rainbows
Marketers, please, can you drop the platitudes already? PHOTO: Todd Cravens

My mentor and former boss at Forrester used to write comments like “MP” and “TMSIDK” in my report drafts.  

For the uninitiated, those mean “meaningless platitude” and “tell me something I don’t know,” respectively. Reading those letters stung whenever they came up. But he was (almost) always right: I either wasn’t saying something of value or the way I was saying it wouldn’t be clear or useful to a reader.

The marketing industry today needs a shot in the arm of the TMSIDK-treatment. 

Platitudes Come With Expiration Dates

It’s not just vendors that have co-opted and over-used phrases and concepts in their messaging. Thought leaders of all kinds are guilty of using the same tropes to describe the world we market in. I just received an email from one of my favorite industry sites that has high quality commentary and even that post had the header: “Buying behavior and profiles have changed.” 

Ugh.

After years of hearing about “empowered customers” and “non-linear customer journeys” and how marketers “no longer can rely on traditional tactics,” I ask you: what am I supposed to do with this information? 

What is the alternative? If things have changed but we’ve been saying that for more than five years, what does that mean for a marketer? Is this a moving target? Am I falling further behind? Was this one big event or an accumulation of them? Is it fast moving or a slow burn?

Or, more likely, we’re recycling what was already a bombastic and urgent call-to-action in 2010 and because no one has apparently been able to decidedly crack the code, we’re perpetuating it long past its shelf life. 

Some of the meaningless platitudes I especially enjoy are:

'Break Down Silos'

Just grab that battering ram, guys, and have at those pesky silos. 

Or, get real about what the underlying issue is here, which is that digital channels produce and store different data types that wreak havoc on marketers’ ability to integrate and measure marketing programs. 

You don’t need to consolidate the social media and display teams or ask every type of marketer to use one master toolset that is jack of all trades but master of none. Instead, define a shared set of priorities by group (be that channel, funnel stage or customer segment) for technology and measurement that acts as a framework to operate cohesively, but still discretely. 

Segmentation is a perfect example. The email team has its lists, the web team has its traffic cohorts and advertising has audience targets. This is a great place for everyone to come together, share their definitions and objectives, and identify ways they can work together to support every groups’ work.

'Consumers Demand a 1:1 Experience'

Do they? Sure, they say they want one in response to surveys — but what’s the alternative? 

“That’s OK — I’m a big fan of just being one of many, thanks!” 

Obviously no. And I think it’s a little disingenuous to assign responsibility on our consumers for the trend toward more tailored interactions rather than the fact that it’s just more effective, plain and simple. 

Intelligent engagement based on what you know about the person drives better marketing performance. Mind you, “personalization” can be defined dozens of ways and as a result, it’s easy to say that everyone does it, wants to do it, and/or does it poorly. But when they do it well, it’s super effective.

'The Customer Journey is Fragmented'

Wrong. A customer certainly wouldn’t consider it fragmented, so why should we as marketers?  

The fact is the customer journey may involve a lot of steps, and marketers are ill-equipped to respond. 

For example: various martech tools create customer data of different types and formats, which means it can be problematic using behavioral data you collected via the web for advertising that relies heavily on demographics or a limited number of events to target. This leads to the scenario everyone has experienced: a shopper completes a purchase, and then gets retargeted for the following three weeks on every site they visit because that kind of advertising doesn't come with an off switch. 

Or, you have lists of contacts in your email service provider but ask those same people to sign up for your newsletter when they’re on your website. Instead of blaming customers for hopping from channel to channel, look at how to solve the disconnects your processes or systems have created.

The business case for change in marketing should be that doing things differently works better. 

Yes, your customers and technology have changed and will continue to do so, but waxing poetic about a new paradigm doesn’t provide any concrete guidance about what to do in response, nor does it acknowledge a sliding scale for that response.