I’m a week late on this so my condolences to the Marketing family. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review – traditional marketing is dead. Apparently, you are no longer influenced by what you see on the television, hear on the radio or read in the papers.

Now, ALL of your buying decisions are influenced by what your friends tell you and what you find on-line. The new and undisputed champion of all things marketing is – once again -Social Media (cue roaring audience).

Except that this is total bullshit.

According to Bill Lee (who is a consultant, not the former Red Sox pitcher) there are several reasons we are sitting Shiva for marketing. Of course, he cites some serious sounding surveys and studies that back up his points. He is writing for the Harvard Business Review so he can’t just pull this stuff out of his…thin air.

He gives two reasons for Marketing’s untimely demise. First, we are no longer paying attention. We are making decisions by doing our OWN research. Look, there is no question that we are now able to find out more about the products and services we purchase by searching the web. But, what is the spark that ignites that search? WHY do we do our due diligence before we buy? Could it have something to do with awareness? And, could awareness have something to do with marketing? It’s a thought.

Second, he cites a study that says a whopping 73% of CEOs think their CMOs are idiots (or the equivalent). THAT is a reason for the death of Marketing? Perhaps those dissatisfied CEOs need to hire better CMOs. Again, just a thought.

The article then goes on to sell us on the fact that the “new” marketing is all about…wait for it…influencers, engagement, etc, etc, etc.

You see, all that money you are spending on TV or radio creative is just a waste of time. What you need to be doing is finding your most passionate customers and convert them into evangelists. There is no question that word-of-mouth advertising is powerful. And, in today’s connected age consumers are more willing to believe reviews they read on-line from total strangers than they are anything you tell them.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lee leaves out a very important part of this equation – motivation. What motivates people to talk about your business? Two things – money and emotion.

On the money side you can give your customers amazing deals. They might talk about that. Or, you can pay them to spread your word. While that will undercut their credibility because they are now working for you – it will ensure that they actually post, blog and tweet about how great you are. Either way, this requires an enormous amount of work to accomplish. Besides the difficulty in identifying these “influencers”- you have to convince them to speak on your behalf. In essence, you are asking them to work for you.

You have a better chance to get customers to talk about you by playing to their emotions. This is a double-edged sword because people are much more likely to complain than praise. Think of your own experiences. When you go into a Starbucks or your local dry cleaner you EXPECT a certain level of service. If that level falls below your expectations you are likely to complain because you paid for less than what you got. This process is IMMEDIATE. You’re pissed off and want someone to do something about it – right now! If you are not given satisfaction you now have avenues – Yelp, Angie’s list, foursquare, etc – where you can vent away.

On the other hand, when service or products EXCEED your expectations you are left with feeling good about the experience. You will continue to patronize that business and if they CONTINUALLY exceed your expectations (a bar that will raise over time) you might be motivated to talk about it – in real-time or via your social networks. This process is evolutionary.

The key to getting people to talk about you is to under promise and over deliver – all the time. Great customer service needs to be part of your business’ DNA. (to see an example of this click here).

Marketing is a part of everything you do. From your logo to how your receptionist (or automated phone system) answers calls to the look of your website to the message you are sending to current and potential customers. It is also a system by where you make people aware of you. Yes, people will search a particular business category to see how good you are compared to your competition. But, effective external marketing will pre-sell them. People like to deal with businesses they are familiar with. THAT is what traditional, old-fashioned, intrusive marketing does. It introduces you to people.

What you do beyond that is up to you.

Your thoughts?