Why Marketing Doesn’t Work in 2023 ... and Beyond

Written by: Adam Gray

Well, let’s be honest, marketing hasn’t worked for quite some time. That’s an observation rather than a criticism because sales isn’t working at the moment either.

The fundamental problem with marketing is that, unlike sales, the next step is always in the hands of the prospect.

You advertise to me - whether I click or visit the website is up to me. You email me - whether I click and respond is up to me. You put on an event or create an exhibition stand - whether I would up to you is up to me.

Through my 50+ years of being alive I have learned some key things:

  • people seldom do what you think they will or hope they will
  • if it’s possible for someone to misunderstand me or get something wrong…they will
  • as Seth Godin said “I have better things to do with my time than solve YOUR problem”

When you look at these universal truths together it helps to make sense out of the sales and marketing woes that businesses are facing today.

To be effective you need to be able to exert some degree of control over the outcome of an interaction. If we have a call or meeting I am in the position of being able to steer the destination. If I hand you a brochure (or point you at my website) I have made the most fundamental mistake possible. I have assumed that your idea of good is the same as mine. When you hold my (and my competitors) brochures you have all of the facts at your decision to make an informed decision, or perhaps you think you have, but notwithstanding this error you might typically ask if you’ve handed me a brochure and it doesn’t answer my questions why did you give it to me?

By contrast, on a call when you ask a question I can reframe it “actually I think the question we should be answering is…” which lets me control the experience and the outcome.

Up until now, marketing departments have been focused on placing the “approved information in front of appropriate people” but the world is so much more complex and serendipitous than that. People all have their own irrational prejudices (my wife left me for someone who worked for a company with a blue logo therefore I will never by from companies with a blue logo) and this cannot be acknowledged without a conversation. Conversations also uncover hitherto unseen opportunities, for example I know someone who’s spouse is on the board of one of the world’s largest consultancies - they don’t broadcast this but over time my conversations have uncovered the very fortuitous circumstance.

In the future, marketing’s job will not be producing blanket communications that just create more noise and confusion but will be to coach, educate and encourage everyone in the organisation to mobilise their networks, relationship sand unique points of interest for the greater good - not simply restarting more corporate verbiage but allowing people to be themselves to create true empathy and trust.

Does this all sound too good to be true? Yes, it does…but we are working with a number of organisations that are starting-out on this journey.Already, in just the fist few steps, they are seeing positive results and are opening doos that had previously been firmly closed to them.

And you can do this too…

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" - Laozi (in the Tao Te Ching)

Related: Outlook for 2023: Change Is the Only Constant, and Disruption Is Inevitable