I read a piece in Marketing Week recently with this heading and thought it worth sharing. I think the topic and the informed comments on this piece (link below) make it all the more interesting.


I’m not a big fan of wordy definitions but it helps to set up a context here. Marketing is everything you can do to understand your target market, and it is using that knowledge to grow your business by telling your business story better to your customers … in a place they can find, a language they understand and a style that has impact. The place is the only difference whether communications online or off.

Your marketing – whether online of offline – should consider the following.

  1. You as business owner being insanely curious about what segments of the market convert better to what you sell and why.
  2. Cultivating that never-ending curiosity for what’s really working in your market, what your target market wants/needs/loves/hates. Trying new things, measuring their impact, adjusting, trying again.
  3. Generating interest from your audience.
  4. Even better, becoming ‘remarkable’. As in, ‘worth making a remark about’.
  5. Being clear about what it is you do, so they understand how you can help.
  6. Getting your message across quickly and in a way that has impact. This may not always be written copy, it could be expressed through customer service standards, staff training, product range etc
  7. Allowing them identify with or see themselves in your communications – getting them to think, ‘that’s for someone like me’.

Digital can’t fix bad planning. Nor can it hand you the strategy to make decisions.  It can, of course, do the communication in;

  1. a highly targeted way
  2. can do it quickly
  3. with great impact
  4. and – rather compellingly for SMEs – in a reasonable, affordable way, making it the popular choice it is today.

I predict the Digital revolution to continue to morph, disrupt and take a disproportionate amount of business’s planning time over the coming years. It is the media of the future and, however unhelpful, the distinction between online and offline options will most likely continue.

There are more important points, however, for business owners and managers to mull over. Less about ‘the where’ or communications form and more about ‘the what’ are you talking about.  Stephen Covey was a great business leader and once said ‘the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing’.

Can you explain what you do in a meaningful way in less than 60 seconds? Do you explain the problems your business solves for your customers in your communications? The benefits it can deliver them? Do you try to tell your story in a memorable way that your potential customers might notice? Do you say how you are really different from those who say they do what you do? Do you spend time thinking of how to connect more meaningfully? How could you make your messages more trustworthy, believable or authentic?

After ‘the what’ …. then it’s about ‘where’ and ‘how’ you do it. Digital marketing descriptions are broad and each lever can work differently or require different time/money investment from Paid, Search, SEO, Email, Content, Blog , Video, Audio, Social Media etc.

My background is FMCG marketing and I know that traditional marketing has peaked and had its glory days. It had become a numbers game with the bigger companies winning out due to sheer investment and oftentimes innovative businesses got left by the wayside due to lack of funds. One big positive from the digital revolution has been  the gift to every small business of its stage and it’s voice. This has been, on one hand, revolutionary …a great leveller and extremely positive for Irish industry. But on the other it has been its undoing in terms of poorly planned marketing. So many businesses clamour for a piece of the digital pie for no better reason but than that ‘my competitor is doing it’. Better for SMEs to focus less on the fact that it’s inexpensive and more on what they want to say.

Strategy, customer understanding and business story need more focus. The smoke and mirrors and mystifying wizardry of digital marketing should settle soon so that all that’s left are the basic questions of communication; who, what, when, where, why.

Online or offline marketing needs less distinction and debate, and your simple business story a lot more.