Everything You Need To Know About Marketing You Learned in Kindergarten

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This picture is a nice letter I received from my insurance company. They sent along some coupons that I can hand out to friends. If my friends sign up, I get a $10 gift certificate to a restaurant. No one called me, no one talked to me, they just sent me old-school spam. I'm not against direct mailings. They have a time and a place, but engaging current customers to be evangelists is not something you do with direct mail.

I wouldn't have called out this poor example of marketing except that I've seen so much of it lately. I've been up to my eyeballs in SEO these last few months because I've had to study it for some of my upcoming ventures. The question everyone in almost all the SEO forums keeps asking is "how do I get people to link to me?" But then they never like the answer. They want a magic bullet. They want some trick that gets their message in front of people without putting any thought into it. If you want to get linked, write something interesting. Give something of value. Make something worth talking about. Share something with the community.

Sometimes I think marketers need to return to kindergarten. They need to be taught about sharing and about relationships, because in a world where listening to marketing messages is like drinking from a firehose, they need something special to stand out. They need a relationship. To get that relationship, they need to share something. It's not a one-way street.

I get dozens of PR releases every week. Some are interesting, most aren't. What is worse is that most of them attempt a personal pitch using what is obviously an email template. I keep waiting for someone to accidently send one that says

Hi {$Blogger},
I've been reading {$Blog} for quite some time…

Oops. Sent that too quickly.

When will these PR firms get it? If they want the blogosphere to talk about their clients, they need to get their clients involved in the blogosphere. If they want to have any credibility at all, they need to get involved in the conversation, or at least do something worth talking about.

Companies see a successful industry portal and they think hey, let's build our own portal so those people will come here. (Ok, it was lenient to call that thinking) Why the hell can't they just go participate where the customers already are? I just don't get it. We grow up, we go to B-school, and we have to stop being real. It reminds me of Tom Hanks in You've Got Mail. He says to Meg Ryan "it's not personal, it's business." And she responds with "What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All it means is it's not personal to you, but it's personal to me, it's personal to a lot of people…whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.

And that's why 9 out of 10 businesspundits recommend relationships over magic bullets.