The Failure of AV Marketing

The AV industry sucks at marketing. Everyone knows it because marketing across the audiovisual space is generally equally crappy. It’s boring, over-hyped, and under-designed. Pablum. Noise. Filler.

“But we need A4, full-color printed spec sheets handed to us at trade shows,” said no buyer in the 21st century.

“The ad of a smiling, stock photo model standing by your gear convinced me your brand was right for us,” justified exactly zero purchases.

“Once I clicked through five layers of menus on your website on my smartphone, I knew we should order more gear from you,” said no prospect considering their vendor of choice.

Marketing in the AV industry is producing lackluster content without using the power of data-driven decision making – and the results are uninspired. So, who’s to blame? Even better: Who’s going to fix it?

The Problem

More often than not, any attempt at great marketing inside an established business will be met with ferocious, unswerving deterrence by senior leadership; not because it’s great marketing, but because it’s different from what’s been done for years. The distress of wading into untested waters crashes like waves of fear against the shores of familiarity.

As a result, marketers acquiesce and produce what is requested. More sales slicks. Another boring, untargeted ad. Stock photos and play-it-safe copywriting that stretches the known boundaries of innocuous wordsmithing.

As a marketer myself, I can say this with great veracity: I blame the marketers.

Yes, I know I just made the case that senior leaders push back against truly great marketing, but it’s not the C-suites’ job to be fantastic marketers; that’s the job of the marketer!

The Reasons

Leaders stick with what got them to where they are in their career. For a lot of reasons, this is generally good. But when it comes to the explosive rate of change in the past five years alone, the balance of power has shifted to the consumer, not the manufacturer or vendor’s leadership. What got audiovisual firms where they are today will not be what keeps them around in the near future.

In the Information Age, the agility of marketing is the key to both responding at the speed of consumer engagement and providing educational thought leadership targeted to specific personas and demographics. Social media alone is a unique opportunity to both lead with insights, education, and personality (yes, your brand should have a tone and voice), and to drive those conversations into targeted buyer journeys that lead the client down a path of their choosing and your design.

As marketing has changed over the years, we now have the empirical data to see volumes of metrics to make the case for what is – and what isn’t – working. In fact, I would say we have so much information available to us as marketers that analysis paralysis is the bigger issue for marketing. Still, there is simply no excuse for the AV industry as a whole to suffer from such mediocre product marketing with the tools we have at our disposal as marketers.

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Don’t Bring Conjecture to a Data Fight

I’ve worked for a number of bosses who overruled me as a marketer. Over the years, I learned a valuable lesson: never bring my conjecture to a data fight.

A former boss and good mentor, Jeff Hook, said often: “Change is always bad… in the short run.” Any change will be opposed. Expect it. Prepare for it. And then fight it with insightful data.

Professional marketers need to stand behind the data that points to better business outcomes. These are not the low-hanging fruit of so-called ‘vanity metrics’ of site visitors and email open rates, but the insights from looking at how website landing pages, ad click-thru rates, social media engagement and webinars convert into sales opportunities. It’s not the activity of creating ‘more stuff’ for sales, nor is it the hope that another whitepaper is going to be as useful as the product engineers think it’s going to be; rather, it’s the data that shows what people are doing, what’s creating engagement, which ads are driving traffic, and ultimately what’s separating the window shoppers from prospective buyers.

For example, at the end of each year, I write an annual “House of Worship Ads” roundup to highlight the best ads and, new as of 2017, an example of what not to do. Since advertising is an (expensive) aspect of marketing that is part of the problem, I submit that it’s worth taking a look at these reviews (2017, 2016, 2015, 2014) for examples to discuss in comparison with your own advertising efforts.

More Than Your Job Is On the Line

The marketers of the audiovisual industry need to dive into the data and look for the insights. Marketers must become champions for testing new ideas and doing small, iterative experiments to validate their ideas with rock-solid data. Then, armed with conversion-rate data, marketers can confidently bring change — in design, form, and function — to find what resonates with clients and prospects so that the C-suite can see the forest for the trees.

More than the marketer’s job is on the line; the very craft of professional marketing has shifted from content producers of run-of-the-mill deliverables to the makers who are leveraging agility for delivering better, tested-and-verified results faster for improved business ROI.

What’s at stake for these marketers besides their jobs? The efficacy of their craft. Marketers can continue to take the blame, or they can embrace the fact that audiovisual marketing sucks and start doing something about it with data, metrics, and insights.

What do you have to say about the state of marketing in the audiovisual industry?