How marketing can become a ‘noble profession’

Ask most people what a noble pursuit might look like, and ‘marketing’ probably isn’t at the top of their list.

But for Dev Basu, CEO and founder of Powered by Search Inc., a Toronto-based digital marketing agency, marketers have the potential to be honourable and trustworthy – even if he’s not seeing enough of that now.

“[Marketers] always take something good and ruin it and milk it up to the point where it no longer works anymore. Like if you have a trend coming up,” said Basu, speaking during Thursday’s Inbound Con, a marketing conference spanning topics like content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and conversion funnels.

“But I think marketing can be a noble profession. I believe we deserve to be on the same level as engineers, lawyers, or psychologists, or scientists, for example.”

It might sound like Basu is purposefully being overly idealistic. But in his mind, marketing becomes nobler when it’s about serving end users, instead of just selling a product or service. Agencies need to stand firm and tell clients when their campaign ideas are overly focused on sales, and marketers also need to be honest with themselves when they’re doing sub-par work, he said.

He pointed to Builtvisible, a U.K.-based agency that retained a group of luxury hotels as a client. Instead of just slapping together a blog post on places to stay in Europe, the company decided to build a microsite helping tourists understand different cultural customs and matters of etiquette across borders.

This is also where storytelling comes in, Basu said. During his keynote, he stressed end users will only want to retell stories that are unexpected, credible, and are worth sharing because they tap into their emotions. Giving them anything less will just result in the death of a story or brand message.

“So why create content that sucks and is salesy?” he said.

Basu wasn’t the only Inbound Con speaker to focus on end user experience as marketers’ highest priority. Marketers need to craft websites that are easy, intuitive, and cater to users, said Genco Cebecioglu, CEO and design director at Junction Design Inc. That’s where user interfaces (UI) and user experiences (UX) come in, he said.

“It’s not, let’s make it pretty after we finish the backend … Really, it’s the complete opposite,” he said, adding businesses need to care about user experience and user interfaces, as happier users lead to more referrals and greater conversions.

But whether they’re working on UI, UX, or content, marketers need to remember good marketing isn’t about them. It’s about telling a good story and putting their customers at its core, Basu said. That being said, marketers can guide customers and show them the way forward – like when Yoda trained Luke Skywalker, or when Albus Dumbledore encouraged Harry Potter.

“All stories are about a hero’s journey,” he said. “Your customer is the hero, and you are the mentor.”

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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