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The New Rules for Marketing

What works today is the exact opposite of what worked a decade ago.
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If you think of marketing as the same thing it was twenty (or even ten) years ago, you're basically screwed. The reason is simple. What works today is the opposite of what worked in the past.

The Old Rules

Here's are the rules for marketing that are taught in most business courses, and are common inside most companies (many of whom are struggling):

  • Step 1. Create a product that has a broad appeal to a large number of consumers or buyers.
  • Step 2. Reach as large an audience as possible with a message that appeals to  many of those potential buyers.
  • Step 3. Create a recognizable brand name that can be extended into additional product categories.

While it's true that companies following these rules have, in the past, been able to build strong brands like Sony and Coke, this type of "broadcast marketing" no longer works because:

  1. The Internet and wealth of media outlets has fragmented consumers and buyers into ever smaller groups, each with its own characteristics and interests.
  2. Messages that appeal to those consumers and buyer must be highly customized and specific in order to gain any attention.
  3. The proliferation of brand and brand messages has become so overwhelming that consumer and buyers simply tune them out.

In other words, what worked for Coke ain't gonna work for you.

The New Rules

Here's what DOES work:

  • Step 1. Create a product that addresses a very specific type of consumer and buyer.
  • Step 2. Target your initial messaging at that audience in order to "convert" them into your advocates.
  • Step 3. Have those advocates define your brand name and the future of your offerings.

Note that this is the exact opposite of what worked in the past.

  1. Where the old rules were "broadcast" and used various forms of mass media, the new rules are "narrowcast" and use highly targeted media.
  2. Where the old rules were all about reaching the masses, the new rules are all about reaching small groups of individuals.
  3. Where the old rules left you in control of your brand and destiny, the new rules puts that control in the hands of your customers.

Ignore these new rules at your own peril.

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IMAGE: wackelijmrooster/Flickr
Last updated: Mar 1, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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