People have more and more ways to disconnect from your marketing

Traditional media is based on buying exposure – how many people will see this newspaper ad, this TV spot, this outdoor board, this trade show booth. As a result, buyers of traditional media calculate what it will cost to rent eyeballs just long enough to get a message across, then pray for a 1% response in order to pay for the media, and (hopefully) make a profit.

Traditional media has worked for a long time, and I don’t see it going away anytime soon. If you have the right budget, the right creative and the right media mix, you can still be very successful using it as part of your marketing plan. Just remember to always think nontraditional in order to stand out in traditional media.

But traditional media is having a hard time getting things right lately, especially when costs seem to keep going up even as numbers are going down. Between DVRs and satellite radio and ad-blocking software and sorting mail over a trash can, people have more and more ways to disconnect from your marketing.  So I think there could be a much deeper issue to consider.

Maybe we need to think about marketing as more than just a numbers game.

Maybe it’s because when you “rent eyeballs” there’s no bonding, no personal connection. Kind of like renting a car, according to Seth Godin; “You want it to be clean and shiny when you get it, you want to avoid getting in trouble when you return it, but hey, it’s a rental.”

What if you can “own” those eyeballs instead?

What if you can draw people to you in a way that allows you to build your own audience, with people who want to hear from you?

Take a look at other companies that are building platforms that will allow them to build their own audience, that they can then educate and nurture. In this post, Godin talks about a chiropractor coaching a running club instead of paying for a yellow page ad, a clothing designer that avoids the retail store control by selling direct online, and a real estate agent who starts a digital community magazine (and only features her listings.)

Notice that not all of these platforms are online or based on Twitter, Facebook or some other social networking site.

In fact, this isn’t even a new idea, and some credit unions have been building platforms for years – they just may not have used that term. Community Financial in Plymouth, MI has had a student-run credit union program for 20 years, operating 30 school credit unions and dedicating 2 full-time and 2 part-time staff to the program. Now that’s a platform!

Your credit union already has an audience that wants to hear from you.

You just have to start building.  As Godin points out, “The smart way to build a brand today is to invest in the elements of the platform… the product, the technology, the websites (plural) and the systems you need to make it easy for people to show up at your very own trade show. And then embrace these people and shoot for 90% conversion, not .5%.  Like most good investments, it’s expensive and worth more than it costs.”

So what are you going to build? When are you going to start owning?