10 Lies Marketers Tell Ourselves (And How to Make Them True)

Marketers have a pretty tough job.

Shit gets thrown at us every day: shit from our bosses, shit from the customers, shit from people who have no business throwing shit at us, and even shit that we bring upon ourselves. 

And we deal with it the same way other reasonable adults deal with it.

We lie to ourselves. 

We cover up with nice-sounding aphorisms or general sweeping statements that sound good and may even calm us (and the person we’re talking to) down, but deep inside we know it doesn’t actually help. 

Fess up, you. Time to face the truth.

AND THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREEEEEE!!!

Lie # 1: One person can do it all

42% of marketers are the sole marketer in their company. This is typically due to budget constraints; but it’s also because one person is enough to handle all of the company’s marketing needs. 

HA! Just kidding!

Are you seriously telling me that one person can juggle marketing strategy, sales enablement, public relations and product management at once? While also being their own writer, graphic designer and web developer? And posting on social media the whole time?

Not gonna happen!

What really goes down is that the company compromises; either by focusing on one type of marketing while letting the others slide, or by trying to do a bit of everything at once (and failing at all of them). 

Making it real: You can’t. 

Seriously, you can’t. Not even with tools and automation (more on that later). 

Lie # 2: All you need is good content

This is what I call the “Field of Dreams” content strategy: the notion that good content will attract users all by itself. That somehow it will generate an aura of intense interest and virality that will draw people from all over the internet–who will, of course, fill out your contact form and request additional information on your product. 

Sorry, that’s not actually possible. Even the best content will languish if people don’t know that it’s there.

Making it real: Distribute, distribute, distribute. Get the word out through whatever means are at your disposal:

  • Prominent placement on your website
  • Cross-promote on social media
  • Mailing lists
  • Promote on your newsletter 
  • Paid advertisements
  • Sharing with influencers and friendly contacts

Also give your content to internal people for them to share. Sales, for instance, can share your blog with a prospect as a way of staying top-of-mind. Don’t let it sit there gathering dust; get your content circulating!

Lie # 3: I just need the right technology

This is the big lie that most SaaS vendors won’t tell you. Technology will help, but it won’t solve everything. In fact, there are instances where technology will make things worse

Martech is like Captain America’s super-soldier serum. It magnifies what’s already there. To paraphrase Doctor Erskine, “Good marketing becomes great. Bad marketing becomes worse.”

Much, much worse.

You will spread your bad content farther for people to laugh at, while your fancy new SEO or attribution tool will just show you how badly you’re failing. 

Technology won’t fix weak branding. Technology won’t fix a bad strategy. Technology won’t improve a terrible product. 

That, my friend, is on you

Making it real: Get your house in order first. Know what your product does, who your best customers are and why they should buy it. Invest in a good brand and gooder [sic] content. After all that’s done, only then are you ready for technology to step in and help. 

Lie # 4: Getting an intern will solve everything

Ever heard of the mythical man-month? It’s a programming concept that represents what people get wrong about staffing a team. 

It goes something like this: If it takes a woman nine months to give birth, then nine women working together should be able to do it in one month!

If it sounds crazy, that’s because it is. And yet bosses keep throwing interns at you as if more cheap labor will automatically solve everything. Never mind that you have to stop whatever you’re doing and come up with stuff for the intern to do, train the intern, oversee their work and correct their mistakes (which are hopefully minor). And that assumes the intern has a good attitude and is teachable (this isn’t always the case). 

Making it real: Don’t hand over the keys to Google Adwords and expect them to pick it up right away. Make sure you have a need that is appropriate for an intern’s skill set and experience level. Maybe you can give the intern control over the social media account, as long as you vet each of their posts before they go out. 

Low-level or labor intensive tasks like list cleanup or site audits are good starters, as long as they actually add value to the team and aren’t just busywork. 

Lie # 5: The company will read my kickass blog post

You just spent a week researching your latest pillar blog post, and another week writing it and putting it together. You’re enormously proud of it, and share it on the team Slack channel and wait for the praise to roll in. 

You get a few positive comments and thumbs-up emojis, so yay! But when you actually ask people what they liked about it, you get evasive answers or outright lies. 

Congratulations, you’ve just been pity-patted.

Pity pat: praising someone while secretly being unimpressed or apathetic.

Usage: “My marketer seemed really proud of the blog he wrote, so I gave him a pity pat.”

Nobody else in the company really wants to read what marketing puts out. Why would they? They’re probably sick to death of the company and wouldn’t waste spare brain cells reading something they didn’t have to. You may as well have been a child showing a crayon drawing for all the genuine enthusiasm you get. Kind of breaks your heart, huh?

Making it real: People love reading about themselves (or their own opinions). So involve the rest of the company in your content. Get quotes from subject matter experts in your own company, or better yet, get them to write their own content. Now their interest will be genuine!

The content will be more authoritative and your source will help you promote the article internally. Why? So that everyone can see him being an expert. 

Lie # 6: I can figure out [SEO/SEM/PPC/CRO/etc] on my own

Technology is the best thing to happen to a marketer–of that there is no doubt. 

But it’s also a royal pain in the ass (pardon my French). 

Marketers have to deal with sub-disciplines like search engine optimization, email marketing, paid advertising and social media marketing–stuff that you need, but don’t necessarily have the expertise on. 

We assume that we can learn on the job. A quick google search here, a quick browse through a blog there, and voila! You know enough to get by. 

Nope! You know enough to be dangerous

You don’t have the experience to know whether or not what you read is true. Or if it is true, whether it’s still relevant. For all you know, the SEO advice you read (and acted on) was three years old and no longer applies to the current Google algorithm. 

Making it real: Take your education seriously. Establish learning goals that align with what you’re trying to accomplish for your company (not learning for the lulz). Then enroll in online marketing courses from recognized organizations like Marketing Profs and the Content Marketing Institute or marketing authorities like Ann Handley, Seth Godin and Jay Baer

Then (here’s the important bit) actually test their advice. Measure the results and see if it makes a difference in your marketing. Their solution might not turn out the best for you!

Lie # 7: No further revisions

Any person who’s touched a creative project will know this one. There are always, always more revisions. Either from you, the client, the brand police, the CEO, or Jerry from Accounting who just wants to shove his nose in other people’s business. 

The more people have a say, the more contradictory feedback you get. 

This is how you get filenames like “artwork-v4-final-final2-finalforreal.pdf”

Making it real: You’re not here to be inclusive. You’re here to get shit done. 

Limit the number of people involved in the review cycle, and don’t let them comment piecemeal. Consolidate all comments and review them with the stakeholders before acting on each set of revisions. Call people out when they flip flop or are inconsistent, and protect your creative team from bullshit feedback and aggressively negative comments. 

Lie # 8: I know what our customers want/think/feel

Business owners and executives assume that marketers have this instinctive ability to divine who they should be selling/marketing to. That we can create customer personas on command based on nothing but stock knowledge, marketing “best practices” and what we see on Bloomberg.

Worse, we buy into it. We believe the hype and think that our status as a marketer means our assumptions are better than others in the company.

And you know what they say about assumptions: “it makes an ass out of you and me.”

Making it real: You know the only people who truly know your customers?

Customer service.

Seriously. They talk to customers day in and day out. They know who likes what and why, and who doesn’t like it and what could be done better. 

They’re the first people marketers should talk to in a new company if they want to get the real story.

Another good source of real info is behavioral metrics. Customer data and analysis will help you generate new, accurate and data-driven customer personas. No more winging it! 

Lie # 9: [Insert department here] will help me

We’re all a part of the same team, right? And teams work together, right?

And so when you contact the development team and ask for any recent new features they want promoted, they should respond promptly and happily, right? 

Right?

Eventually, they do. But it takes so long and needs so much follow-up it’s almost as if you were making them write the update themselves. 

What’s the deal?

There are a number of reasons they might not get around to helping you, but most of them boil down to the simple fact that they don’t think your request is important. Certainly not more important than anything they’ve got going on right now. 

Making it real: Part of the reason other departments don’t think marketing is important is that they don’t understand the value you bring to the table. They don’t see the tangible benefit in helping you out. More to the point, they don’t see how they benefit. 

There are a couple of ways you can try to remedy this. First, announce your successes internally and what that means for the business. Was the new ebook a hit? If so, how many new clients did it bring in it’s first month? How much were those clients worth?

If you can attach a dollar value (or at least a concrete win) to each successful marketing campaign, that would show the rest of the departments you do more than just puff pieces. That would make them more predisposed to helping you–especially if you acknowledge the contributions of anyone who takes the time to assist (thus making them look good to management, too). 

Lie #10: I’ll start when I have the budget

Marketers never control the purse strings. In most companies, marketers have to beg, borrow and steal whatever money they can to get stuff done. “Work within your means” is kind of an industry aphorism. 

This lack of budget usually brings things to a screeching halt. Don’t have the money to hire writers? No content for you. No money for tradeshow appearances? You may as well be a potted plant in your office for all the travelling you’ll be doing. 

You hold out hope that one day your boss will divert his attention from the sales team or the tech team and throw you an additional bone or two so you can fund your dream project. 

But it’s never going to happen. If anything, your budget is gonna get reduced next year. Probably to fund the boss’ new office extension. 

Wait til you have the budget, and you’ll be waiting forever. 

Making it real: Marketers should take an entrepreneurial approach when faced with budget challenges. Entrepreneurs do everything they can to work around the money problem. They do the work themselves, often at a small scale, and try to prove their solution works before approaching investors. 

In your case, try implementing your dream strategy at a small scale and measure the hell out of it. Find out what works and what doesn’t, so that the next time you have a budget meeting you can point to your experiment out and say, “I did X for no budget and got Y result. If you want Z result, I’ll need way more money.”

Managers will be much more willing to expand your funding if you can prove you did your homework–either through actual experimentation or through detailed research and competitive analysis (e.g. “Brand Y does it, and it works for them. Why not us?”)

So basically…

Marketers don’t mean to be deceptive with these lies (especially since we’re telling them to ourselves). It’s our way of dealing with what we feel to be an overwhelming situation. 

But they don’t have to be lies. If we change our approach and reset our expectations, we can change the way our team–and the rest of the company–thinks and works and turn the farfetched into something achievable. 

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