February 04, 2013

On Going Through the Marketing Motions

I’ve been thinking of things that begin with the letter M. Marketing. Motions. Mediocrity.

This video got me started. (Michael Bierut as recommended here by Nishant Kothary.) Specifically, the portion from 12:50 to 17:00 where Bierut speaks on his four qualities of a good client: Brains, Trust, Passion, and Courage. He’s speaking of clients, but this is a great framework for selecting a team, joining a company, and even picking your friends.

Brains is a well-rounded notion, not meant to require genius IQ or even a single-subject rocket scientist expertise. Flexibility, adaptability, and even street smarts lead the way.

Trust is of key importance. If you task a subject expert to execute something, you should trust their expertise, judgment, and ability to execute it. If you have your mind made up on the solution before you start, why’d you hire the expert in the first place? If you don’t trust anyone, why hire them at all?

Passion is not strictly for design or coding or copywriting or even for marketing. But there must be some passion for the business, the product, or the results.

Courage doesn’t mean jumping out of airplanes or into MMA cage matches. It means that one will, for example, confront institutional constraints and not simply accept the, “that’s not the way it’s done here” habits.

Going through the marketing motions, then, happens when some or all of these traits are lacking. And if you find yourself in one of these teams or companies, it can become an “up at dawn, pride swallowing siege” about which you can never fully tell anyone.

Going through the marketing motions can look from the outside like a cutting edge team. Hey look, there’s a shiny web site, visitors are filling out forms; we’ve got followers all over the place; white papers, webinars and ebooks are being published; tradeshows are running like clockwork.  We’re monitoring social media, running paid search, writing blogs. And the illusion is not just from the outside; those on the inside might fool themselves into thinking they are on top of the craft.

A group going through the marketing motions can still be busy. Very busy. But the activity is not adding up to its potential. A big symptom reveals itself at evaluation time. The team has to scramble to bend, fold and mutilate some numbers to justify their activity.

The underlying problem is that some lack of Brains, Trust, Passion, or Courage is leading to a lot of activity that isn’t strategically planned, isn’t properly executed, or both.

When you’re going through the motions, where do you start a lasting fix? With Passion, it seems. If you can inspire people to overcome their fears, to let go of control, to learn to think critically and strategically, you stand a chance of breaking the cycle of mediocrity.

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