Marketing is dead gravestone“Marketing is dead.”

With a blog post headline like that, it’s no wonder Bill Lee’s obituary for marketing on the HBR Blog Network is getting a lot of attention.

Upon further examination, the reader discovers that what Lee means is that forms of “traditional marketing” (defined as “advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications”) are dead and gone, being taken over and subsumed by “new” forms of marketing (read: social).

(Perhaps to demonstrate his point, Lee wrote about the death of marketing in a blog format, with many social media share buttons at the top. Nice work!)

The post is a good read. I do take issue with Lee’s statement: “When you try to extend traditional marketing logic into the world of social media, it simply doesn’t work.”

Really? Traditional marketing logic, such as knowing your target market, finding your niche, having a fantastic product and telling people about it? Those long-held principles no longer apply? I think not.

I do agree with Lee that word-of-mouth marketing, enhanced with social media tools, is increasing in power and relevance. (It’s what I do, after all.)

Granted, word-of-mouth marketing has been around forever, but brands and companies are finally finding systematic ways and methods in which to do it.

This “new model of marketing” makes a lot of sense. Here are the 3 main takeaways from Lee’s article:

1) Cultivate your Brand Ambassadors. Word of mouth or “community marketing”  is telling friends about a great product or service (or warning them about a terrible product or service).

Effectively harnessing the power of word-of-mouth marketing involves listening to the conversations about your company and jumping into the fray. It means actively cultivating and rewarding a dedicated network of excited, outspoken Brand Ambassadors and responding directly and honestly to naysayers and others who have had a genuinely bad experience.

2) Focus your marketing efforts on “influencers”. Klout users are awarded perks based on their high Klout score. The theory is that they will then spread the word to their networks about their experience.

If you are really inspired, get the influencers involved in helping you find solutions to a problem or challenge, and genuinely acknowledge and use their feedback.

3) Provide more than coupons. Lee writes, “The new marketing helps its advocates and influencers create social capital: it helps them build their affiliation networks, increase their reputation and gives them access to new knowledge.”

In other words, give your customers and clients something new, something exclusive, something valuable and something they can use for a long time – a new skill, a test of the latest product before it launches, something exclusive to blog about, etc.

In closing, I sincerely agree with Lee’s statement, “There are many other measures of a customer’s potential value, beyond the money they pay you.”

This is why social media is so powerful – a customer who bought one $5 product from your company could potentially write a blog post seen by thousands that affects your bottom line dramatically.

It’s not just a numbers game anymore – it’s a social game. And you better be playing to win.

Do you think marketing is dead? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section. Thanks for reading!