Scared woman in a shop

Traditional marketing is alive for crying out loud! 

Small business owners, this is my desperate plea for you not to fall into the same trap as so many others with your marketing.

I’m still seeing lots of people claiming that ‘marketing is dead’ and ‘traditional marketing doesn’t work any more’.

This is utter nonsense gibberish.

And more to the point, it’s misleading.

There is SO much confusion among small business owners and entrepreneurs! 

So many hours wasted following the wrong path. So much wasted money paying for programmes that will never work for them.

Most of the impenetrable fog surrounding marketing is down to a misunderstanding of what marketing actually is.

Argh! Do you see dead marketing?

Marketing is a business function

How can the entirety of the marketing function be dead when marketing is identifying your customers needs and satisfying them at a profit? (Source: Chartered Institute of Marketing.) Has any successful business stopped doing that?

Would you say that HR was dead just because payroll has gone online?

Would you say that Operations was dead because you can now use robotics in car manufacture?

Why is this recurring theme of ‘marketing is dead’ keep rearing it’s head then?

The main reason is that people confuse marketing with marketing communications.

Scared woman in a shop

Marketing is more than communications

When people think of marketing they usually think of social media, content (YouTube channels, podcasting, blogging), advertising, email and perhaps PR. At a push; exhibitions, leaflets, networking and business cards.

These are all examples of marketing communications. They’re how you get the message across about what you do and why you’re fab.

And yes, that bit is important.

But only if you know what business you’re in, who you’re selling to, why they’d want to buy from you, what you’re going to charge them, how you’re going to deliver your services and products. (I could go on all day). All of this is within the remit of marketing.

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that when people say ‘traditional marketing is dead’ they mean ‘traditional marketing communications is dead’.

I dispute that too.

Advertising is proliferating (not dying)

I do concede that TV advertising revenues have been dwindling over the years. That is a well reported fact.

However, does that mean that all advertising has expired?

No. It’s frikking everywhere now!

Not only is it still on terrestrial TV, but Pay Per Click ads haunt me on my favourite websites, adverts delay my viewing of YouTube videos and sponsored ads even appear on the headers of some of my email inboxes. Three examples off the top of my head.

I read one marketing book that cited someone using ad blockers on their phone as evidence of people not being exposed to any marketing comms any more. This simply isn’t possible! It’s EVERYWHERE!

Leaflets through the door, ads on local radio in a taxi, (not to mention ad screens IN the taxi), Instagram influencers paid to showcase products and product placement.

Product placement is it’s when a commercial organisation pays to put their products on screen during a TV programme or film. The only place it’s not allowed is on children’s TV and during news broadcasts. It’s even allowed on the BBC. (Source: Ofcom)

A good example of product placement is in series 1 of Stranger Things where they all sit down to tuck into some KFC. Yum yum. Just make sure the logo is facing towards the camera and..we’re rolling!


Marketing involves 3 levels of thinking and planning:

  • High level and long term: What direction you want your business to move in? What industry are you in?
  • Medium term but still strategic: what big goals do you have for the next year to move you in the right direction?
  • Tactical, short term c. 3 months: How can you implement this strategy to best effect? What product or service will you focus on? What price will it be? And how will you tell people about it?

Marketing strategy is the secret no one is talking about. (Well, not as many people as marketing communications anyway).

These higher level stages are fundamental to making your promotional efforts work. Moreover, it provides the framework for noticing what’s working (do more of that) and what’s not working (fix it or get rid).

The three levels of marketing; adapted from a presentation by Mark Ritson 2018

See that little pink word ‘Promotion’?

That’s where marketing communications sit.

Encompassing content, social media, advertising, email and leaflets. It’s a tiny part of what marketing is.

Why does this all matter to small business owners?

Mixing up marketing communications with the whole of marketing will lead to frustration at best and a whole lot of time and money down the drain at worst. 

Everyone and their dog talk about the communications of one sort or another. It’s the flashy bit. It’s easy to get your head around and offer tips on.

As a result, it’s difficult to restrain yourself from shouting about what you do before you’ve decided precisely what you’re offering to who and why. I should know, I did it myself when I set up my own business!

Without a clear strategy in place, your marketing simply won’t work.

I learned this during my studies.

I learned this during my corporate years.

And I re-learned it when I set up my own business and fell down the same rabbit hole as everyone else.


Nobody’s perfect. : )

NEXT WEEK ON THE SECRET MARKETING SHOW: Shiny object syndrome epidemic. Sign up to my list so you don’t miss out