The Ordinary Marketer

By Chris Maher

A book entitled “The Ordinary Marketer” would be a tough sell. No one I know or you know wants to be ordinary. We live in an overstimulated age, one that borders on (and I borrow this word from medical research) excitotoxicity. Only the exceptional is enough and, even that, just barely.

We all want to hit the grand slam, attach ourselves to the perfect mate, and achieve some measure of earthly glory. Tiger Woods is focused on winning only the tour’s major events. And you will find no self-help tape that features the following affirmation: “Repeat after me: I am ordinary. Ordinary is good. I take that back: Ordinary is just, well, ordinary. But you can get used to it. And, with that car, that paycheck, and that hair, I think ordinary works for you.”

Across the board, that which is ordinary gets a bum rap. But I think of the ordinary as something in the everyday, something routine. In your marketing life, you have cultivated certain habits of heart and mind that are ordinary to you. Through years of trial and error, you know there are things that work and others that don’t. If you could articulate this now “tacit knowledge” (a term I borrow from the work of Michael Polanyi), you would be communicating the tenets of “ordinary marketing.”

What follows is my halting attempt to do just that: to take a tacit knowledge of marketing and give it voice.

The Measurable
It’s taken me a few years to realize this, but the thing I enjoy most about marketing is seeing compelling, quantifiable results.

I had a phone conversation recently with a long-time client and friend who has accepted a new position with an enterprise software company. He began by asking me if I was seated. I was. He then told me this relatively small company – which is led by bright, highly competent people – had spent approximately $50 million in marketing over two years.

“And from what they’ve been able to tell,” he said, “they have nothing to show for it.”

They have nothing to show for it because, I assure you, they did not go into their $50 million potlatch with any specific metrics in mind. They chose the most expensive print media they could find – right in the middle of the new economy excesses, when those magazines were fatter than some city phone books. And they threw some lavish customer parties.

They were chasing the mysterious dream of the brand.

They did not catch up with the mysterious dream of the brand.

Rule No. 1: Choose marketing methods that allow for relatively easy and clear measurement.

The Straight Line
If 10,000 people in North America might have, if informed, a professional stake in championing your product within their companies, why would you pay for expensive mass media to reach them?

The ordinary marketer focuses on that 10,000. She figures out what the appropriate job titles are, which vertical industries they work within, what they read, what they’re afraid of, where they go on the Web, and what professional organizations they belong to. Then the ordinary marketer sees if there are opt-in email list rental sources that target the appropriate job titles.

The ordinary marketer then starts lining up the kind of Web site content – such as an email newsletter, a resource center, a white paper from a respected industry analyst, and an archived Webcast – that will be valuable to this 10,000.

Rule No. 2: Where possible, choose marketing methods that offer your message directly to the relevant audiences.

The Customer
If you company is blessed with already having a lot of customers, let me ask you a basic question: How often do you meet with them?

Rule No. 3: Take customers to lunch at least twice a month. Ask them how your company is doing and how it might improve. Corollary: Take salespeople to lunch at least twice a month. You desperately need their help. They desperately need yours.

The Big Picture
In a wonderful new article called “CIO As Marketeer,” Regis McKenna describes just how bombarded we all are by “8,000 commercial messages every day – by billboards, email, Internet, print, radio, signage, TV, and other media.”

One might argue that all this information only heightens the need for strong brands to stand out from the clutter – and I agree. But you can’t build and strengthen your brand by adding to the consumer cacophony with more and “louder” messages. Rather, companies must improve the customer experience at every touch point. The real sustaining basis of the producer-consumer relationship is a responsive, reliable, customer-supporting infrastructure. I call this marketing from the core, as opposed to marketing at the margin.

Rule No. 4: Marketing isn’t a department or an ad. It’s what a company does – and how it behaves – every day.

Author and e-business expert Alexis Gutzman undertook the complex process of starting and publishing an email newsletter and detailed her experience. “Publishing Your Own Newsletter” originated as a multipart series on This briefing is a compilation of Gutzman’s essential writings about the email newsletter publishing process. Along with tips, tricks, and advice on what works best and what pitfalls to watch for, the ClickZ Guide includes product evaluations, code for capturing user information, and sound advice on user privacy concerns before implementing some of the tools discussed.

Reprinted from

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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