20th century ad marketing was predicated on pushing messages about your products and services to potential customers. The more you told them the more potential customers you sold. The bigger your ad budget the bigger the results you could expect. Of course, the largest companies tended to spend the most amount of money and therefore their ad messages appeared more frequently and more prominently than their smaller competitors. This was called a competitive advantage. I did this for 20 years in our Chicago marketing firm for both very large and small clients.

Today’s marketing axiom works in the opposite direction, meaning the company that has figured out what its customers most want and can provide it better than anyone else, wins, regardless of their size. What happened?

The Internet of course. It leveled the playing field by making the tiniest of companies with the biggest ideas able to rise above the large, legacy corporations that have dominated the business landscape for decades. Companies such as Google and Facebook that came out of seemingly nowhere are now the new market leaders and are the primary focus of the media throughout the world.

All of this sounds exciting but there is an inherent danger that has been observed by more than a few market strategists and that is the foolhardy notion that digital marketing can dress up your value proposition using today’s newest new media platforms and techniques. The problem is the new media is a magnifying glass. What once took months or years to get out can now be done in minutes or weeks so if your value proposition is weak, sub-standard or worse more people will know that and your market position will worsen, not improve, by using digital media!

Is this a case for or against digital marketing? Heavens no. But if you are spending your digital dimes to sell analog dollars because you think that will make your customer take you more seriously you’re in trouble. What it is is a cry for a well thought through strategy that takes into account your top customer needs and delivers what they want with a razor sharp focus. Today, less is more. So get rid of anything that is not demanded by your customers and keep what is and improve it.

Once you have accomplished this major goal start thinking about how best to market your products and services. Chances are digital marketing will be the way to go. But won’t it be nice to have something to market that your customers actually want? That process is not digital, it’s strategy, and without it digital isn’t going to save you.