Marketing is dead.
How many times have you heard that in the last couple of year?
I have heard that, repeatedly. At first, it was the internet that was supposed to kill marketing (it has, in a sense, transformed traditional marketing). Then social media. Then marketing automation. Than AR/VR. Then Voice. Any new technological advancement is often cited as the “usual suspect” of marketing imminent demise. Even changes in commercial process and business methods are considered a risk to marketing. I keep hearing these words from colleagues- my CEO isn’t interested in marketing anymore, all she cares about are leads. PR companies are also complaining- no one seems to be interested in exposure or awareness anymore, all they want are more MQLs.
It feels like we are all living on borrowed time- at least in the B2B space (it is still generally assumed that consumers needs to be marketed to, so B2C marketers are still in the safe zone, for now).
Let me reassure you, fellow marketers. Marketing isn’t going to die. Not in 2019, and probably never.
Because marketing isn’t a fad, a “nice to have” gadget or occupation. It’s an essential part of doing business. And in our digital world, the importance of marketing is growing, not decreasing. Let’s look back 10, 15 years ago. Back then B2B firms marketed their products and service mainly through personal engagement- tradeshows, press, print media and mail (yea real mail, in a real posted envelope). Then the world became digital and the activity shifted online. So marketers adapted and started using email, banner ads and online content. This was less personal but helped companies reach a much wider audience. Then social media came along, and things started to get more personal. You could suddenly communicate freely directly to your target audience. Then the internet’s reared its ugly head and everything became commoditized- targeted ads, paid inmail, promoted content. Every action now bears a price tag, and could be precisely measured. Then the backend infrastructure caught up and everyone started using marketing automation software (mainly to support and optimize ads spend). Now EVERYTHING is measurable, and we can finally deduct the cost per lead- in other words, we (or our CEOs and CFOs ) can, for the first time, put a price tag on marketing and evaluate its direct impact on the business (or at least lead generation).
It now feels that if CEO could turn their marketing department into a huge, lead generating robot, they will do so in an instant.
So- are we witnessing the death throes of marketing?
I don’t think so. It has changed, and will surely change again, but it won’t go away. Let’s consider lead generation for a second. Let’s assume that all marketers have been replaced by a perfect lead-gen machine exists and is put to work, generating dozens of new leads every day. These are people who have agreed to be in communication with your company. Great! So now they will receive an email or a phone call from your sales representative. Assuming the call went well, they are likely to be intrigued and google your brand, or venture into your website. If they won’t find anything substantial on the web – like articles, media mentions, social media activity, and nothing substantial on your website – like blog posts, news, updated careers, etc. they will simply turn away.
Moreover- how do you reckon these leads will be generated in the first place? They would likely be lured by interesting content, by an attractive booth at a trade show or by reading about your brand on the media. And even if they aren’t going away after visiting your (poorly updated, since there are no marketers left to update it) site, they would probably ask for some collateral- case studies, product sheets, whatever. And even if the lead generation process works flawlessly, what happens when a lead isn’t interested at the time? What would make him come back and check your site if you don’t publish fresh content, or maintain contact via email or social media?
In short, Forfeiting marketing altogether is detrimental to the success of your business. It’s ok to ask the marketing to be more lead-oriented, to measure and present cost of activities and KPIs. But this entails even more work than marketers do today (albeit different one), so I don’t see marketing departments shrinking anytime soon.