My Dad’s birthday was last week.
Relating to my father is a lot harder than it used to be. Mostly because he has no idea what I do for a living, especially now that I do it from the comfort of my apartment. When I was still in school, he got it. He may have mocked my Journalism degree or the need to even educate a girl (welcome to my life), but he understood what it was. Journalism. That’s like newspapers and stuff.
Now? Well, now I say words like “brands”, “blogs” and “social media” and he has no clue.
In an attempt to be thoughtful, I collected some marketing books and sent them to him. Books like E-Myth Revisited, Don’t Make Me Think, the stuff that is classic in our little bubble. I hoped that if I could nail the whole “I build brands” thing into his head he’d stop telling people that I worked as a secretary at Google. And that my little brother would stop telling him I was a pirate.
After reading the books, he called me this morning. To yell at me. In Italian.
What the hell was wrong with me? Why was I insulting him? Did I think he was an idiot? He’s a successful business man. He knows all about trust and customers and building relationships and running a small business. He had been doing it for years. The information I sent him was nothing new. Why haven’t I learned to cook yet?
A few things immediately hit me.
- The basic principles of business and marketing haven’t changed. However, that doesn’t mean people are any better about implementing them.
- Today’s empowered consumer means that “the basics” are more important than ever. Because now if someone doesn’t like you, it’s not just them and their three friends that hear about it. We all hear.
- It is absolutely impossible to buy my father a gift he will not complain about. For Christmas he gets a white flag.
He’s right, though. The ideas we’re preaching in social media (listening, reaching out, engaging, etc) aren’t “new”. They’re not shiny or flashy and we haven’t invented anything. Social media marketing and online reputation management, for the most part, are about customer service. They’re about going out of your way to treat someone twice as well as they expect to be treated so that they don’t walk away – they skip. And while they’re skipping they tell everyone they know.
What has changed in marketing is a shift in going back to what matters. Ten years ago, consumers didn’t have voices so businesses got away with a lot more. Believe me, I’ve listened to my father speak to people on the phone. It makes Rae look like a saint (I love you, Dad). In today’s world, people have voices. It’s not enough to just know the basics of marketing, you need to create a strategy on how you’re going to be implementing them. That’s what so many companies are missing out on – the strategy. That’s where they’re losing opportunities. That’s what’s getting them on the front page of social media for all the wrong reasons. That’s why they’re losing customers and dinging their brands.
There’s a difference between “knowing” and “doing”.
I’m pretty sure Barack Obama knew he shouldn’t have called Kanye West a “jackass”. Even if he was “off the record”, he’s smart enough to know that he’s the President Of The United States and that “off the record” doesn’t exist. He probably also knew it wasn’t wise to call police officers “stupid” either. But again, he did. And someone had to come in and clean up the reputation management problem he created.
Today’s marketing involves understanding your audience, knowing how to reach them on their terms, knowing how to respond and when to take the microphone away from the President of the United States. It’s about knowing the tools of today and knowing how to play them. It’s not about the cold calls my father used to make in his insurance business. It’s actually the opposite. It’s about never having to make another cold call in your life.
If you’re a brand, a CEO or even just the guy or gal that cleans up at night, everything you say is now “on the record”. That’s the world we live in. Like my Dad, you’ve probably heard of the basics, but do you know how to implement these strategies into your day-to-day business? Do you know how the on-the-record of today changes how you do things? Because if you don’t and you don’t have a plan for it, then you really don’t “know” anything and you definitely don’t know how to make your company competitive in the new market.