Vapid Internet Marketing & "I won't get fooled again" skepticism

Ed Marsh | Oct 16, 2013

Weekend blog posts

“The theories men construct, and the words in which they are framed, often influence their mind more strongly than the facts presented by reality.” Wilhelm Röpke

Ergo, if we blog it, and state it authoritatively, it must be.

Perhaps, but only in our own little parallel reality. And there’s a danger that someone may embrace our theories to the detriment of their business. Therefore practitioners of B2B internet marketing have not only selfish financial interests but professional, and I would argue ethical, obligations to provide advice founded upon expertise.

So, what triggered this rant you ask? A series of posts I read this weekend.

First I came across Matt Cook's latest installment on his journalist's perspective on quality content. I particularly appreciated his thoughts on "Been There, Read That." After all, we've all clicked on interesting headlines only to find the content was a regurgitation of the standard crap.

b2b internet marketingA short while later I landed on one of those "been there, read that" posts in Sam Lowe's (@I_am_SamLowe) piece from @WeidertGroup Whole Brain Marketing Blog syndicated on @B2Community. I found myself wondering whether Matt Cook had seen this one when he sat down to write....

Before I beat up on Sam, let me note that Weidert does great work and I have shared some of Sam's material via twitter in the past. And each of us produces work that varies in quality. Maybe this was just a bad day. But it offers a great teaching moment.

Blending content marketing related topics of campaign creation, inbound marketing, social media marketing and analytics, Sam purported to describe the process of developing a “well-maintained and executed social media approach” globally. Suffice it to say, he overreached.

On the one hand it's not Sam's fault. (Although maybe @greglinn could tighten up the editing process a bit...) He's young, eager, confident and deep in the weeds of today's cutting edge marketing. And today's millennials are more naturally global than most preceding generations. A semester abroad is now nearly a graduation requirement in many degree programs.

But he's never actually done it. Based on his LinkedIn profile, he's never run a business; he's never worked internationally; and he's certainly never mixed the two.

And yet he's providing definitive advice on international social media marketing.

Skepticism and the rise of DiY B2B Marketing

As more of this SEO optimized but rather vacuous content floats around, serious companies that recognize the need to adopt new approaches become jaundiced toward internet marketing because they have been overpromised and encounter so much hyperbolic drivel.

The reaction, a trend toward "Do It Yourself" digital marketing, is counterproductive as Laura Donovan (@TheWordPro) points out in her recent post and we've written here before

And the result is more mediocrity. Nobody wins in this reinforcing cycle.

quality b2b content marketingThe Cure - Cerebral Strategy, Planning & Expertise

To be an expert requires bruises - not just academic insight. One must make mistakes, lose money, blow deals, become frustrated and persevere. That's true in any field. And I personally know it to be true both in B2B internet marketing and in international business development. And further, when you combine the two the result is an incredibly complex activity. It's precisely the sort of big topic that requires high-level thought and expertise - and which we distill into a set of KISS bullet points to our detriment. (Read Sally Helgesen's great post on that from @StratandBiz.)

Ultimately the result of oversimplification is overconfidence. Too many companies have created social media accounts, started energetically spraying updates....and learned that no value is created.

Similarly, too many companies have defied the naysayers and decided to diversify globally though export sales...only to grow frustrated as diffuse focus and ad hoc efforts yield little.

Both of these initiatives require careful planning and strategic direction. Combining the two more than squares the complexity - and the need for executive experience.

Internet marketing must be informed by clear strategic drivers and SMART goals. In turn, specific buyer personas are created and an integrated sales process that attracts, converts, nurtures and delights buyers is created around content that supports today's buying process and the specific perspective of those personas. Productive social media activity maps to that process directly. It's an important piece, particularly for conversation vs. one-way broadcast, but it's a support element.

A global sales growth strategy provides great value for many companies. Revenue & profit growth, increased business valuation, reduced taxes and lessons learned for application in one’s home market are all benefits of well executed global diversification. But it doesn’t happen by accident. A carefully integrated international sales approach draws on a number of disciplines and starts with a careful analysis of whether to export, and to which markets. Then an international marketing strategy will protect brand continuity, adapt messaging, localize product and develop market specific target personas with resulting transcreation of content. Later, much later, social media will be considered in the context of product, market & persona – not a carbon copy of the US model with a different twitter handle.

International inbound marketing is an awesome tool to help companies recognize where international opportunity may exist. But pursuing those opportunities willy-nilly is the export analog to simply burping stuff out on a blog without a strategy.

Chitter chatter or pitter patter?

The lesson from Roepke therefore, whether you are a consultant offering solutions to B2B companies, or the latter, resisting the "me too" offerings of marketing agencies, is to rely on facts and not your 'theories' and endless words.

There are awesome inbound marketing agencies....and there are charlatans. Similarly there are B2B companies searching for the right resources to succeed, just as there are many companies content to expend their energy thrashing about proving they can do something...and never quite doing so.

What's your goal? To talk about what you 'could do'? Or to do it?

business growth, international business development, SMB marketing,


image credits - sonic boom & vain and vapid