Renee Prejean-Motanky


In Business Strategies, Consulting, marketing, Random Thoughts on July 21, 2010 at 12:04 am

Here’s What They Should Know


 There’s a great cartoon where a guy in a business suit is looking over the shoulder of an artist at work. The artist is saying; “I used to dabble a bit in accounting, too.”

Then there’s the guy who said to me, “If you’re smart enough to be a lawyer, then you’re smart enough to do your own advertising.” To which I replied, “Yes that’s true. You may also be smart enough to be a scientist, but it doesn’t make you one.”

Then there’s the guy who read a book about sky diving. He knew everything about sky diving — except how to do it.

My point is that while marketing may not be rocket science, it does have its craft, its artistry, its techniques, its experiences, and its history. And if you’re not experienced within the realm of those things, you don’t know much about marketing. Having only read a book about something doesn’t make for expertise and falling prey to the belief, “I can do it because I, after all, have a graduate degree,” is egocentric nonsense.  Oddly enough, a lot of people in business seem to feel this way.

 Every marketing professional can tell you a story about a client or an employer who retained the marketer for his/her expertise, and then proceeded to drown them by micro-managing and second-guessing. A former employer of mine, an engineer, always started conversations we had with the words; “I started out as a marketing coordinator” (translation; “I know all about marketing…”)   He also fancied himself to be a good writer, but he wasn’t!  He wasn’t he worse writer I’ve ever run across, but he was far from good.  Needless to say, that relationship was doomed from the beginning. 

Beyond that, an even greater problem was not the presumption of knowledge where none really existed, it was in the drive to an expectation that skipped right over a pervasive mound of reality. I should have known better when he said to me, “We’ve been a small firm for seven years, and now it’s time for us to be a big firm…”  The salary offer and benefit package that followed, made it hard for me to say no even though I pride myself on being “wise.”

Too bad, because what happened was to be expected: not only acute second-guessing, but entrenched ideas steeped in marketing mythology. Take it from me; when the marketer in you says, from the depths of experience, “This is what we have to do,” to which the reply is, “But we’ve never done it that way. Let’s do it the way we always have.” Or they simply ignore your advice and do whatever they want to.  The tenure of the marketer in that situation is usually brief, at which point the client goes out to either find another marketer or appoint someone they already know, and the cycle is either repeated or the new person does whatever is asked with a big smile until they’ve acquired enough experience to move on to a greener pasture.

This type of client, if the truth be told, may think/say he or she wants to be big – but isn’t willing to go through the rigors of getting there.

What, then, should clients or employers know about what they don’t know – in order to really benefit from the knowledgeable, experienced, and thoughtful marketer? A lot, but let’s start with…

  • Marketing has specific skills that improve with experience. How to understand the client’s market. How to write a program that achieves a marketing objective. How to use the tools of marketing, and how to manage those tools.
  • Marketers understand what works and what doesn’t. Many years ago I developed an ad campaign for a client who had some ideas of his own that he wanted to try out. OK, I said, let’s run your ad, which seemed to be a good one, against my ad, which he didn’t like as much as his ad. My ad out-pulled his by 50%. Why? Because he didn’t understand the psychology of advertising, which is learned only after long experience.
  • There is no greater artistry in marketing than in direct mail. Knowing how to capture the reader in the first line of the letter. Knowing how to time a mailing. Knowing how to get the reader to think that the bright idea to buy was the reader’s, not the writer’s. And that’s just a sample of what the professional marketer knows. “Why are we paying this guy so much for direct mail?” an accounting firm partner once asked. “I’ve been writing letters all my life. I can do it.”
  • Marketers understand that trying to tell people how to think about the firm doesn’t work. That’s why you can’t say things like, “We put clients first,” or “We do high quality work.” It may be what you want the reader to think about you, but they’re not going to just because you ask them to. More brochures are expensive and useless garbage because they attempt to get readers to believe things that just aren’t credible by simply expounding them. Professional marketers know better.
  • Good marketers understand the difference between firm objectives and marketing objectives. They’re not the same, although you can’t have one without the other, as the song goes.
  • Ultimately, marketing is an art form that uses skills, techniques and experience to achieve its ends. As we’ve said, if you want a good marketing program, don’t hire a mechanic, hire an artist.

As a professional, you should have some inkling about how expensive it is to hire marketers whose work you don’t understand or appreciate, only to have a frustrating parting of the ways. It’s even worse when you have a strong feeling that marketing is something you have to do in this competitive environment, but aren’t quite sure about how to hire, much less understand and live with, that peculiar breed of professional services marketers.

And now a word to clients and partners who think they know marketing. Unless you’re that rare bird with some kind of inborn talent for marketing – and there are some of you like that – you don’t know beans.

You should know, first, that the mechanics of marketing – this includes media relations, writing, direct mail, sales and such – are not marketing. They are tools.  Marketing, in the final analysis, is an art form. The mechanics and tools are not the art. And, when you’re hiring a marketer, don’t look for a mechanic – look for an artist. The artist is the individual who’ll pull it all together for you in a way that makes you stand out from the rest.

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