Insights and Resources

Where have all the remarkable marketers gone?

By Mel Stewart

Marketers with targets on their back.

Early in my career, I worked in marketing for an amazing company – a company that did great things. They were big, but they were innovative, industry leaders and were hungry for bigger and better.  They were a great company.  Which is why, in hindsight, it seems funny that this story includes them.

You see every month a key part of my role was to arrange the super-important birthday cards. Sometimes there would be 70 cards to hand-write. And yes, I did this every month.

I remember writing out the most delightful birthday messages to valuable clients, in my very best handwriting, licking the stamp and thinking – “I didn’t go to university to write out birthday cards?  Did I?”  I mean, I studied marketing at university. I was expecting that 12 months post-graduation I would be changing the world; revolutionising how marketing was done. Steve Jobs would agree; I was hungry; I was foolish.

What real, tangible value did the birthday cards bring to our organisation? What new business did it create?  Because isn’t marketing about creating new business? Not fluff, not birthday cards, but real business.

Fast forward nine years, and I work with some great marketers in professional services firms. Unfortunately, most of them are still writing out the birthday cards. Or they are organising the next “really important” event or arranging catering, board meetings or updating the images on their website or even worse, creating yet another brochure.

Most of them know better, but unfortunately don’t do better.  But they need to.

You see, marketing is undergoing a radical transformation, right now.  Customers are savvier than ever and they expect more from business.  The marketplace is noisy, attention is short and traditional marketing is dying.

Marketers and their companies have forgotten what marketing’s absolute fundamental role is – to generate new business.

Marketers need to be the leaders in their firms. The movers and shakers, who are constantly questioning how things are being done – and asking can we do them better? How can we create new audiences, new markets, new business?

Because as times get tougher and businesses need to be more efficient, if marketers don’t add real value to the business, if they don’t become generators of new business, they risk being seen as an overhead and having a target on their back when costs have to be cut. It’s as simple and as complex as that.

Today’s marketer needs to stand for more. They need to be critically analysing and evaluating everything they do, they need to be creating real tangible business. Marketing’s mandate in 2014 needs to be the leader in generating new business for their firm.  Marketers have an obligation to our profession to do this.

After I finished writing the last card for that month, I went and saw my boss. I suggested we find someone else to do the job.  I didn’t quit, but I questioned why marketing was spending time on this task.  My boss agreed.

That year I was involved in a revolutionary global campaign that showcased our product to 200 million people in 11 key markets around the world, bringing in more than 1.3 million dollars to our bottom line. A bit more productive than relationship building through birthday cards, right?

I will finish with a quote from an amazing marketer in his own right, Seth Godin. If you don’t listen to me, listen to him when he says;

“How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation?  How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable.”

Be a remarkable marketer. Start today.

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