Marketing: what, exactly, is it now?


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I had breakfast earlier in the week in New York with marketing wiz Neil Glassman. He’s one smart guy. We spoke about the interplay between sales and marketing, and he had some ideas about marketing that made me curious, annoyed, and excited. I’m going discuss some ideas I had as a result of our conversation and offer my confusion or questions (and annoyance, of course). I’d love to start a dialogue and hear what you have to say about it.


Let me begin by saying that the very baseline of the new, new marketing thinking is faulty. The focus is on ‘content.’ Whether it’s offering content, getting links to content, gathering content/data – the assumption seems to be that content drives decisions.

But in fact, people only need content when they have gone through their internal decision criteria, achieved necessary buy-in for change, and decided that taking an action would be better than the status quo. It is only then they begin to consider what content they need.

Marketers seem to think that they truly have control over the buyer’s buying decision. When I attempt to discuss the ’behind-the-scenes’ and often unconscious decisions buyers make privately before they can even consider making a purchase or needing content, I’m told that marketing can get everywhere – even into the bedroom.

Do marketers really believe this is possible? Are they not aware of the unconscious aspects of decision making that happen through time as a decision gets made and are personal, idiosyncratic, and relational? If I’m having a fight with my husband about retiring, and he wants to move to be closer to his job, no marketing in the world would make me pay attention to an ad for a realtor.

Marketers think they know how to interpret the data they get from digital footprints. Really? Just because you watch one person peruse a site, you know what they are thinking, their weight among others on the Buying Decision Team, their percentage vote for bringing in a solution, and what/who else they are considering purchasing from? I find that an arrogant, specious belief! And by believing this, they aren’t doing the real work of discovering how to help buyers manage their behind-the-scenes decision issues.

And what is this analytics stuff?  What, exactly does it give you? You know what pages people are going to – so do you pump up those pages? Make them easier to convert? What makes you think that someone looking at a page is a buyer? Or that your content – and the way you are presenting it – fits the criteria of their partner (who is the real buyer)? So many assumptions!

Yes, marketing is attempting to own the revenue pipeline. But what, exactly, does that mean? Until or unless a buyer goes through some sort of internal change management and buy-in, they ain’t buyin’ nothin’. So who owns the pipeline? Until or unless marketing starts earlier in the buying decision journey, they can talk about ownership all they want but it’s not true. They still have no idea where buyers are at, what they are doing behind-the-scenes, and the timing on what’s going on in the buyer’s world.


I just learned a new term that marketers are using: ‘drive profitable customer action.’ What, exactly, does this mean? I know, I know. I’m supposed to get excited because marketers can ‘make’ customers do something. Like what???

I’m partnering with Kadient, and we’re putting Buying Facilitation™ skills into playbooks to help sellers enter the human side of the buying decision journey and get it into the workflow. Our first playbooks will give buyers the steps through all the people and policies to get buy-in, and recover lost sales. Their other playbooks are sales-oriented  (such as Solution Selling and SPIN Selling, etc.) and  give sellers the appropriate sales tools to use at the appropriate time. For me, this is a great use of the internet to ‘drive profitable customer action.’

But I don’t think this is what marketers mean by the term. I think they believe that if they can get the right eyeballs to the right content that they can turn it into a sale. But the assumptions behind this are staggeringly specious. It’s a known fact that only 50% of sales people are meeting quoto – so what is really going on?

Ardeth Albee recently wrote that ‘B2B Marketing is a profession of ideas.’ Just out of curiousity, what field today isn’t? Sales is on its head, and in the middle of massive change. Technology is as well. We all are. But at the end of the day, if buyers aren’t enabled to get the necessary buy-in nothing from the outside will make a difference.

Don’t forget: we never, ever make a decision that goes against our highly valued criteria. No marketing in the world will get me to smoke, or harm anyone. And as marketers know, most decision criteria are unconscious: and no content will make me change my highly valued criteria. I would have to do some sort of difficult internal change to do that. Buying Facilitation™ helps people do that.

Marketing works at too superficial a level. And, yes, I’m aware that the field does massive research on the psychological underpinnings of decision making. But they are getting to buyers very late in their decision cycle. It’s very easy to get there earlier – just not with marketing as it is now.

Monday I’m going to write a post about ‘content marketing’ – the art of giving prospects data to ‘make them more intelligent’. The underlying assumption is that if they are intelligent, they’ll buy, right? Um…Right. Stay tuned for more provocation!


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Sharon-Drew Morgen
I'm an original thinker. I wrote the NYT Bestseller Selling with Integrity and 8 other books bridging systemic brain change models with business, for sales, leadership, communications, coaching. I invented Buying Facilitation(R) (Buy Side support), How of Change(tm) (creates neural pathways for habit change), and listening without bias. I coach, train, speak, and consult companies and teams who seek Servant Leader models.


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