I wonder how the Beatles choose the Maharishi to help provide their spiritual guidance. In fact, I wonder what my father felt when, like so many others during their hippie years, he traveled to India to find a guru of his own. How did one choose between so many competing messages of peace and harmony? Recently, I have been on a search for my own guru, a marketing guru. If you can bear with me to the end, I have discovered the true path to choosing the right one for you.
Since beginning work as a marketing intern at a nonprofit, I have voraciously consumed books, blog posts, twitter updates and website content from a host of marketing gurus and companies. Much of the information I have consumed has been useful, guiding my practice and my decision making in helping create a marketing strategy for the National Parents Organization.
Marketing in the digital age has changed considrably. Instead of TV and print ads, most companies are beginning to focus on online content and social media. It's about giving away benefits/value (content), and building engagement (social media).
Now to the Gurus. There are too many to list here, but I will focus on 3 of the big hitters.
"Inbound Marketing," espoused by the marketing software firm HubSpot, was developed by gurus Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. It takes its name from the conceptual shift from traditional "loudspeaker" methods, such as billboards and ads, to a focus on making oneself easy to find online and providing benefits to the consumer, such as novel information or entertainment.
"Permission Marketing," developed concurrently to Inbound Marketing by Seth Godin, takes its name from the conceptual shift from forcing a product down consumers throats to making it readily available and earning their trust and "permission" to market to them by providing content.
"Content Marketing," often tied to innovator David Meerman Scott, takes its name from its relentless focus on creating and distributing content. This was one of the earlier philosophical shifts, and strongly influcenced both Inbound and Permission Marketing.
The honest truth about all of these new marketing philosophies, along with many others, is that they are all ESSENTIALLY THE SAME THING. Although different marketing firms, such as Likeable Media, HubSpot, Marketo, etc. all publicize their own system, even they generally acknowledge the undeniable similarities.
1) First and foremost, provide interesting and engaging content. This can be as a blog, a website, a Facebook page, etc. Most gurus and marketing consulting firms correctly note that this is the most important focus.
2) Make this content easy to find, share, and engage with. This includes a focus on Search Engine Optimization, soliciting and responding to comments, utilizing social media, etc.
After that the details vary, but they follow more traditional marketing strategies. How do you close the marketing loop with analytics? How do you attract more customers to widen the top of your marketing "funnel?" How do you draw them down the funnel by engaging with them? How do you get them to subscribe and become viable marketing leads? How do you qualify them as potential sales leads? How do you convert them into customers? And finally, how do you engage with them afterwards and convert them into evangelists and supporters?
They all focus on content, SEO, "Likes," landing pages, and using micro-targeting tactics to engage customers at the point they are ready to purchase. They are generally unconcerned with traditional marketing principles (segmentation, pricing, placement, promotion, etc.). SO HOW TO CHOOSE?
Pick one. Seth Godin is kind of "guru-looking," so maybe him. Plus, he comes up at the top of a Google search for the term "Marketing Guru."