of the other stuff, and I’m still getting work. And the quality and volume of the work keeps increasing.
As I said at the top, I’m certainly no marketing expert. But I can tell you that truly effective marketing is much more complicated than having someone brand you, then sending out weekly email blasts. Gotta know what works and why. And that’s metrics.
Jen added to the discussion with her reply:
Joe, I hear ya about a couple things.
First, I think in our business where the product is essentially *you*, it’s really important to make whatever branding you have be significantly reflective of you, yourself. Sounds like this is essentially what you have done, perhaps without taking the expense of formalizing it.
Second, I think you’re right about metrics. That’s what keeps me from doing any more than FB and Twitter: I wouldn’t have the bandwidth right now to evaluate the ROI. Even those I don’t track, but I know they’re the only channels I spend any significant time on (LinkedIn being a distant third). With FB and Twitter, I take an approach of only posting things which I either 1) personally find interesting and of value either professionally or personally, 2) I have evaluated and think would be of particular value to at least some of my colleagues, 3) are personal accomplishments I want to share and that my audience will either benefit from or appreciate, or 4) a specific message meant primarily for a tagged person. Right now, I simply know any social media result I get has to come from one of these efforts.
Maybe sometime in the future, I’ll learn about metrics tools. But it’s not a priority now.
Oh and Joe, I was wondering – about how long would you say it took for your marketing style to field reasonable results? About the same as colleagues who use other methods, or have you noticed a difference?
So, Jen deals with some of the time constraints of a full marketing plan by limiting her scope and using networking to identify potential targets. Pretty smart. (I’ll answer her question below)
Chris also asked this other question:
I like your explanation, Joe. Let me ask then…
if choosing to do an excellent job at being yourself has proven beneficial, and you know that because that’s your only marketing channel, then why wouldn’t you also want to branch out and try another form of marketing to expand your success?
So, in answer to both Chris and Jen, I said:
@Jen – I would venture a guess that my method takes more time, but overall results in a better class of clientele. (more below)
@Cris – Why don’t I do other marketing? Several reasons. First, my time is a limited resource, so I choose to spend it as wisely as possible. This means “pruning the tree” to get rid of anything that may be a waste of time, and instead focusing on my current client base, and improving my skills and value to them. Second, I don’t believe that all customers are created equally (more below) Third, I know that I work best when I’m focused on a single goal. Multitasking is not one of my strong suites.
So, another key point that I think gets glossed over is that not all customers are the same. For bulk email and cold-call methods, the assumptions are often based on how many new customers you can get, rather than the quality of these customers. As they say, it’s easier to keep existing clients than to constantly find new ones.
Let’s take cold calling for example. The type of person who would respond to a cold call may act impulsively. This could mean that after the first job they give you, they’re easily lured away by the next contact from a random VO. It could also indicate that they are not all that busy (if they have time to answer the call and chat). Other marketing methods will attract different types of clients. Each has it’s positive and negative aspects, but many of the ones out there are aiming for volume of new clients.
By contrast, the method I use is more organic. It’s a slower process, and evolves over time as the relationships grow. It allows me to be pickier about who I’d like as a client, and allows them to know me and my skills to a greater depth. It also works for clients who are very busy (the kind I definitely want!), because if they’re busy, they’ll turn to someone they are sure of that can do the job… and that (hopefully) is me.
Overall, I believe in the slow-growth model of obtaining and retaining clients. It forges stronger relationships that can survive industry and economy downturns and other issues. It also selects customers who are not easily swayed by a new face or a low price point…. and I like to be thought of because I’m good at what I do, not for a catchy slogan or spur-of-the-moment decision.
The final comment on the topic was from Jen:
Joe, I like your thoughts on slow growth of clients. Kinda like the difference between fast food and fine dining, eh? 😉 I’ve gotta say, knowing yourself is such a huge part of success in any venture such as ours. You know you’re not good at multitasking, so you keep it simple. I can relate! Well done.
Loved the “fast food vs fine dining” analogy from Jen!
A good end to a lively conversation.
Wrap It Up! I’ll Take It!
So, there are many ways to market. And different methods work for different people, and different products.
Maybe the real questions to answer are:
- Who are you?
- What are you selling?
- Who are you selling to?
- What’s the best way to reach them?
- How can you best spend your time?
- What are your goals and dreams?
- What are you comfortable doing?
These are questions only you can answer, but I hope this discussion has sparked some ideas and gotten your mind in gear to see marketing from a different perspective.
Huge thanks to Chris, Howard and Jen for their viewpoints, and for allowing me to repost them here.
Joe J Thomas
All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com