The 4 Evolutionary Stages of Marketing

I’m sure you’ve seen the posts on social media with these “year in review” sites/apps out there. They compile your past 12 months worth of pictures and put them into an 80’s style montage to remind people about why you are awesome. There was “flipgram” for Instagram right around the end of the year and now there’s one for Facebook.

These programs are genius! The creators have done a great job of building the marketing INTO their product. Most people think about their business in compartments. Accounting | Product Development | Marketing | Sales | Customer Service | etc. Nothing overlaps and nothing intertwines. Today we’ll talk about how that way of thinking is outdated and inefficient with the 4 evolutionary stages of marketing.

Stage 1

The first stage of this progression started when someone would make a product or come up with a service. It was just them and maybe an apprentice, say making shoes. At first, think way back, you had to tell people what you were doing.

This was the original word of mouth marketing. You went around telling people that you were a shoemaker, and if they knew you, they would come buy shoes from you. If they didn’t, but someone said you had great shoes, they might try you out and you would have the opportunity to earn their trust.

Stage 2

Then there came sales people. Hired guns that would travel and push your shoes for you. Everyone had to be sales people in the early days, but someone figured out that they didn’t have to do all the selling (an introvert) and someone else figured out that they could capitalize on the other guy’s product (an extrovert) for a fee.

There was always that word of mouth that would get you business, but it was too slow for some. Traveling sales people that went from store to store (B2B) or door to door (B2C) were a much faster avenue to higher revenues than waiting for those word of mouth promotions to spread.

I believe this is where the entrepreneurs began to get lazy. They didn’t have to earn as much business through word of mouth because the sales people were pushing their products faster than before. They didn’t have to make as high of a quality product or service, their main avenue for gaining business shifted from word of mouth to sales people.

Stage 3

Then came mass marketing and mass media. Sales people could reach more people one-on-one than the entrepreneur going off of word of mouth, adding customers faster and at higher numbers since that was their specialty. But mass marketing created the multiplication effect, addition was for losers.

And here, the products and services fell off even more. The larger the advertising program, the lower the quality needed to be. After all, there are only certain amounts of funds for an entire company, right?

Now there were still companies that employed sales people, and of course if the product was good word of mouth still helped spread the product. But companies and entrepreneurs now focused on their marketing, and less on their products.

The 4 Evolutionary Stages of Marketing

Stage 4

Here we’ve come full circle and the companies that I listed in the beginning have figured out how to leverage the numbers of mass (& social) media, but built in the word of mouth marketing INTO their product. It’s like a super product!

When we use these products, the result is a marketing message (aka “word of mouth”) that is sent across our social media profiles, a built in ad. What happens next? Well I watched the videos, I don’t know about you…

Another example of this is exactly how social media platforms were built. When something like MySpace came out, you couldn’t use it unless you had a profile. So you get a profile, then you interact with your friends and then you tell someone else about it. The marketing was built right into the product, genius!



I agree that every successful company has some sort of well thought out marketing strategy incorporated in their business model. But the best ones don’t compartmentalize all the facets of their business, they let their marketing bleed through the company. It comes out of every inch of what they do.

It starts with a great product or service, if your product or service sucks, your marketing is only going to get you so far. You’ll get a first wave of customers, but no repeats and no referrals.

If you’re like me, you don’t care to have the next Facebook, you just want to have a successful business (if you are an entrepreneur). So it starts when you look at your product, how can you incorporate your marketing into your product?

I talked about my mom earlier this week, and her marketing is built right into her product: she works 14 hour days in a gym with 60+ clients a week. Do you think the other people in the gym don’t notice that??? If you come at 7:00 AM she’s there, if you come at 7:00 PM she’s there, and she always has clients so she’s obviously doing something right.

When I was in the furniture business there was a referral component built right into the sale, asking for referrals before the person even left the building. The motto was “8 out of 10 people we see are return customers or referrals” and that wasn’t too far fetched.

How do you incorporate marketing into your business?

If you don’t, where CAN you incorporate it?

Don’t be compartmentalized, break open the boxes of your business and let your marketing bleed through into everything you do!


Leave me a comment below or chat with me on Twitter, I’d love to hear your thoughts on marketing.

Have a great day!

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