Marketing consistency and disruption: Remembering the basics.

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This former Chicago Sun-Times printing plant will be converted to a data centre.

There are some basic rules in marketing. Most of us don’t like change — and we look for messages and values consistent with our expectations. Yet dull, predictable marketing rarely works, and the only time “we have great customer service” has any meaning occurs when real customers volunteer exciting stories of real experiences.

Then there are forces that reshape and redefine the rules. Certainly, in less than two decades, Google has revolutionized the advertising business and (with its Internet competitors including Facebook and Craigslist) decimated traditional advertising media. We’re currently working on a new publication for Chicago and among the stories are news items about redevelopment of disused former printing plants for the city’s once-mighty daily newspapers. Developers plan to turn one of the buildings into a data center.

These changes, undoubtedly, have challenged my business, which traces its roots to the democratization of print media with “desktop publishing” in the late 1980s. Then, publishers could use inexpensive laser printers to do what required formerly costly and high-skill-to-operate typesetting equipment. (Meanwhile typesetting businesses, whose owners spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the then latest-and-greatest technologies, had some very expensive scrap metal on their hands.)

I’m thankful that we are going with the flow, evolving in our ability to offer online as well as print-based publications, and with enough tune-in to realize where things are heading. Yet some basics remain the same. If we respect our clients, and realize that it isn’t what we say, but what we do, with “great customer service” — we can remain relevant and continue to attract repeat and referral business.

You don’t need the latest, greatest marketing technologies or techniques to succeed in business. Just be very aware of the changing environment, and then respect your clients’ needs, values and aspirations. You’ll succeed and you won’t need to spend a fortune in futile efforts to achieve the results you seek.

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