One of the hardest – and most underrated skills – is to be able to teach someone about a thing you know how to do so well it’s almost automatic.
If you’re super immersed in and knowledgeable about a skill set – like marketing – it can be really hard to break it down in understandable terms for someone else.
But that’s exactly what marketers need to do for marketing.
One of the interesting byproducts of the digital era is that marketers have gotten really good at talking about marketing to other marketers. We’ve created a really interesting little fishbowl where we can debate and preach to the converted through our content all day long, and sometimes, that feels like progress.
And it’s not to say that peer-to-peer sharing doesn’t have value. It does. But somewhere along the line, marketing’s four Ps – product, price, place, promotion – have been reduced to a LOT of the promotion, and less of the other three.
Because marketing has a marketing problem.
Arguably, marketing’s role in organizations is evolving in more ways than just using digital channels to get out messaging. If you sidle up much closer to the problem, you realize quickly that marketing sits at the epicenter of customer experience in a way it never really has before. We’re often the ones tasked with:
- Assessing and understanding the market
- Discovering and reaching the audiences within the market
- Acquiring new leads and customers
- Engaging audiences and communities, often as the first point of contact since we own or manage so many of the inbound channels
- Retaining customers and nurturing them for long-term growth
- Course-correcting for any of the above when something goes off the rails as a first point of diagnosis (“maybe it’s the marketing”).
And often we’re doing that even with some of those other P’s being designed and directed in increasingly fragmented, non-marketing places in the organization.
Given that broad scope of responsibility and accountability that marketing has even while our domain continues to evolve, one of our first orders of business must be to make marketing more accessible to people who aren’t marketers.
The Language of Business
Anyone who knows me knows that I can nerd out about marketing attribution, measurement, and data for quite a while (which makes me super fun at parties).
I’m also super passionate about developing messaging and positioning that’s incisive, clear, and focused on the customer instead of the brand. That’s probably why I love content marketing so much; its a broad bucket that really contains a lot of the story-making pieces for taking a brand to market.
I also hear a lot of marketers lamenting so many aspects of their work; frustrated with budgets, resources, career paths (my friend Robert Rose from CMI just wrote an enlightening post on this topic that really resonated)…and a lot of that is because we feel like we’re just so misunderstood, so undervalued.
That’s probably true, but it’s a problem we’ve created.
Marketing has a language of its own. Most disciplines do, and it’s perfectly useful when you’re communicating with native speakers. Marketers know how to speak marketing to each other. And we dork out about it a lot among ourselves, feeding the content engine with marketing content that’s marketing marketing to marketers.
But that’s less useful when we’re trying to illustrate the value of marketing to, well, other people.
The language of business is often much more broad (and yes, I know there’s a whack of business jargon that exists that we could eviscerate here, but humor me by rolling with the larger point). When I led marketing teams, I wasn’t convincing other marketers about the value in my plans.
I was convincing the CEO. The CFO. Sometimes even the CTO or heads of product. My sales leadership team.They all needed to be able to understand my business case for marketing investment in terms that were useful and familiar to them.
For the CFO, that was about bottom-line metrics (revenue, cost, EBITDA, margin, growth, churn…). The CEO cared about all of those along with measures around brand reputation, market share, and the attribution of our marketing efforts in conjunction with the activities that drive growth (usually summarized by sales and service type metrics). The CTO needed to understand adoption, engagement, advocacy, retention, attrition, and how what we do in marketing is helping get her products in the hands of more customers (and making them happy once they have it). And the sales leadership team just wanted me to get more potential dollars in the door (or equip their team to do so) so they could make their number.
Marketing as Ambassadors
Yes, that’s a LOT for marketing to touch. That’s also what makes marketing one of THE most exciting, diverse, complex and meaningful areas to work in today (in my not-so-humble opinion). Nowhere else can you feel quite the same breadth of impact on the whole of an organization than in a modern marketing role.
It’s also why it’s incumbent upon us to learn to frame marketing in the terms that our business counterparts care about so they can continue to invest from the perspective that makes the most sense to them. For example, it’s not that we need to set fire to “vanity” metrics. We need to better illustrate the factors that contribute to brand awareness (being able find and identify with what a brand is doing), why brand awareness is valuable (gotta put stuff in the top of the funnel to get stuff out the bottom), and how doing it (or not) impacts the business levers that our colleagues care about from other areas of the organization.
And as we bring marketing outside our organizations to the world at large, we have to be able to speak about it in terms that new marketers and non-marketers alike can understand, so they can give it the credence and consideration it deserves as a meaningful lever in our organizations, not just the Department of PowerPoint, Logos, and Websites.
We’re the ambassadors of a demonstrable shift in the way marketing works, supports, and drives a business today. That’s the “great power comes with great responsibility” thing. We have a big job to do, and we have to stop expecting everyone else to get us and do the work to demonstrate that we understand them.
After all, we’re really good at preaching that the best marketing is focused on our customers, in the language that they use and understand.
(I do, by the way, get the irony of using this inaugural post here to preach this gospel to an audience that includes marketers, I do. But that’s what rallying cries are for.)
It’s past time for us to market our marketing in a way that does our meaningful and exciting work justice to our internal customers and earns the investments from individuals and businesses alike that may not yet grasp its impact or value. So that’s what I’m here to do, in some small way. This fishbowl is too damned small to contain this revolution all by itself, so let’s get to work.
Are you with me?