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You Can’t Win the Marketing Arms Race

By Sander Biehn | Dec 15, 2013

Quick, it’s an emergency and you really need to be an author. Don’t worry you can pay someone to write the book. But this is a real emergency, you need to be a best-selling author. You probably already know this, but that is also  for sale. Along with the needed interviews on media outlets, you can buy Twitter followers, hits and likes. It appears everything is for sale. This has led the command-and-control types in American big business to surmise that Social Media is no longer free. It is simply the new medium to launch your messages and it comes at a cost like everything else.

But why does buying time on a medium that is supposed to be democratic and free rub the liberal arts major in me the wrong way?  Am I the final hold out in a world that has otherwise succumb to the fact that the grand idea marketplace is nothing more than auction for the highest bidder?

Possibly I am. But I believe the world is too full of simpleminded thinking that yields control to money and social media trickery. I still think that being fantastic is a legitimate path to popularity and thought-leadership.  Great ideas also cost money to create and share with a target audience,  and there are no guarantees. Your idea could die a slow death, be ignored or misunderstood. Or it could take off like wild fire. Here’s the upside. If your idea organically goes viral, you enjoy the climb to the top with very little investment and the admiration and loyalty of everyone who helps propel you there. Ad impressions can win you a sale, but not always a repeat customer.

Providing content that  inspires and truly helps a consumer is powerful magic. It proves to your followers that you care about  them. If you stumble, no need to worry.  These fans are not fickle and they will forgive your missteps and even help you back on your feet so you can continue your mission in the marketplace. By contrast popularity that is bought in the myriad of ways available in the market today only serves to put businesses in the line of fire when a problem occurs.

Often times, because companies bought their way into the limelight, they are insecure at heart and inexperienced in dealing with the issues that arise. Meanwhile, companies who earn their way into positions of power have learned valuable lessons along the way. Lessons that will enable them to act authentically when a problem rears its ugly head.

I don’t want to give the impression that I believe that no purchased self-promotion is good. It can help. For those with the biggest budgets, it can even create stardom. But it is a marketing arms race. An arms race that might be won with a flower-in-the-muzzle approach (see image above).  There is a place for marketing tools as well. I was speaking with a CEO of a social media software company who was bemoaning the constant need for content last week. It seems everyone wants what they do not possess.

The best approach is to not enter the arms race, especially if you have a product that you believe in. Figure out what is great about your products and your company. Post content that shows customers how use your product to their advantage. Be real and have fun.  Trust me, people see through the hype no matter how clever the computers are behind the scenes.   You can never go wrong being yourself, and while you may not create the instant stir your competition does, you may create a sustained and loyal customer base for the long run.


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