How to build a company – Wasted Marketing Money

July 21, 2011

Marketing is important to a newly established company. Eager to succeed, ready to spread the gospel, we went through all the steps – of old style marketing. Although we always had a clear picture of what kind of business we wanted to be in (partly thanks to a session with Bob Bloom, former Chairman and CEO of Publicis Worldwide, the global marketing services company), with whom we wanted to work, and how we wanted to operate and grow this business, even what our portfolio of services would look like, we had difficulty marketing it.

Once more, we went through the vision-mission-promise to clients-positioning statement-pitch exercise, and commissioned all the basis materials we thought were part of the deal: the corporate image and the logo, the flyers and the binders, the website and the pictures. It did not feel good, though. The multi-(or many-) syllable statements did not feel like our own but like gobbledygook and restraint us, the folders gathered dust in drawers, and the newsletters we postponed month after month.

At some point we noticed, much too late, but we noticed, that we did not get the response we expected: we had walked directly into the trap of marketer, web developer and hosting partner.
Our site dictated what we could communicate, about ourselves. Despite all the beautiful pitches about social media integration, web2.0 and such, we could not interact with our network. All we could do was broadcast how good we were. It felt like hullaballoo marketing. A digital flyer, trying to create attention.
Similarly we were trapped by our webhoster/developer MarsId who, despite pretending to be an open source focussed, networking company were of the old-fashioned kind: “give us specs, and we try to build it, pay us per hour and we will tell you afterwards how many hours we used”. Flexibility: impossible. Blogs? Not working, twitter integration: don’t know how. In the end, when we were looking for an alternative they came up with the good old copyright scam. Pay us more or die. We paid.

Meanwhile our marketer was writing leaflets and sending press releases, none of which ever resulted in an article about us. Why do we have to talk to the press? We have to communicate with our tribe: our partners, our associates, our staff, our friends, our customers and all the people who have the same drive and interest as we have, including our competitors.

Several things did work for us. LinkedIn was and is an important channel to connect and share. Links to articles we published on our site never failed to generate attention and reactions. WhatsQooking events were a success. Cooking with clients and partners, with a chef, with speakers on subjects that interest us, always led to interesting and fun evenings. Obviously, what worked best was our face-to-face meetings with people. We had numerous meetings, with people who did or did not share our enthusiasm, which led to more meetings which led to new partners entering our partnership, to customers hiring us to work with them, to associates joining our network, and to many new friends, sharing their ideas and, in some instances, making us equally enthusiastic about their businesses, ideas and ideals. But you can only have so many meetings each week.

Luckily we are avid readers of blogs and enthusiastic watchers of TED.

We came across a 2009 talk from Simon Sinek. His story about “Why” changed our view on Marketing drastically. Everything seemed to fall into place. We wanted to communicate about our why, our how, and then our what, we were convinced interaction was more important than transaction, and we started to think about overhauling our internet presence.
People like David Meerman Scott convinced us that we had to think like publishers, and share our content, our connections with anyone who is interested. David was a speaker at the European Growth Summit, where we were the guests of Kees de Jong.

David encourages companies to think like publishers, create news releases rather than press releases, and develop content based on your organisations’ purpose, your business goals. Of course to some extent, we had this content, but in the form of articles and white-papers, training material and tools. All the expertise anyone could need on Programme and Portfolio Management, on Benefits Management and Strategy Execution is available. That is not the kind of thought leadership we are talking about here, though. At least, it is not all of it. We became convinced that we had to share, with a level of transparency, authenticity and openness that scared us, all of what interests and moves us. All that goes well and that goes wrong. As we would with our best friends and a bottle of wine.

It is free, but scary. It is a lot of work, but fun. We will give away, and maybe scare away, but it fits us like a glove. This is how we want to work. We will try to have no secrets, write about the Why, the What, the How, sometimes the Who. We will learn from and work with those people who understand what we stand for: a network of experts who tie their success to the success of others; clients, partners, staff and candidates alike. We will provide value, knowledge and connections without sending an invoice. And we will stop buying attention by advertising, AdWords campaigns or airtime at events. Instead, we will earn it by our content, our successful projects, the success of our clients.

The “bug and beg interruption marketing” is out of the door. Permission marketing is more fun.We meet so many remarkable people, who share our worldview and who want to work with us. There are so many ideas to be shared, people to talk to, new developments and opportunities to be discovered. And besides: I always wanted to be a journalist and photographer.