The short version:

Good marketing requires empathy. Be genuine. Help people. Provide value first. Don’t persuade. Don’t sell someone something they don’t need. Enrich people’s lives. When they need you, be ready. Listen. Communicate clearly. Give freely. Advertise minimally. Seek permission and celebrate intent. Always speak the truth. Dream big. Deliver high quality. When in doubt, be a magnet not a hammer.

I come from an untraditional marketing background. I have a degree in journalism and joined Buffer as a blogger. I didn’t go to business school. I don’t read the Wall Street Journal (but I do subscribe to Ad Age!). I’ve never seen Mad Men.

In many ways, I’m grateful for this background because it’s helped me approach marketing with a fresh perspective. I would even go so far as to say I am slightly cynical about marketing — at least much of the marketing I see in my world.

As such, I’ve developed a bit of an opinion on the marketing philosophies that resonate most with me. Here’s an overview.

1. Be a magnet, not a hammer

This is the basis of inbound marketing, which I love. The idea is that you don’t force your message onto people; you create value that draws people to you. Content marketing has inbound at its core, and almost any medium – social, podcast, video, webinar — can thrive with an inbound approach.

2. Be present, not persuasive

I believe that marketing, taken too far, can contribute to consumerism. We don’t want to sell people something they didn’t know they wanted. Persuasion is a powerful concept that can be used for good but can also cross the line into coercion. Being present — taking the time to listen, understand, care — is my preferred approach.

3. Celebrate the slow sell.

Marketing covers a vast stretch of the customer experience, the majority of which is well before the point of sale. To that end, I appreciate marketing that recognizes this and caters a message to the moment. Not everything has to be pitch, pitch, pitch. We enrich people’s lives, and if/when they’re ready, we make it clear how to buy.

This quote from Reinventing Organizations has stuck with me:

Essentially, marketing boils down to this statement: This is our offer. At this moment, we feel this is the best we can possibly do. We hope you will like it.

4. Empathy over everything

I like this alternate definition of marketing from Derek Sivers:

“Marketing” just means being considerate.

Yes! This is the type of marketing that excites me most, and I’m really grateful that it’s the marketing that has been central to Buffer all these years. I really love campaigns and strategies that consider the perspective of the consumer. We can dream big, deliver high quality work, and always keep the customer in mind. This ties into the “values check” that we have in place for the projects we do:

  • Is it personal and friendly?
  • Are we doing the right thing?
  • How does it make people feel?

I feel lucky that so much of my personal philosophy on marketing dovetails with the marketing at Buffer (and I recognize that, as one of the marketing leaders on the team, I am fortunate to have an influence on that). There’s definitely room to incorporate other perspectives as well — it doesn’t all have to just the stuff I like — and there may be seasons when different shades of philosophy enter in or come to the foreground.

As such, these are the marketing core values that we currently hold at Buffer:

Deliver the highest-quality work that’s honest and authentic, friendly and inclusive, personal and human. Always do the right thing for our customers and community.

I imagine you all might have some core marketing tenets that are important to you? I’d love to hear about them!

Posted by:Kevan Lee

VP of marketing currently living in Boise, Idaho. I work with the lovely folks at Buffer. You can join my email list to get an inside look at marketing and branding and team-building in tech.

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