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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistThu, Mar 2, 2017 13 min read

Why Today I'm Embarrassed To Be In Marketing

And Why We, As Advisors And Consultants, Might Have Failed Our Clients

WARNING: There’s a rant coming in this blog article.

I read a lot of blog articles from other marketing agencies, from marketing and sales software companies, from marketing thought leaders and from other business people I respect. Most of the articles are sanitized, SEO optimized and vanilla, with generic commentary on what you should be doing. Very rarely do I see anyone say what I think they really want to say.

If you read my blog, I’d like to think that’s not true, but I’m sure most of what I write is covered by the descriptive words above. Not today. Today, I need to vent.

Eric and I started Square 2 Marketing to give clients the right advice, to guide them through a transition from what used to work to what is going to work today, to help them understand the buyer journey their prospects are going through, and to align their sales and marketing to that journey with the hope that clients would generate more leads, close more new customers and grow their top line.

I thought things were getting better when Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah coined inbound marketing back in 2008. I was excited to think the world would be a better place with more thoughtful marketing — marketing that matched the way people want to buy and marketing that was permission-based as opposed to interruptive. I hoped that cold calling, direct mail and all outbound advertising would all eventually go away, and we (consumers) would all be much happier.

Lately, it seems like we’re slipping back. Clients seem utterly frustrated with inbound or any type of marketing that doesn’t produce huge amounts of leads in days. What would work like that? I don’t know anything that fits that bill. It seems like people are actually going back to old-school tactics with new-school technology.   

Here’s what set me off. First, the constant flow of unsolicited emails into my inbox. Over and over again, all day long, I’m weeding through emails from people who are pretending to know me but ultimately want to sell me something. I want to shake them. I want to email them back and explain to them the error of their ways. Because I don’t have time to do that for all of them, I’m now conflicted. I can unsubscribe (if Im able to) and send them a huge opt-out message, or I can simply delete the email and move on. What do I usually do? You guessed it; I just delete it.

The second trigger was an email from a company pitching “outbound sales.” Yes, you read that right. I had to check it out. They created a software program that marries autodialing with emailing, and now I can send mass emails to everyone I want to target with the click of a button. I lost it. What the f*** is wrong with everyone?

I’ve always believed that you have to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. We started this company to be part of the solution. But this got me thinking, and I have to admit, I feel a little responsible for some of what’s going on. We used to be purists when it came to marketing:

  • Pay-per-click? That’s advertising. We don’t do it.
  • Print advertising? That’s silly. Cancel it.
  • Trade shows? Why would you do that?

All of these interruptive marketing techniques don’t work. Instead, work to earn your prospects attention with smart content and thought leadership. Focus your marketing money on the people actively looking for what you do. Create an amazing experience for them and your business will grow.

That was our story and we stuck with it. There’s one problem with that: It was hard work. It took time. It required investment. It demanded expertise in inbound. No one wants to hear that it’s going to take 12 months to ramp up your marketing. No one wants to hear that its going require $100,000 to get the program up and running. People want leads, they want them today and they want them for as low of a cost as possible.

We’ve started down a very slippery slope. Pay-per-click? Well, if we use content and drive them to a landing page, it’s kind of inbound. OK, let’s do it. Account-based marketing? Well, its personal outreach, with insightful messaging and educational content. That feels OK to me. Let’s do it. Cold email campaigns to scraped lists? We’ll call it lead nurturing, make the messaging remarkable, track results and try to convince the client to move to something more productive over time. Great, let’s get started.

I know what’s behind this. Some of it is cultural, with the need for instant gratification. I’m not planning on changing culture. I know everyone wants everything delivered immediately. I want my Amazon order the same day and I want 100 highly qualified leads by this afternoon. I do think we can help with the second challenge, which is poor planning. Just listen to real stories from real prospects:

  • We’re pre-revenue, with a target of $100 million next year and a marketing budget of $2,000 a month. Can you help us?
  • Our busy season is coming up and we need marketing in place by then. Oh, by the way, that season starts next month. Is that a problem?
  • We bought HubSpot last year and we thought it would produce leads as soon as we turned it on. Now, we think inbound marketing doesn’t work. What are our options?

When you hear these stories, you have to wonder: How did marketing become this magic powder that you sprinkle over your business and all of your problems are solved? However, it’s because of these stories that people are offering the solutions I told you about earlier.

Press a button and send 20,000 emails to anyone who might look like a potential prospect and leads will appear in your inbox. Launch a pay-per-click program on AdWords, Facebook or LinkedIn and leads will stream in. It’s what people want to hear. It’s what people want to buy. It might not be the right advice, but they’re desperate and willing to try almost anything.

Honestly, it’s this try anything and everything approach that makes nothing work. I don’t care what approach you take, but if you don’t take a long-term approach to it, I promise you it won’t work. You can’t do inbound marketing for six months, you can’t do ABM for six months, you can’t do email marketing, content marketing, search engine marketing or any marketing for six months and expect to support your hyper-aggressive, unrealistic revenue goals. You set those goals first without taking marketing into consideration and without connecting the right level of investment to your goals. Marketing can’t fix that.

Ask any marketer with strategic experience and they’ll give you the same advice: You have to do it all and you have to do it for a long time. You have to take a marathon runners perspective to marketing. You have to train and train and train and train to be ready for the marathon, and then you have to run the race. Marketing is not a sprint. There are no silver bullets or easy buttons.

It takes heavy lifting, it takes constant iteration, and it takes analytics and data to produce results. The tools, techniques and tactics are finally in place to create a smart, results-oriented, data-driven approach to marketing.

Our agency is living proof that inbound works. We have clients that are living proof that inbound works. Client that have landed million-dollar deals from inbound leads, sold their businesses for millions of dollars because of the marketing and added lead generation machines that transformed their companies. Does it work for everyone? No, it doesn’t. Would some of these other tactics be better for some companies? Yes, they would.

But please, I’m begging you: Don’t opt for quick fixes. Don’t fall back on how you used to do it. Don’t think technology is going to fix your marketing challenges. Instead, invest time and money into building your marketing so it works in a sustainable, predictable, repeatable way. Leverage technology to give you insights that make you smarter about what you’re doing and what you’re investing in. Make your marketing match your buyers’ behavior. If they love reading postcards, then send them postcards. If they love getting unsolicited emails, then by all means, send away!

But if they don’t read direct mail or love spam emails (and they probably don’t), then invest the energy and money to come up with marketing they’re going to love, marketing they’re going to click on, marketing they’re going to share and marketing they’re going to use when they make their purchase decision. You’ll be so happy you did it this way. I know you will.

Square 2 Marketing – Innovating Marketing And Sales To Match Buyer Today’s Buyer Behavior!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.