If there are two words I see in this industry that make me groan and walk away, it's the phrase making money. I don't want to go into the politics of recent, but a company made a decision to launch a controversial marketing campaign. One of my colleagues stated it was brilliant marketing because it's going to make them a ton of money.
Look, they're a corporation and can do whatever they'd like with their marketing. And jumping into a popular controversy may be great for eyeballs and even dollar signs. But I don't believe that the goal of marketing is to make money. I've worked for many companies that were all about making money, and they're either suffering or dead – because making money was the most important metric.
- Newspapers – I worked for newspapers which had a monopoly on advertising and continued to crank up their rates. The news became the “filler between the ads”. When competition came online, consumers and advertisers couldn't wait to jump ship.
- SaaS – I worked for some of the largest Software as a Service providers in the industry. In their zeal to beat the goals every quarter, I watched them shmooze clients and then run them over for the next more significant client. When the founders launched their future startups, those old clients didn't answer the phone. And when new solutions were discovered, forgotten clients migrated.
Making money is a short-term goal that takes the focus off of everything necessary to build a thriving business. Money is what's exchanged between a company and its customers for the value they bring. Money is critical – charge too much and your customer may feel ripped off and leave. If you don't charge enough, you may not be able to afford to properly serve the customer. Money is a variable… but building a solid relationship is what's critical.
Marketing plays a role by trying to find, identify, and target the prospective customers who need your product or service and that look like your best customers. Every week I walk away from deals where I don't believe I'm a fit to work with the company. Some companies even get upset that I won't help them – but I know that the short-term goal of making money almost destroyed my business in the past. When I found the right customer, waited patiently to work with them, set appropriate expectations, and was assured that they needed and wanted my products and services… that's when we built a relationship.
Let me put a couple examples out there:
- I'm helping a fundraising company that works with schools right now. They've had incredible growth over the last couple years that I've been assisting them – but it's because they're keenly focused on who the right schools are to work with. They avoid working in schools where their product could cause conflict between students… and, instead, they support those schools through their philanthropy. Could they make money by selling to them? Of course… but they know it's not in the best interest of the school.
- I'm helping a data center company who is innovative and independent. They could make money by selling small engagements all year long… they're much more profitable in the short term. However, they know that large, enterprise customers with compliance challenges are where they shine. So, they market to large businesses and avoid marketing to the small companies.
- I'm helping a home services business that does roofing, siding, and other exterior services. They're a family business that has been around for almost 50 years in the community. Their competition makes promises and leaves a trail of terrible engagements by using heavy-handed sales and pushing every customer to a close or an upsell. My client chooses to walk away from those engagements and, instead, market to the friends, family, and neighbors of their clients.
- I'm helping a water testing business whose first goal was to help consumers test their water quality with home kits. However, they identified a much larger issue where municipalities didn't have tracking software to fully comply with local, state, and federal regulations. They knew they could make much more impact with their goal of helping change the quality of water in the country if they pivoted and focused long-term on government contracts.
In all these cases, we're not looking to make money. Our marketing efforts are to optimize and match the products and services of the businesses that we're helping with the prospective customers that they can serve. All of these companies have great growth, but it's because they know when they have to turn away from making money… not go after it.
Any marketer can help a company make money. Fewer marketers help businesses thrive and grow with customers who appreciate their products and services. Over the last decade with my own business, I've found that money actually comes as a result of finding and working with the right clients. My marketing is to find those companies, not to look for and make money. I hope that's your focus as well.