Marketing Then and Now: Why Relationships Will Always Matter Most

My Dad, Dave, was an old school marketer. He didn’t have a college degree. He learned everything he needed to know about sales and marketing on the job at Aubrey Manufacturing, a family owned company in mostly blue-collar Union, Ill. Aubrey made range hoods and ventilation equipment for the kitchen and bathroom. Good products.  Well made.

Dad knew the importance of great brand storytelling and influencer marketing long before they became today’s buzz words. His storytelling was of the oral variety, though, usually told with laughter over a drink or dinner. His influencers were the partners, colleagues, employees and company leaders he got to know through the work he loved. They always spoke highly of him for his business integrity.

To Dad, character was everything. His success came from building strong professional and personal relationships in the industry. Make sure to stand behind the products and services you are selling, he would say. Never lower your professional standards. Be true to your word. Treat others–everyone–with respect.

Growing up I didn’t know that I would be following in Dad’s footsteps, pursuing a career not in marketing but PR.  Two slightly different sides of the same coin. After 35 years managing the marketing strategy and a formidable sales team for Aubrey, flying cross-country to countless trade shows and facilitating customer meetings, he and the Aubrey management team became part of Broan when the company was sold in the mid-80s. Dad retired in 1995. Today, Broan is the global leader in residential ventilation products.

Some Marketing Skills are Timeless

Technology has forever changed the marketing and sales trajectory in ways never imagined in Dad’s era. Marketing methods and tactics today are vastly different. But the goals remain the same. Successful sales. Satisfied customers. These wins lead to long-term brand loyalty, a virtuous circle when sales, marketing and PR efforts are truly effective.

As more companies choose digital marketing tactics over traditional marketing, it is worth remembering the old school marketing principles worth keeping:

Form authentic relationships

Annual sales meetings (with spouses) and trade show events were a tradition at Aubrey and offered important opportunities to bond with the management team, regional sales managers, suppliers and customers. These activities helped Dad and his sales team develop strong and trusting relationships lasting decades.

That’s Dad, by the way, at the center of this photo in the striped shorts, black socks and sunglasses posing next to the hammerhead shark he caught on an Aubrey trip to Miami. Mom is the frosted brunette with the pouty smile on the far right. Dad always knew she was the real catch. Yes, we are all becoming digital natives in the 21st century, connecting or engaging with people when and wherever they may be. True emotional bonds, however, are built on common experiences, friendships and associations established over a lifetime.

Understand who your customers are and how to reach them

Sales psychology, pain points and personas have seemingly subverted the power of the Four Ps of Marketing: Price, Product, Promotion and Place. Still, these are foundational to every marketing or communications strategy. With the explosive growth in digital and content marketing, too often marketers fail to start with the fundamentals first. Do they know their target market? Have they captured their brand’s unique selling proposition? Knowing your audience and what they want will help pinpoint the channels that work best for your brand.

Find the right balance for your marketing and PR efforts

Anyone who spends any time on the internet knows how quickly their online interactions can lead to content overload. Retargeted ads that follow you around the web. Marketers who bombard you with multiple daily blog posts and sales offers. To avoid content overload and help your brand stand out, focus on quality over quantity. Keep your messages simple. Make sure all your communications work together so that your customer has a seamless experience with your brand.

Never forget: your business reputation is everything

All the great marketing in the world can’t overcome a deeply soiled reputation. Establish a company culture that aligns with your business values and brand. Walk the talk. Hold people accountable when they bend (or break) the rules. Apologize and make amends when things go wrong. Make a plan to get your reputation back on track.

Final Note

Every giant leap forward in technology comes with a few setbacks. Algorithms don’t have a moral compass. Fortunately, people do. Even in the new information age, it still pays to let marketing fundamentals guide you.  Eventually, everything old is new again.

The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my current or former employers, my friends and colleagues, anyone I may have met in the past or may meet in the future.

About Mary Brophy

Mary has held leadership positions at the world’s largest independent PR agency, Edelman Worldwide, Cramer-Krasselt, Jacobson Rost and other leading agencies. Her background includes advising CEO-level executives on a variety of crisis communications and reputational issues.