Do the Old Rules of Marketing Still Work?

geralt / Pixabay As we hit the homestretch on 2020, I’ve been thinking about what is important to consider as we move to thinking about 2021 and recovering from the pandemic at some point in the new year. One of the topics that consistently comes up to me is: “How […]

geralt / Pixabay

As we hit the homestretch on 2020, I’ve been thinking about what is important to consider as we move to thinking about 2021 and recovering from the pandemic at some point in the new year.

One of the topics that consistently comes up to me is: “How will marketing change or be different now?”

My answer is almost always, “It depends.”


Because marketing is contextual and everyone’s marketing plan and approach should reflect their business and the goals that they have.

What I think the question does highlight is a need for folks to understand what parts of marketing are foundational and shouldn’t or don’t change no matter what environment you are in.

Today, I want to share a few of those foundational aspects of marketing that won’t change no matter what the environment looks like.

The customer still needs to have a voice in the organization:

I’m quite passionate about the need to listen to customers and take their needs into consideration when you are designing your marketing plans.

I’ll go a step further here because too many people reactively mumble, “Of course, we are focused on the customer.”

But I want you to go past that reflexive action and consider things from the point of view of the customer. An idea in marketing known as Market Orientation.

This matters and is foundational because too often we assume that we know what a customer wants or needs and we act as if we are afraid to talk with them.

You can’t do that and expect that you’ll be successful for long.

You have to get your customer’s voice and ideas inside the business. That’s the job of marketing. To figure out what the customer wants and give it to them.

Strategy before tactics should be a mantra:

In business we’ve seen such an acceleration of tools that we can use to get our messages out and our products in front of folks that we have forgotten about the need to know where we are going, what we are attempting to do, and what our goals are before we make any of those decisions.

The key is to put strategy first and tactics second.

Think of strategy as a map and tactics as finding a way to reach the destination.

Building a strategy first will give you the ability to be more creative and more successful implementing your tactics later.

And, strategy isn’t as complex as people make it out to be.

Start with two simple questions:

  1. Where will compete?
  2. How will we win?

Get to know your market:

The call for more and more data is everywhere!


Data is almost a reactive answer when any question is offered up at this point, but what is the data really there to do?

You want all of this data so that you can have a better understanding of the customers you want to serve.

How do you get data?

You can collect all kinds of data and this data can be pretty helpful when you have huge retail operations like Amazon or Target, but for most of us this kind of data isn’t helpful. In fact, if we try to collect data and think we must compete or use data in the way that big retailers do, we probably will end up in trouble.

Instead of going all BIG DATA, let’s look at stuff we can all do pretty cheaply and quickly.

Two terms to remember: qualitative and quantitative. These are the two types of research to familiarize yourself with.

Qualitative research is just getting a small group of folks together and getting an idea of what they are thinking and doing. You might think of a focus group as qualitative research and you’d be correct. But you can also gain pretty good data from just picking a few customers out a hat and having a chat.

Quantitative research is bigger stuff, more representative of your market. The key here is that you don’t need huge numbers of folks. I did a quick calculation of how many people I would need to get a response from to have a representative example of the population of the DC Metro area where I live along with between 6 and 7 million neighbors.

You want to guess how many folks I need?

About 385.

So quantitative research is representative and can be done using surveys of a population that isn’t necessarily huge but does represent a good sample of the folks you are attempting to reach.

Research is still going to be necessary.

In fact, it is foundational if you want to truly be a market oriented business and one that is driven by strategy before tactics because it gives you information on who your market is, what they need, and what they value.

The Holy Trinity of Marketing is your friend:


No, not the 90s rock band, but segmentation, targeting, and positioning.

These are the core of your marketing strategy and you’ll need them to be successful, even if you only use them loosely.

Segmentation is simple to consider.

You have a pizza and you slice it up. That’s what you are doing to the market. You are drawing a picture of your market and cutting the market up into individual segments built on what folks do.

Targeting, going back to the pizza, is about picking the slice you’d like.

My 10-year-old son always tries to get the biggest one.

There’s a lesson there.

Go for the biggest opportunity that you think you can grab.

You can pick more than one segment, but often picking the biggest opportunity and tackling it is the best decision.

Positioning is necessary because you have to show people a reason to pick you over something else. Your position is all about what makes you the right decision, what makes you different, and why folks should pick you.

You can’t position against nothing, you have to pick something or someone to position yourself against.

You’ll always need to understand the 4Ps:

Product! Price! Place! Promotion!

These are all distinct pieces of the tactical puzzle, but to hear most marketers talk over the last few years…you’d think that promotion is the only thing that matters.

Each of these you are going to have to make decisions about.

Product: what are you going to sell? How are you going to package your value?

Price: What will you charge?

Place: Where will you sell? How will you sell? What channels will you sell through?

Promotion: What will you do so that folks know about you and are willing to buy from you?

To me, these are the foundations of marketing that need to be constant and always in consideration.

There are some amazing new tools and ideas like TikTok that have a definite place in the marketing mix, but you shouldn’t go nuts with any of them without a strategy first.

Your price can be the biggest asset or liability you have, so get your pricing right at the start.

Do you research!

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be ahead of a lot of marketers!

Balmon Hyper

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