Demand Less Banner

 

 

I’ve been wondering lately if marketing lingo has taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. I’ve worked in B2B marketing for 15+ years. Lately, I’ve been looking differently at a lot of things. My sense of comfort and complacency is out the window. As the great Don Henley said, “The more I know, the less I understand. All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning again.” This includes the way I approach my job in the field of marketing.

One lesson I believe is valid: words matter.

This is a self-critique. I am looking hard at the words I use — personally and professionally. They matter. The apostle Luke wrote, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” I want to have the kind of heart that leads me to speak truth and compassion. I have a long way to go, but I hope I’m getting closer, one day at a time.

Today, I am trying to reconcile some marketing terms that seem discordant and abrasive when I hold them up to goals of wholeness, transparency, and empathy.

If we agree that the words we choose are a reflection of our goals and priorities, maybe the terms below present some opportunities to choose differently.

For all of my sales and marketing friends out there, tell me if you can relate. Or, help me understand where our perspectives differ. For all of my non-marketing friends, here’s a peek behind the marketing curtain.

Demand Generation

This is the process of manipulating people to entice them to want something they didn’t want before. If we need to “generate demand” for something, should we really be selling it?

For me, “Communicate Value” is a more helpful phraseDone well, marketing messages can create awareness and communicate value. But let’s refrain from using manipulation to generate demand – even if we can.

Click Bait

As in, “7 Reasons You Absolutely Shouldn’t Click This Link. #4 will blow your mind.” The goal is to get you to click; we don’t really care if you read what’s on the next page. Good marketing delivers content in an interesting way to someone who can benefit from it. But too often, we settle for a poor user experience because the goal is to snare a certain number of visitors. If the usefulness of the experience is an afterthought or even irrelevant, it’s not good marketing.

What if marketers used our skills to create true and meaningful content? Let’s create content that adds value to people’s lives, and deliver it in a respectful way.

Qualification

AKA if you express interest in my product or service, I am going to put you through some tests to determine if you are worth my time. If you pass the test, congratulations, you are qualified.

This should be a mutual process of finding out if there is a fit. Customer and provider both want to know if a partnership is beneficial. A bad fit isn’t good for my customer or me. A good fit is good for us both.

Lead 

This is a term for someone who has passed my tests (see qualification) and we have deemed you worthy of follow-up. Does this label make our prospective customers feel valued and respected?

In my utopia maybe we call this a “seed.” We hope that something wonderful might grow out of this possibility. There’s reason to think working together could benefit all involved – Let’s find out together.

Conversion

If you filled out my form on my website, you’ve converted. We use a term related to spiritual experiences because we cannot find our souls.

Sometimes these are referred to as “Goal Completions.” It feels a little better to me; especially if, when you’ve completed the goal, there was actually a benefit to you and not just me.

Acquisition

 In marketing lingo, we scramble about trying to “acquire” more and more leads and customers. We forget that these are people, and people are not something to be acquired. When we describe it to your face we call it “partnering.”

Let’s work to be genuine partners and teammates with our customers and prospective customers.

Competitive Analysis

 This is the process of spying on our competitors so we can steal their ideas and customers.

How about “Cooperative Learning?” Ideally each provider offers value in a unique way or to a unique group. We can learn from each other to hone our skills and improve our value. To my fellow providers: if I cannot provide the right fit, maybe you can, and vice versa.

Persona

This is a term we use for an amalgamation of characteristics that make up our target market (see targeting below). Since we don’t want to communicate with actual people (who has that kind of time?), we lump you all together into some kind of Frankenstein persona that looks a little like you so that we can try to “craft our language” into a message we think you’d like to hear.

Trying to understand our customers and potential customers is a good and valid goal. Let’s make sure we do it with the intention of working to build authentic and helpful relationships with real humans.

Targeting

 When we decide you match our ICP (maybe this term will make it into a future post), we target you. Scary right? We use terms like spears and nets to describe how we get you in our funnel (see below), and we give our salespeople awards and recognition for hitting a “bullseye.”

Again, it’s helpful for me to think about “fit.” Good marketing works to help people find the right fit for their needs. Finding the right fit can be a “bullseye” as long as it’s a win for us and the customer, and ideally, the world as a whole.

Sales Funnel

 Once you convert (see conversion above), we put you in our sales funnel. I imagine it like some esoteric toilet where you swirl down through Dante’s circles of hell, starting at the TOFU (AKA Top of Funnel), progressing to the MOFU (Middle of Funnel) and finally arriving where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Side note: When I asked my wonderfully objective husband to review this article, he informed me that this is where I have officially devolved into ranting. Guilty as charged.

Maybe we could borrow an engineering term, like “Workflow.” We partner with people in a workflow. At the end of the process, we achieve a shared goal.

Velocity

Velocity is how fast we can shove you through the funnel (see sales funnel). We have a quota to meet by the end of the month. Hustle up, partner.

Let’s refer back to workflow. If there are spots in our workflow where people are getting lost or not finding value, let’s fix it. If someone needs time to consider, let’s respect it.

Lifetime Customer Value

this is where we decide how much you are worth to us and then enter a line item into a spreadsheet while demons shriek with glee. (Again, with the ranting.)

Are we as keenly interested in the value we provide to our customers? Do we consider the value to humankind and the planet that comes from this partnership. If so, I have no beef with “lifetime customer value.”

Churn

This is the term we use for you when you’ve decided not to do business with us anymore. Like, “We’re so sorry to see you churn.” If we use the term churn with you, maybe you were right to go.

Let’s call it what it is: a customer stopped doing business with us. The question is why. Did we screw up? Does someone else serve them better? Or maybe we served their need and completed the job (a good thing)! We can learn from failure and from success.

Cadence

This is a term for an automated or semi-automated set of messages that we send you based on which bucket you fell into. As in, “Oh, I see you’re not ready to sign a deal tomorrow…let’s have marketing put you into a cadence so we don’t have to talk to you anymore.” Consistency can be good, but let’s be discerning about when to use automation and when to be human.

Nurturing

This is actually one of my favorite marketing words. It means to help someone grow and develop in a healthy way (see “seeds” above). Let’s try to partner with people to provide value and achieve shared goals. Let’s ask, how can we deliver a helpful message at the right time?

An Alternate Vision for Marketing

Most of the sales and marketing professionals I have worked with in my career are thoughtful and compassionate. They genuinely want to do what’s right for their customers. I deeply admire and respect their work. Mentors in the field have taught me to ask these 3 questions when I’m working on marketing strategies:

Is it good?

Is it true?

Is it helpful?

Marketing can be (and often is) a process of learning about people’s real needs, working with others to create something that meets the needs, and communicating value in a beautiful and meaningful way. Sales can be (and often is) a process of working with people to implement solutions that meet people’s needs in a good and useful way.

In a podcast on how marketers can contribute to a circular economy, Alena Kuzniatsova said, “I realized that marketing is just an instrument. Take the hammer, for example. You can kill or you build a house with a hammer. The same with marketing. And I realized that I should use my marketing expertise as an instrument for companies which foster sustainability and a clean future.”

Many of our marketing terms stem from the need to scale. To scale, we have to look at numbers. Unfortunately, sometimes we look at numbers and forget people. Data can be very helpful. It guides us and helps us judge whether we are on the right track. We just need to make sure we’ve chosen the right track. We are wise to use numbers to inform decisions that positively impact people, rather than making choices that use people to hit our numbers.

Let’s Make Profit a Tool, Not a Goal

I believe part of solving the “marketing lingo” problem is to look at the right “bottom line.” Is the bottom line “more profit, faster?” Profit can be a useful tool, but in my opinion, it makes a lousy goal. It is important to understand our goals and metrics; and there’s nothing wrong with deciding we need X% more revenue next year so that we can…(fill in the blank). Let’s remember to finish the sentence. What is the revenue for? The revenue itself is just a tool.

Mahatma Gandhi said: “The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed.”

What if we choose a different bottom line? What if we choose to work toward wholeness for people and the planet? What different decisions would we make concerning our funnel, our conversion process, our nurturing campaigns, how we respond to churn, and how we use our profit?

There are rarely simple answers, but maybe we could start with better language. The good news is that there are lots of marketers out there that are skilled at crafting messages. Let’s craft messages that help us achieve something great together.

We get to do this wrist band

 

 

Several years ago, I attended a training event at Gateway Church for volunteers. As we filed into the room to learn about our responsibilities, each of us was handed a blue silicon wristband with the words “We GET To Do This” printed on it.

We had all signed up to be volunteers because we believed in the mission of the group.

We saw potential for something positive; and we wanted to be a part of it.

There were a couple hundred of us in the room, and we each had different volunteer roles. Some had more visible positions – hospitality crew or musicians. Some of us had more behind-the-scenes roles. Some were coffee makers, some of us chair-setter-uppers. There was a parking crew, a cleanliness crew, and a data entry crew, along with a zillion other roles that were needed to make this sizable volunteer organization run.

Not all of the roles might be considered glorious, but they were all necessary.

Before we dispersed into our teams of chair-setter-uppers and parking gurus, we met as a group. The head of the organization thanked us for our dedication and reminded us:

“We are all in this together. We don’t have to do this; we GET to do this.”

There is so much talk about what leaders can/should do to engage their teams. And if you’re a leader, we certainly don’t want to understate the importance of appreciating, encouraging, and empowering your teams in order to help them reach their potential.

But for those of us who are the behind-the-scenes heavy-lifters, we’re not off the hook.

In whatever we choose to dedicate our personal efforts, we control our own personal level of engagement.

We can choose to slide by doing the minimum. Or we can choose to give it our all. We can appreciate the opportunities we have been given, and we can choose to find ways to make a difference. We can choose to say, “I get to do this.”

 

Good work

 

 

According to Gettysburg College, people spend an average of 90,000 hours at work during their lifetimes. I am about halfway through my career. If I’m average, I’ve clocked about 45,000 work hours. At this midpoint, I am taking an inventory and asking myself if I’ve used the time wisely.

Harvard Business Review comfortingly assures me that a “mid-career crises can happen to anyone.” Mine has me thinking, what really is good work? There are a lot of businesses doing different kinds of work, employing many different people in different roles. There’s a lot of movement and activity in the corporate world, but when I think about how organizations actually add value to society, I come up with only a few basic categories.

Heal and Protect

Healing is good work. And there is a lot of it to do. We need healing of the body. Healing of the mind. Healing of the spirit. Healing for families. Healing for communities. Healing for the environment.

Similarly, I think we can all agree that it is good to protect and defend the vulnerable. Restore what’s broken; correct injustices; provide care, encouragement, and compassion…these are good ways to spend a day.

Obviously, there are dedicated professional roles for this type of work: healthcare professionals, caregivers, ministers, environmentalists, social workers, advocates, and civil servants. Thank you, to those who choose these professions!

To the professionals in other fields: shouldn’t all of us be concerned with the work of healing and protecting? Can we at least agree that we shouldn’t conflict with it? If we look around though, we see business decisions being made every day — directly or indirectly — that marginalize, exploit, injure, and abuse. We justify it by saying they are “leveraging opportunities.” We say, “it’s just business” while we trample and destroy.

Businesses, let’s do better. Let’s adopt the Hippocratic oath: “First, do no harm.” Let’s never be so busy ‘winning’ that we are willing to turn a blind eye to injuries we inflict on people or the planet.

Teach and Learn

E.F. Schumacher wrote, “More education can help us only if it produces more wisdom.”

As a mother, one of the great joys of my life is watching my daughter learn. Like most kids, she is eternally curious. She questions everything.

I am reminded of the “noseblind” commercials from Febreeze. My blessed daughter reminds me daily of things that I have gone blind to because I’ve accepted that’s just the way they are. Or maybe, alarmingly, I have insulated myself enough that I am numb to them. “Why is that man sleeping under the bridge? Why can’t we bring him home with us? Couldn’t he sleep on the couch? Why can’t she marry her girlfriend? How can she have a baby when she’s in high school? Why can’t she go back home with her parents? Why do we have to wear clothes? Why can’t I have a pet wolf?”

“An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.” – Maria Montessori

A great way to spend a career would be to seek out truths and help others understand more deeply. Coaches, scientists, researchers, preachers, gurus, and teachers, of course all do this as a part of their daily grind.

How should the rest of us think about teaching and learning? Business leaders are fond of saying they love to learn. Don’t we love to “push the envelope”? We’re always innovating. We go to school until we’ve reached middle age and have 27 initials after our names. Are we becoming more wise in the process?

Most of my life, I’ve thought of learning as a necessary step to prepare for a job. I’ve only just started to prioritize learning, not just to acquire knowledge, but to enrich the soul.

One great joy of being human is that there is always something more to learn. A bit of biblical text that is frequently overlooked and underappreciated says, “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.” 1 Cor 8:2

Einstein agreed: “Wisdom is not a product of schooling, but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”

Cultivate and Create

In the beginning “the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 1:15. We were made to create and cultivate.

Humans are endowed with the incredible ability to conceive ideas and to make them so with our hands and our minds. The creative work of a human is a miraculous gift.

Professionally, these are the manufacturers, artists, musicians, farmers, craftspeople, culinarians, developers, inventors. Many makers use their gifts to make good things. They respect their materials, and cultivate or shape them into things that can nourish the body and soul, assist or enrich life.

Let’s not let greed kill value. Too often, we misuse our skills by cutting corners and reducing quality so that we can increase production and consumption. Anyone who’s bought a washing machine in the last ten years knows this to be true. A 30-year old washing machine is still going strong. Washing machines today apparently have an innovative self-destruct feature that deploys 13 days after the warranty period ends.

When we make things that are disposable, we consume but are left empty. When we make good things well, we satisfy the soul.

Support and Sustain

The work of supporting and sustaining can be good and important work. Businesses in a support role help get things/people/ideas to and fro. They facilitate. They communicate. They provide tools, resources, and infrastructure. They empower the workers and the process. They invest and provide funding.

I have spent most of my career in marketing. In my mind, this fits generally into the “support/sustain” bucket. The work of a marketer is to create awareness and communicate value to hep businesses earn customers. I can choose to put my efforts into organizations that prioritize healing, wisdom or creativity. If I’m doing my job well, I can create messages that promote healing instead of injury. I can help educate instead of manipulate. Maybe I could even do something creative. Not a bad way to spend a day, I suppose.

Choose How You Invest

Let’s say that my employer takes that revenue and uses it to work toward healing, wisdom or creativity. The business provides good and fair-paying jobs so that others can join this healing and restoring work.

Now, what if my employer does not do these things? What if employees are treated unfairly? What if injustices in the supply chain are tolerated? What if half-truths are told in order to manipulate others?

I have made a choice to invest in my employer. In the first case, I am a good steward of my resources. In the second case, I am not.

The conclusion I come to is that if we value revenue more than people, we impoverish not only our society, but our own souls as well. If we value people and put our efforts toward healing, wisdom and creativity, we enrich our society and we flourish in the ways that matter.