What’s the most important word in marketing?
At first glance, it seems like a simple question. But the more you think about it, the more complex it gets. One could probably argue any number of answers based on his beliefs, values or type of business.
But is there really one word that’s more important than all the others?
One word without which your marketing efforts will be successful?
I recently surveyed dozens of marketing professionals, authors, consultants and small business owners on my blog. The results included a wide range of words; from the emotionally charged to the pragmatic; from the right brain to the left brain and from the customer focused to the company focus. But all of the suggested “most important words in marketing” fell into one of two categories: Traditional Marketing or Modern Marketing.
Traditional Marketing: The Old School
Traditional Marketing used to be all about advertising. It was expensive, short lived, and had little to do with the Internet or word of mouth. Also, it aimed its messages at passive audiences. Leading expert and best selling author Seth Godin calls this “Interruption Marketing,” in which the marketer talks directly to as many consumers as possible.
Now, although this traditional style of marketing has lost some of its prowess to the fierce competition of the web, it’s still a powerful medium through which companies can reach their customers. Let’s see which words the experts chose from this category.
NOTE: before you read the survey results below, take a minute to answer the question for yourself: What do you think is the most important word in marketing? Once you’ve made your decision, read on and see how your answer compares.
“NEW is probably the strongest word in marketing,” explains Ronnie Horowitz from The TRIZ Journal. “People are attracted to new products like a magnet. Introducing new products on a constant basis is the best way to get attention and invaluable free publicity for your business.”
Michael “The Success Doctor” Fortin believes the most important word in marketing is WHY. “It is much better to communicate why you are original, special or unique; why you are better, different or superior than competitors – not just the fact that you are. Imply your superiority by specifying as much as possible.”
Sivaraman Swaminathan from Customer World says we shouldn’t overlook the obvious word, CUSTOMER. “I think marketing has evolved because the focus is on the customer. The soul of marketing is the customer. Period. In marketing, you will fail even if you have greatest passion for the wrong target audience; you will fail if you don’t know whom you should respect, and you will fail if you don’t know which customer to trust.”
Similarly, Robert Middleton from Action Plan Marketing said, “The most important word in marketing is YOU. That is, marketing needs to convey very clearly what’s in it for the client or customer.”
FREE was also touted by several experts as the most important word. Edward “Skip” Masland, owner of Web Solvers says “FREE was, is and will always be the most powerful word in marketing. It attracts eyeballs. It gets results and responses quickly. And marketers may not profit today – or tomorrow – but if they can generate a groundswell of interest from something free, they know they will profit sooner or later.”
On the other hand, Bob Serling from Idea Quotient wrote an article claiming that FREE was the most dangerous word in marketing. “I’ve been advising businesses for nearly 20 years that a business model driven by attracting prospects through giving something away for free is almost always a model for failure. And it doesn’t matter whether you use this model online or offline – it will nearly always fail.”
Next, Karen from Dezign Matters explained that the most important word in marketing was something you DON’T say. “I think the word is LISTENING. A little time leaning back and listening quietly can save time, money and leave the client and customer feeling that someone truly heard what they were trying to say.”
Michael Daehn, author of Marketing Ingenious explained, “I read a case study about cutting in lines at a copy machines. The hypothesis was that the word ‘please’ would get the best response. But the results proved that the word ‘because’ received a much better response given that the word offered a reason to let someone cut in line. Therefore, we as marketers need to give customers a reason to buy.”
Lastly, Michael Cage from Small Business Marketing Systems said the most important word in marketing was RESULTS. “Small businesses are often suckered into fluffy, fancy marketing concepts that sound great but produce absolutely nothing in the real world. If the business owner or marketing department can’t tie what they do to results, likewise, they need to step back and get it right before passing go.”
Modern Marketing: The New School
20 years ago, nobody knew what the words “blog,” “RSS feed,” “personal branding,” “viral marketing” or “google” meant. But now – at the risk of sounding clich