No, no, that's not the title of Seth Godin's next book. "Accidental marketing" refers to a pervasive Web-based trend that is focused on the "how" of marketing but not on the "what" or the "why." It's frightening to watch people get all excited about new technology that allows them to perform miracles and then track the results of their miracles with thousands of metrics -- when those miracles have little or nothing to do with actually converting traffic or closing a sale. I'm no Luddite, but I often don't know whether to laugh or cry when I read about these brilliant new marketing tools.
So what's wrong with the greatest and latest marketing tools? Nothing at all is wrong with them per se. However, I'd like you to picture the following scenario. You and I decide to get into the entertainment business, perhaps making movies, since I hear you can make big money from it. We find some investors, buy some great real estate for the studio, buy all the latest equipment, negotiate awesome distribution deals, contract with some high-priced talent (how about Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts -- let's not spare a dime), then spend like mad on advertising for a movie about... how wall paint dries differently in different climates.
Can you imagine how unsuccessful we would be? It's not the tools of the trade (the "how") that would cause us to fail but rather the "what" and the "why." The two questions that we failed to ask are, "What will people perceive as valuable enough to pay for?" and, "Why can we provide it better than the competition?"
It's obvious, at least to most of us, that even if we buy the same basketball shoes as Michael Jordan, that alone won't give us his abilities. Great marketers, like great athletes, aren't born that way; they are trained to develop their natural abilities and hone their skills. Persuading people to take action is both an art and a science requiring lots of intelligent planning by professionals trained in the fundamentals of marketing and in exactly how marketing needs to be done to support sales.
Here's the definition of marketing according to the American Marketing Association: Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives. Did you notice how broad that definition is? Is that what you think of when you think of marketing? In most companies, the marketing department is dominated by either creative or analytical personalities. Instead of looking at the marketing process as a holistic strategy concerned with the objectives of the larger business, the process becomes tactical and emphasizes analyzing or separates it into parts. It's this sort of myopia that is the leading cause of accidental marketing, which is getting customers in ways that have nothing to do with, or even in spite of, your marketing program.
By now you may be anxiously thinking, "How can I tell if my business is practicing accidental marketing?" As you continue to read, be brutally honest with yourself about your responses to the following questions:
Also, if you have one or more of these symptoms, you are engaged in accidental marketing:
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Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.