The Death Grip Of Old Marketing Ideas

Posted on September 20, 2010

Cartoon Courtesy of Eloqua (

The Death Grip Of Old Marketing Ideas

By Steve Farnsworth (@Steveology)

Early in my career I managed client-side demand generation: direct mail and ads mostly. I’d been doing this for a while when a new concept hit me like a ton of bricks. That was the process everyone used (traditional marketing) looked to grab prospects in the final phase of the buying process. If the buying process went from step “A” to step “Z” why was all the marketing that we did targeted somewhere around step “X”?

We were starting the conversation when the prospects had done most of their research, had formed strong opinions, and were ready to pull the trigger. Also, if we wanted that sale we had to be lucky enough to catch them at the final moments of their buying process. What a stupid approach.

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What if you could shift your marketing focus to be inclusive and connect with customers somewhere between steps “A” through “F”? You could increase the number of leads you were working, and be able move them into the sales pipeline just when the customer was ready to take that next step, ideally before your competition knew they were ready to buy. Also, with that extra time you had the valuable opportunity to deepen the relationship and their understanding of your product.

Lightning Strikes

Wow. I was like the newly converted. I redeveloped all the marketing collateral and lead management process to support lead nurturing, and it worked. The company, a developer of large-scale project management software, moved from 5th place to 1st in our market in a little under 18 months. That was over 15 years ago. So, this is not a new idea.

The arrival of social media was music to my ears. Here was a more natural way to start that dialog, and if you did it right you would be on your target market’s short list when they were ready to buy. Yet, there is still a very strong attraction by senior executives to keep funding marketing activities with dubious returns, and to view social media as a questionable use of marketing funds. The failure of some, too many, senior managers to grasp the dynamics of social marketing as a logical way to build stronger brand preference and shorten the sales cycle continues to dumbfound me.

The David Meerman Scott Experiment

When I was interviewing David Meerman Scott (You can hear the interview Here.) I asked him how he suggests marketers educate the C-level about the fundamental change marketing has experienced over the last decade. He shared the results of a great “poll” he has taken in his workshops around the world. (You can watch his video Here.) He would ask, “In last 1 to 2 months in order to research a product or service you might want to buy, either personally or professionally, have you used…(direct mail, ad, Yellow pages, attended a tradeshow as a non-vendor, or mainstream media) for that?”

Almost uniformly around the world the response to each question was the same:

  • Direct mail or ad? 2%

  • Yellow pages? 5%

  • Attended a tradeshow as a non-vendor? 5%

  • Mainstream media? 20%

  • Google? Almost 100%

  • Asked a friend for advice who sent you a link? 95%

Let Me Ask You This

So, if that is the reality of the way we research things we buy, why are marketing budgets and strategies not reflective of this? Why are we hell bent on not putting money and resources where it pays off most? Why do we refuse to see what is right in front of us?


I had traded a few tweets with Joe Chernov of Eloqua. When I saw a cartoon they did awhile back I mentioned (tweeted) I would love to do a cartoon with them some time, too. Joe shot back, “Was thinking the same thing.” What an honor for me. If you ever have a chance to work with the facilitator extraordinaire Joe, or the very talented Brady Bonus, I highly recommend it. I had a wonderful time working on the cartoon and sharing one of my marketing frustrations in a very fun way. Thank you Joe, the Eloqua team, and Brady!