Gently explaining that marketing isn’t obvious

One of the most annoying things about any job is being employed to do something you’re good at, and then being told how you should be doing the job by someone ‘senior’ with less expertise. As an engineer, I found this was a rare occurrence. As a journalist, I encountered it more frequently. In marketing, it’s epidemic. I’m sure many of you will be nodding in agreement.

Everyone seems to think they know how to “do marketing”. As a marketing services subcontractor, I don’t see it directly, because none of our clients employ us to tell us how to do the job (we’d politely part company with any that did). But I know what a pain it must be in-house, because some of that works its way through to us. Sales directors who have no idea how a Google AdWords campaign works suddenly decide that they must, just must have their advert showing against a certain search, and we’re informed (with eyes rolling skywards): “don’t ask why, it’s not my idea, just do it”. Normally they want their ads appearing above searches on the name of their biggest competitor. Explaining why this is such a terrible idea cuts no ice with people who assume that marketing is obvious.

I find the best response isn’t for you to attempt to blind them with the science. When out of their depth, people panic. Perhaps explain by way of analogy, hopefully steering the right side of being patronising. With search advertising, for example, the ‘I know how to do marketing, me’ crew are seldom concerned with the advertisement offer and the landing page, which are the important things. Instead, they want to know all about the ‘keyword list’. So explain that an AdWords campaign is like a roadside poster campaign. The keywords are the location of the posters. If you were targeting visitors to an exhibition, would you put your posters up on the M6, in the NEC car park or in the gents’ loos by Hall 3? The answer is, you shouldn’t be making wild assumptions: you should be testing them out to see what’s most cost-effective. You’ve done this, and unsurprisingly, some sites turn out to be expensive and poor value.

The advert itself, however: now that’s important, and what you should be spending time on. The best reply to “give me more leads” is sometimes “give me a better offer to get them with”. Don’t let them tell you the solution is to make your logo bigger.

Discussion

  1. David

    I am reminded of the saying that ” it’s too bad that all the best people who know how to run the country are busy driving cabs or cutting hair.” Marketing people might offer alternate versions for unrequested marketing advice. Managing Directors who want to see their company banner bigger and higher than competitor’s the minute they enter an exhibition hall. Who without any expertise in the matter insist on discussing the program code for their new web site, but keep the same content they have had since the company started. Who cut budgets during a recession because it is easier than letting staff go who no longer have work to do. Who open every discussion with the quote “half my expenditure in advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” Or the manufacturing director who make stacks of products few people want because the factory makes a good recovery on them and wants an advertising campaign to sell them. The R& D engineer who actually designs an advertisement for you! .. and lots more

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