Why does “digital marketing” make me cringe?

As someone who’s been working in design and digital marketing for nearly 15 years, it’s like watching fashion trends. Trends come and die, get revived a few years later, fold again, come back as vintage, etc.

From the latest ways to build websites that look great, to design and publishing tools that give anyone the ability to make a cool logo…to optimizing Google SEO, then YouTube videos, then Facebook Live, then Instagram stories… to trends with the hippest new way to push your content in front of the masses…

I’m bored.

How many email marketing lists have you gotten yourself on that come from an author, speaker, coach, or entrepreneur that…

…has a product, program, course, mastermind, conference that has a story something like this…

…after struggling to find an answer, he or she stumbled upon something that finally worked (a method, superfood, workout, diet, strategy, etc.) and brought success and dramatic results. Now they have been applying their insights or “secrets” and “tactics” and “strategies” to simplifying the difficult challenges with money, business, marketing, happiness, fulfillment, health… and have a way to offer you the same thing.

You can buy the product, program, book, course, coaching, join the mastermind and enjoy the same results, for only $97. Or $297. Or $997.

If you do it within the next 24 hours, you’ll get a special, exclusive bonus (worth over $4997 in value! [An actual claim I recently saw.]) Or save 50% or something else amazing. But you must act NOW.

I can’t stomach these things anymore, I’ve seen the pitches for over a decade.

This is why I don’t like to put “digital marketing” in my bio, or call myself a “marketer.” I cringe inside, because it makes me think of these tactics and strategies I’ve seen for years.

I recently reviewed a proposal that an SEO company gave to my client.

It read like a dozen others I’ve seen: several pages listing out all these strategies to improve search engine optimization, add keywords and tagging and titles and backlinks and sitemaps and content and other such things that my client didn’t understand but sounded like it must be useful, since they were going to charge a handsome monthly fee. All tactics that would take several months, perhaps even a year, to start to see results in Google…but by investing each month, over time, the client’s Google rankings would improve.

Did anyone ever ask the client if Google search is the way they get their new leads?

No. This client is a B2B manufacturer in a niche industry, providing a custom, made-to-order product. They’ve been in business for 28 years, and have done that solely through their reputation and network.

They don’t need SEO services from a digital marketing company.

But it was hard for them to know if they did or not, because if you’re in business in a pandemic world that now operates virtually more than ever, you might need that for your company. Or maybe you need a Facebook page? Or does your company need an Instagram account?

2020, a year when everything changed around the globe as we’ve lived with a pandemic, is the year I started to question everything I’ve been learning and doing for clients in digital marketing.

The questioning frustrated me. A lot. I’ve studied marketing for years! I’ve taught courses on it, I’ve been a coach for it, I’ve taken courses, I’ve prided myself in staying on top of it so I could support my clients and help them with what they wanted to market their businesses.

Why do I feel like cringing, then, when I think of being called a “digital marketer”?

It’s not marketing as a whole, because there are individuals and companies I admire for their clever and beautiful marketing. I realized it’s because of the yearning for something deeper, something that feels like an authentic expression or connection.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve organized marketing into a frame that helps me to appreciate how to work with it and love it again:

There’s “surface” marketing. This is everything I’ve been mentioning: the tactics, the trends, the new social media platform, the latest whatever.

Then there’s “deep” marketing. I think this ties more into branding. I think it’s also something we do as individuals as well as in business:

Deep marketing is the underlying character, values and personality that create an impression of an individual or a brand.

Deep marketing is the tone of communication that’s consistent across any medium or platform.

Deep marketing is the way of responding to a client, to support them when there’s a question or complaint. It’s the way of taking care of your customer, friend or neighbor because it’s simply a good thing to do.

Deep marketing is deep listening. Listening to your client or customer. Listening to your friend. Listening to your partner or child. Then choosing a way to help them with the result they want, or the challenge they’re struggling with.

Deep marketing doesn’t require a dozen channels, social platforms, ad campaigns or mailers. It nearly handles itself, because it leaves an impression. Impressions fuel recommendations, reviews and referrals.

Those 3 elements — recommendations, reviews and referrals — are the goldmine of marketing. That’s what keeps a company thriving for 28 years.

Recommendations, reviews and referrals happen because people like you. They like the way you do things, or your craftsmanship, or your expertise. They trust you.

Here’s the catch, though.

Deep marketing is hard to “buy” or put into a “formula” or “strategy” that can be purchased. I can go out and hire a company for services like social media management, advertising and SEO. But I can’t go out and hire someone to do deep marketing for me or for my clients. It’s an inside job that can’t be faked or brought in.

So what’s the answer, if your company is reviewing your marketing strategy for the year? Or if you’re starting a new business and need to “market it”?

(And what’s my job, as a service provider with experience in marketing, really about?)

The answer is getting clear on the impression you want your brand to have, or what you’d like to improve about your existing impression. What is it about you that people like? Why do they hire or buy from you in the first place?

If people like you, then they probably would like MORE of your personality and what makes you unique, right?

What personality traits can you emphasize in how you communicate and what you publish for your business?

What’s the best way to do that?

What’s the main way people find you and your product or service? That’s your way.

That’s the way to share more of your personality, expand your customer base, get more leads. Everything else is mostly a distraction, wearing down your attention, draining you into mediocrity.

For example, is it through word of mouth and referrals? Then find the top 20% of people sharing about you and send them a $100 gift card as a thank you. I bet you’ll find more referrals coming from them in the future!

Do people find you through your Facebook Page where you post your latest creations that you’re featuring in your Etsy shop? Then fuel your Page with posts with images, videos and copy about your process, the story behind what you do, featured buyers, and Facebook Lives where you create in real-time. Use Facebook Ads to drive interested, new people to your Page.

This is Deep marketing using Surface marketing as a tool. This is when you add fuel to your fire!

Surface marketing without the Deep marketing foundation is like eating candy and not getting full.

Deep marketing is a timeless practice that only strengthens over time as you remain consistent and receptive to your audience.

I came out of 2020 with a bad taste in my mouth about the impression I had of digital marketing.

But I rise into 2021 with a new distinction and understanding for myself, separating Deep marketing and Surface marketing. Seeing the difference has helped me to see how to use them together in an authentic, graceful and purposeful way.

If you can start to look at your business and where you might have gotten distracted with Surface marketing before clarifying your Deep marketing, I hope that perhaps you find fresh inspiration as well.

Why do people already like you?
How are they finding you?
Now, how can you put more attention to that in greater ways than you’ve ever done before?

Go deep,