From the Trenches

Are You an Advertiser or a Marketer?

Mike Sweeney | December 4, 2009

I deal with a fairly broad range of clients, prospects and partners on a weekly basis.  Don’t get me wrong – I am not part of the iPhone runs my life, 8 meetings per day or die, if you need me you better schedule me 4-6 weeks in advance crowd.  I can’t operate at that pace.  Some can, and a few can even do that and still call themselves productive.  For me, that approach is not good for business.

Instead, I like to pick and choose my spots, and that is what leads to this broad range of clients, prospects and partners.  My business partner once told me that he likes to work with and on “interesting clients and projects”.  It seemed like a fairly vanilla statement at the time, but I think that statement is what drives some of our business choices.  If you work with the same types of companies over and over – same size, same industry, same challenges – then you’re not really expanding.  You may be expanding your revenue base, but you’re not expanding your learning, you’re not expanding the solutions you can offer, and you’re certainly not expanding your ability to help organizations solve their unique problems.

That being said, in dealing with this broad range, I’ve come across a distinction that can be applied to just about any marketing organization.  Organizations are either advertisers or marketers. And it’s become pretty easy (for me at least) to tell the two apart.  The organization’s attitude towards marketing, the people and companies they hire to handle their marketing, and the way they execute and measure their marketing tells the whole story.

  • Advertisers build media plans.  Marketers build strategic plans…and then media plans.
  • Advertisers always buy on price.  Marketers buy on value.
  • Advertisers focus on impressions and reach.  Marketers focus on outcomes and optimization.
  • Advertisers love good creative.  Marketers also love good creative, but only if it leads to outcomes.
  • Advertisers say they’re testing.  Marketers actually test.
  • Advertisers love numbers but rarely do anything with them.  Marketers actually try to interpret and make decisions based on numbers.
  • Advertisers buy things.  Marketers plan things.
  • Advertisers talk to every vendor of every type of media, just to keep up with trends.  Marketers optimize what they’re doing with their current media before moving on.
  • Advertisers hire glorified traffic managers.  Marketers hire valuable data managers.
  • Advertisers love reports.  Marketers actually know how to read them.

And the list goes on and on…

Obviously I am generalizing a bit here for effect.  That being said, if I created the above list as a lead qualification document and used it internally, I am pretty certain that within an hour-long conversation I could place any organization in either the advertiser or marketer category.  It goes without saying that we prefer to work with the marketers.   They make for those “interesting clients and projects” that I discussed earlier.

Being an advertiser is easy.  Being a marketer – not quite as easy.   Comfort zones are nice, but they are built to be expanded.

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