Six Timeless Principles to Apply to Today’s Marketing

Adam Proehl

By Kurt Theriault

The proliferation of digital marketing tools, tactics and data, and the speed at which they surface, has many business owners feeling in a word – confused. Many owners have become hesitant to invest or dive in. I recently visited with Adam Proehl, cofounder of NordicClick Interactive to learn – or shall we say re-learn – some classic principles to remember when building our marketing programs today and help us all be more effective marketers.

What’s changed about marketing over the years?
Nothing and everything. I can guarantee, a year from now, there will be a new social platform – that neither of us has heard about – that we are told is the place we all need to be. This is our new reality.

From a C-level perspective, the good news is you can navigate through this. Marketing is really all about understanding these fundamentals of human behavior.

The way you navigate through this is to know, understand and apply the classic sales and marketing principles to your marketing efforts. The most effective marketers are the ones who apply the following principles.

Principle #1: Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves.
Brands and organizations have a lot of opportunity to talk about themselves today. However, the best thing they can do is encourage their customers to talk about themselves.

People naturally want to talk about themselves. They will readily tell you how they feel and what they really want. Brands, companies, salespeople and marketers just need to listen. Carnegie wrote about this in 1937 and even then said it wasn’t a new concept. What is new is the scalability of it.

I think we all realize we are in the content marketing age today. Creating consistent content for a brand can be hard to execute. Unleashing your customers and giving them platforms to share and communicate with you has the added benefit of providing you with this content.

Principle #2: The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.
Customers want to be educated and informed, not sold. There are more opportunities for brands to execute on this than ever. Video is a great medium to accomplish this. Why is it so effective at helping convert prospects into customers? Because it is the best medium to help us inform and do so in a way that is easier for people to digest.

I recently saw a statistic that online shoppers who viewed a video or demo were 1.8 times more likely to buy than non-viewers. Invest time in an effective video strategy that informs. Share know-how around real problems from real customers. Be interesting and useful. That’s all you have to do.

Principle #3: The people you address are selfish. They care nothing about your interests or profit. They seek service for themselves.
Your customers and prospective customers don’t care about you. They don’t care about what you want as a company. They are not interested in your organization chart, your shareholders, or that your great-grandfather started the firm 60 years ago. They care only about what is in it for them.

The good news for marketers is we have the ability today to segment customers and prospects in very specific ways. Reality is there are many more choices for customers to source whatever it is you provide. The more you can segment your buyers, understand their interests, and provide that to them during their buying process, the more successful you can be.

A well-done e-commerce site is a great example of this. Let’s say you go to a sporting goods site. On your first visit to the site you primarily view the products specific to kayaking. There are platforms now that, when you come back to that site, you will see nothing but kayaking gear first. You will likely also see ads for the kayaking products you viewed, while you are on other sites. That’s doing it well. That platform will convert.

Principle #4: Consumers suffer from information overload.
The concept of consumer information overload is not new. Customers have always felt this way.

Today, companies have an incredible amount of information about you, where you have been, and what you have purchased. Companies can circumvent this issue effectively by using and leveraging behavioral algorithms to cut through the noise and bring you exactly what you want. The better you understand and learn how to do this, the easier it will be to grab the customer’s attention.

Principle #5: Marketers like to impress themselves and each other, while leaving their customers behind. Don’t be this kind of marketer.
Always provide the simple, plain, clear and direct statement. Often, as marketers, we’ll latch onto the latest thing, or spend lavishly on a campaign, to impress other marketers. Our job is to inform the customer and know who they are. It is not to impress peers with how brilliant our marketing is.

Should your business be on Snapchat? Facebook? Maybe. Whose question are you trying to answer? Are you trying to help somebody? Will it actually help a customer you are trying to reach or will you just annoy them? You should go for new things if you can answer these questions and it makes sense.

Principle #6: Track what causes sales.
We can track just about anything today. That’s great. But, what you really must track is what causes the sale to happen. Important to understand, however, is what actually causes the sale to happen doesn’t always look good as a single line item on a spreadsheet.

For example, within a Facebook ad campaign, you might choose to target 5,000 very specific prospects. Let’s say you invest a couple thousand dollars on designing and executing the campaign, and then generate $400 directly from that effort. On the surface, that does not look like money well spent. But, that’s missing the point. One activity will not cause the sale. There are many steps, so many influences, that all work together to create the sale. It is more likely that one first sees the Facebook ad – multiple times – while reviewing their feed, then sees multiple banner ads on other sites, hears someone talking about the product or service, reads some reviews on the Web, and then decides to go direct to your website to purchase. All of those steps caused the sale to happen.

Looking and measuring the marketing effort holistically is so important. Trying and testing tweaks to individual parts of the marketing mix, and seeing the impact a small change has or not is the game. No single piece or tactic to your marketing is going to be the direct attributor to any sale. It’s all of it together.


Kurt Theriault is president of Allied Executives and works with CEOs, business owners and executive leaders on leadership development and business performance improvement through peer groups, coaching and educational workshops. Visit www.alliedexecutives.com or email Kurt at ktheriault@alliedexecutives.com.