The Why of People-First Marketing

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Stephanie Chadwick Photo

2 minutes

Connect with people to build loyalty, brand affinity and endearment.

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What is marketing, anyway?

Some (well, many) would argue that marketing is about sales. The words “sales” and “marketing” go hand-in-hand. For over a decade, my title was SVP/sales and marketing. We know that marketing is literally meant to produce sales, one way or another. The Oxford Dictionary defines marketing as “the activity of presenting, advertising and selling a company's products in the best possible way.” The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large.” That’s a mouthful. What does that even mean, anyway?

HubSpot, a content marketing software company, is using its platform to define marketing as “any actions a company takes to attract an audience to the company’s product or services through high-quality messaging. Marketing aims to deliver standalone value for prospects and consumers through content, with the long-term goal of demonstrating product value, strengthening brand loyalty and ultimately increasing sales.”

We’ve all seen poor-quality messaging in marketing, as well as content without “value.” What stands out in this definition is “ultimately increasing sales”—because HubSpot wouldn’t exist if its algorithms didn’t prove a return on its users’ investments. HubSpot helps organizations move users through a sales funnel to close the deal and it tracks everything along the way.

That’s not how we define marketing. Marketing automation, high quality messaging and content development are simply tools that can be used as part of an overarching marketing tactic. I vote we simplify the definition to something that we can act on:

Marketing is making meaningful connections with people in order to provide a product or service that meets a want or a need.

First and foremost, marketing is about connecting with people in such a way that you build loyalty, brand affinity and endearment. Beyond that, it’s about creating brand advocates—a mini sales force. But I challenge you to start with people and humanity as its foundation. Without people, you have nothing. If we use marketing to help people, we gain much more than just a sale.

Help people solve a problem. Help people find a solution. Help people make the decision that’s best for them. Help people build memories. Help people address their ongoing issues. Help people build positive habits. Marketing can help people figure out what to eat for dinner, find a nanny or solve their teenager’s acne problem. It can help people decide what retirement account to open, what shoes to buy, where to vacation—or what rehab facility to check into.

Marketing is literally everywhere. It’s now estimated that Americans are exposed to between 5,000 and 10,000 advertising messages a day, up from just 500 in the 1970s. And they’re growing increasingly adept at tuning out these messages. Gaining ground with effective marketing strategies, without turning into a soulless digital stalker, gets more challenging by the day.

If we embrace the marketing philosophy of putting people first and we market from the heart, the brand wins and the people win. In this noisy world, if you can do this, you will rise. That’s what we call a win-win.

Stephanie Chadwick is CEO of Edge, a full-service marketing and advertising agency specializing in partnering with credit unions. With 30 years of experience in consulting and management, including roles at CBS Radio and Nordstrom, she has helped grow Edge into a team of experts providing design, video and audio creative, web development, digital services, media buying, reporting, copywriting and content strategy as well as a proprietary website calculator, Formulate, inspired by collaboration with CUs This blog is published with permission and adapted from the upcoming book Roundtable Leadership: Revolutionize Your Company Culture by Stephanie Chadwick.

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