Blog | May 13, 2011 | 7 Comments

[the problem with marketing]

[people are not bait]

I just attended a webinar that tried to “unteach” the basics we’ve all learned about marketing and promotion. And I loved it. Here’s a summary for you.

These ideas came from Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner.

Social Media Examiner is one of today’s most successful blogs about social media. It’s also a major sponsor of Social Media Success Summit 2011, which I’m attending this month. In Michael’s presentation at SMSS11, he introduced “The Elevation Principle,” which is:

Great content + other people – marketing messages = growth

The rest of the presentation explained more about this untraditional approach to marketing.

What is marketing, anyway?

Michael gave this definition from the American Marketing Association:

Marketing is 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.

Note the words “exchanging offerings.” This implies a two-way street, where value is provided on both sides. That is not the traditional marketing view.

People are people, not “bait” for advertisers.

Michael made us laugh with a picture of a consumer with a fish hook in his mouth. But marketers do use a lot of words like “hook,” “trolling,” and “keeper.” And people are sick of being “captured” by brands. In fact, as Michael says,

Marketing creates ‘friction.’ The more you try to sell, the more you’ll repel people.

That’s a harsh reality we are dealing with these days–and it’s true not just for businesses but for nonprofits or any other organization that has products, services, ideas, or issues to promote.

Don’t ask, “How can we sell you?” Instead, ask, “How can we help you?”

“Helping people” means providing useful and interesting content, starting good conversations, and offering good advice and customer support to solve their problems. It requires building trust and creating reciprocity. That’s what social media is for: creating opportunities to establish trust, offer value, and break through the other marketing noise.

It’s not about you or your company, it’s about your audience. If it’s good for them, it’s good for you.

If you’d like to know more, shoot me an email at

Note: I don’t have a business relationship with Michael or SME. This is post is my own commentary.

Image credit: Jon Curnow on flickr. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.


Excellent commentary Claire. I’m delighted to enjoy long-term relationships with my clients who, in turn, send me bunches of referrals. So, I’ve not had to do any hard-sell marketing and focus all of my attention on helping people. Glad to hear the death of guerilla marketing practices is nearing and delighted that directly engaging with others and creating community are being favored.




Frankly, although the reminder is alway great, I’m not sure that this is anything new. I always learned, and practiced, that if you offer something people find valuable, and the cost to them is less than the value they feel they are going to get, than you have a winner. If you engage people, serve them and entertain them, they will like you and tell other people (especially if you make it easy for them to do so). It’s not too complicated…


Claire Wagner Reply:

You’re right, Lisa, it’s not that complicated in theory, but it is not that widely practiced by marketers. Us “old-timers” have been here before in “relationship marketing” and other trends, but this idea is RE-gaining popularity because of the greater potential for direct communication and contact offered via social media. And I guess marketing is no different than any other discipline in that every generation likes to take a good older idea, give it a slightly different twist or application, brand it with a trendy new name, and call it ground-breaking.


Lisa H.-S.



Good post!

We are attending the Social Media Success Summit 2011 together – info-packed…you brought up a detail I actually missed the way it was said. Thanks.

The one phrase that caught me: “People are not wallets with legs.” Yet, so often we see folks on Twitter with that very approach.

The more I use Mike Stelzner’s principles, the more my business grows. I hope yours does too. 🙂



Claire Wagner Reply:

Keri! So glad to have you here. I forgot about the “wallets with legs” remark, so we are even. Thanks.




Absolutely right! I’ve been doing this for 25 years. And for at least 20 have been telling clients, “It’s all about the customer.” What are their needs? What do you offer to solve that? Why is it better for them? Let’s talk about that!

Alas, just the other day I got a presentation from a large international company–a leader in their industry–that was all about them. About what they offer. What they deliver. In my calmer moments, I refer to it as corporate chest thumping. When severely annoyed by it, I’m apt to be less polite.

But the problem with it is that it doesn’t do what you say–help the customer. And guess what (clearly you know this already)? They won’t care about that kind of a message! They won’t read it, listen to it, click through on it, whatever.

Doesn’t work. Hasn’t for 25 years. Won’t now. And I can’t believe how many people in the business don’t know that! So thanks for the reminder. Chris


Claire Wagner Reply:

The voice of experience – and I’m so glad to hear it, Chris. Thanks for sharing!


Chris Finnie


Leave a Reply