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Why marketers should question what their job really is

I’ve written in the past about a pet peeve of mine–auto insurance commercials that claim something like, “people who switched to us saved an average of $236.” It’s not any one company–they all say this. You might wonder how it can be that all of the insurance companies can be cheaper than each other. Or you might think that they are lying. But neither of these explanations gets at the truth.

The claims are true, but for a silly reason. No one switches auto insurance companies to pay more. So, sure, among people who switched, they saved money no matter which company they switched to.

When I explain this, people roll their eyes and wonder why we marketers talk like this. At least, that is how plain folks react.

But when I explain this to marketers, I get a completely different reaction. Marketers say, well, the commercial did its job, because they define the job of that commercial to get people to call or go online for a quote from that company.

This is the part where marketers really need to question what their jobs really are. I mean, what do they think happens after the call is made? If the company in question truly is low-priced, then they probably make a lot of sales this way, which is fine. But most of the companies making this claim are not the lowest-priced in any particular situation. Most of them are higher most of the time, because price isn’t their differentiator in real life–just in their commercial.

So, what is the real job here? I would argue that the job of marketing is to increase sales. If your marketing is getting the wrong prospects to call–the ones that won’t likely close–it is patently not doing its job. It is merely creating the illusion of success without delivering any.

The job of all marketing is to attract customers that buy your product. It’s not surprising that a commercial focused on price will attract people who want a lower price. If that insurance company (like most of them) don’t really deliver lower prices, their advertising is attracting people who mostly won’t buy from them.

We as marketers like to think that if we get a response that the marketing did its job, but if you are targeting the wrong markets, you are just wasting your money. No matter how good a fisherman you are, you need to fish where the fish are. If you are fishing in the wrong lake, then you won’t catch anything.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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