3 Marketing Potholes

From marketing über guru, Seth Godin:

 

Marketing pothole (#1 of 3): I’ll know it when I see it

Here is the first of three common pitfalls that wreck your marketing efforts:

Lots of marketers (and most of their bosses) like to say, “I’ll know it when I see it.”

That’s why they want to see three or five or twenty executions of an ad. Or ten or fifteen mockups of a car or a facade. That’s why marketers put their staff and their freelancers and their agencies through an infinite loop of versioning.

“I’ll know it when I see it.”

Actually, you won’t.

You didn’t know it when you saw the first iPod or the first iteration of Google. You didn’t know it when first exposed to email or JetBlue or the Macarena or Britney Spears. No, in fact, you hardly ever “know it.” If you did, you’d be a lot smarter than the rest of us, and we’d all be eagerly watching for your next product.

What is true is that we often know success when it smashes us in the face. We didn’t “know it” when Google went public at $85 a share (did you buy shares with your house as collateral?) but we sure knew it when it hit $300.

Perhaps Clive Davis knows a hit song when he hears one, and certainly Giorgio Armani has the magic eye. But, just speaking for myself, I don’t have Clive’s ears or Giorgio’s eyes.

Marketing campaigns are frequently crippled by managers who are sure that they know “it” when they see it–and this isn’t it. Some of my favorite stories are the ones about all the naysayers who tried to kill the stuff that ends up being great.  They just didn’t know what it was.

Marketing pothole (#2 of 3): I’m too busy

I can count on one hand the number of marketers I know who get to do “Marketing” every day. (with a capital M).

Accountants do accounting all the time. Salespeople spent a lot of time selling. But marketers, it seems, have a long list of things they do (budgets, coupons, projections, photo shoots, bizdev meetings, meet and greets, etc.) that is technically marketing–cause I think everything an organization does is marketing–but is hardly in the sweet spot.

Think about the giant marketing successes of our time. From Disney to CAA to Boston Consulting Group… from Ronald Reagan to the Mormon Church to Habitat for Humanity… in every case, these organizations won big time because of a kernel of an idea, a marketing insight that they built upon.

There are more than 50,000 restaurants in New York City. Perhaps 200 of them are marketing success stories. Yet at the other 49,800 restaurants, the owners spend very little time working on their breakout idea, and tons of time doing stuff that feels a lot more important.

Once an organization is up and running, it’s almost impossible to carve out the time to find the marketing vision that will make all the difference. Are you too busy working to make any money?

Marketing pothole (#3 of 3): What will the boss think

This is the biggest one, and the reason for the whole series.

I now believe that almost all marketing decisions are first and foremost made without the marketplace in mind.

That’s a pretty bold statement, but here goes.

I think that most marketers, most of the time, make their marketing decisions based on what they think the committee, or their boss, or their family or their friends or the blog readers with email will say.

When I speak to groups, the folks who are stuck, or who are not finding the growth they are hoping for, rarely say, “we don’t know how to get the market to respond.” Instead, they say, “my boss or the factory or the committee or the design folks or the CFO won’t…”

Now, of course most of this is whining. Most of this is nonsense. It’s not everyone else’s fault. But that’s not my point. My point is that if you market intending to please those people, you only have yourself to blame.

Great marketing pleases everyone on the team, sooner or later. But at the beginning, great marketing pleases almost no one. At the beginning, great marketing is counter-intuitive, non-obvious, challenging and apparently risky. Of course your friends, shareholders, stakeholders and bosses won’t like it. But they’re not doing the marketing, you are.

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