Marketing's Future isn't "I Want to Go Back"

I’ve too often heard a phrase from news commentators during interviews and politicians in recent debates that puts me off. The commentator or politician chirps, “I want to go back” after a point had been made minutes earlier, after the flow the conversation had moved on. “I want to go back,” is often not a solution that serves anyone.

There is no going back. Once the genie is out of the bottle, an attempt to “go back” is usually futile. 

If you’re a baby boomer-aged marketer, there may be a good chance that you want to “go back.” That is, go back just a few years when we didn’t have to juggle so many marketing channels. In the past, as direct marketers, we relied on direct mail and catalogs mostly. We used print advertising, inserts, direct response television or radio, and other alternate media as well. And we’d have an in-house mailing list of customers. 

Today, mailing list ownership gets fuzzy. We need to build more than a direct mail list. We need to entice customers to opt-in for email or SMS. If you get a lot of spam, you see, first-hand, the abuse of lists. Marketers build social media followers, but those followers aren’t like a customer a list, and they are never ours to own. They are merely rented, so to speak, and who’s to say that someday the big social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others won’t suddenly start to charge us for the use of the list (or somehow otherwise hold us hostage to access our followers)? Already, if you want your social media content to appear to your followers before sinking to oblivion at the bottom of the news feed, you have to pay.

Then there is the need to have a presence in multiple new channels to meet your prospects where they are in the world. Websites, landing pages, email, social media, video, remarketing, search engine marketing—the list of channel opportunities grows every season.

With concepts like nurture marketing and content marketing, sometimes we ask ourselves “is this different, or the same as, direct marketing as we knew it?” or “is this a subset of direct marketing?” So we ask: where do we, as direct marketers, fit in the mix with so many buzz phrases?

The speed of change and new channels is dizzying. As marketers we must prioritize what channels we’ll use. It’s tempting to boil it down to the numbers. But I don’t think it’s always that easy. Social media, for example, based on my experience and what I hear from others, generally doesn’t provide great conversion. It’s a glance-and-forget channel. It may be low-cost, but there is a real commitment to using effective content marketing and social media. Many organizations, depending upon the category, must have a social media presence to be considered relevant. If you’re going to play in that game, you must have a plan to bring those individuals into your sales funnel so you can monetize all of that time and effort.

Having a strong working knowledge of all these marketing channel choices is challenging, but I don’t want to go back to limited channel options. I want to look forward and embrace what’s new and coming on the horizon. Channel choices that better identify where to find, and how to serve prospects and customers, makes us more effective marketers.

“I want to go back” is the problem. “I want to look forward” is the solution.


Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.