3 “big rules” of 21st century marketing

In a recent post I talked about some signs your marketing is outdated. Today I’ll share some tips on updating your marketing for the 21st century:

Big Rule #1: Make it about people.

Build community. Clients, customers and prospective students and program participants are bombarded with options. Every day. Give them a place to belong and they’ll not only come to you, they’ll stay a while.

Eliminate the sales talk. It’s old. It’s tired. It’s annoying. Yes, you still need to sell services or products, but fast-talking sales pitches are out. The pushy sales approach is now considered harsh and insensitive to the other’s needs. Well, it always was that way, but now people have completely lost their tolerance for it.

Add a human element. I started talking about this when the first edition of 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program came out in 2002. Some people balked then, saying they didn’t have time for that; it took too much effort and there was not enough return on investment (ROI). My answer: If you don’t have time for other people, why would you expect them to have time for you? It’s about people. For example, on your website, list the names of people who hold positions of leadership. People want to connect with other people, not with some big (or small) organization they know nothing about.

Big Rule #2: Build trust

Give away a sample. Ever been to one of those big-box grocery stores and they’re giving away samples at the end of every aisle? Why are they doing this? Because people love to try new things. If they try it, and they like it, they’ll buy it. If they’re not sure, the chances of them buying it goes down. How do you do this if you have a service-based business? Offer a free workshop, webinar or class. Let people try you without risk.

Ask for testimonials. Ask prior clients for testimonials about your work. In order to be considered reliable a testimonial has to have the name, and preferably also the organization (or at least the city) of the person giving it. Testimonials need to be authentic in order to be credible.

Stick around. Doing consistent marketing over time is what gets results. People will trust you more once you’ve been around a while. In my experience, it takes at least a few months of consistent marketing, relationship building and community building before much happens. I’ve had clients come back to me years after an initial conversation or short contract. If I wasn’t still around, they couldn’t work with me, now could they?

Big Rule #3: Leave a digital footprint

Have a web site. Are you laughing when you read this? I still meet services organizations that do not have a website. Seriously! There’s no excuse today not to have a website. If you can’t afford your own domain, then start a blog through a service like WordPress or Blogger.

Use social media. You don’t have to be a social media addict, but it does help if you have a web presence. Social media isn’t going away. Learn to use it to your advantage, rather than resisting what is here to stay.

Be “Google-able”. Where do you look when you want to find out more about a product, service or an organization? On line. Where do you think other people look when they want to find out about you? The same place. You don’t need to pay a lot of money for “SEO optimization”. Just be out there. A website and using social media are good way to start.


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

One Response to 3 “big rules” of 21st century marketing

  1. […] marketing requires you to have contact with customers through multiple channels.  According to Dr. Sarah Eaton, “contact with customers in the 21st Century model is about engaging them in conversation, […]

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