What do non-marketers misunderstand about marketing?
You're at the dinner table for a holiday. Your cousin - a recruiter - talks about his job and fields several questions on his day-to-day, candidate stories, and more. It's an engaging conversation.
Everyone shifts to you and asks about your new job. "What do you do again?"
You say you work in marketing for a mid-size technology firm (one they never heard of). Instead of getting relevant questions about your role, you get hit with: "oh so you do their social media?" Your niece chimes in with "can you follow me on instagram?"
You attempt to give your real title (Demand Generation Manager) but that only confuses everyone more. Finally you end with, after an audible sigh: "I make more people want to buy our product." The conversation moves on. You're a little deflated.
Have you had this experience? Then this edition is for you.
Every job has its stereotypes and misconceptions. No one is going to understand the ins and outs of every career.
And this happens all the time, especially in the corporate world. Despite teams theoretically working together - from IT and Sales, to Product and Finance - very rarely does one team know what the others do. This leads them to make assumptions.
This happens a lot in marketing. Non-marketers make assumptions about the field and unfortunately, it can perpetuate cultures that hinder marketing's success. Sometimes it's a simple misconception. Other times, it's an ignorant statement that almost seems intentional...
To understand this more, I tweeted "What do non-marketers misunderstand about marketing?"
This edition will break down some of the responses. This is a bit of a ranting session, some tips are thrown here. Let's go:
"You make things look pretty."
I was literally told this in my last full-time (director) role. Now…were they correct? Of course. Like most stereotypes, this comes from at least a sliver of truth. At the time, I was the only one on the team who ever had opinions on how things looked (and my opinion was usually relied on). That didn't mean it was a good thing to say (or hear).
This is a great example of words or phrases that perpetuate negative stereotypes of marketing. Using this phrase in the context of what marketing does is pretty degrading. If your marketing team stopped everything tomorrow and only focused on making things pretty, sales would come crawling to you in 15 minutes.
Some non-marketers seem to think that just because an opportunity for marketing exists, then it must be taken and executed on right away. There's this odd, misplaced sense of urgency to "do the marketing" without consulting the hired experts if it should even be done in the first place.
It's important to handle these situations without being a jerk or a perpetual 'no person'. I wrote about this a little in my public Freelancer's Survival Guide and I'll drop it here:
"A client [or someone at your company] just came to you with a new idea for a marketing campaign. The second they start talking you are saying to yourself:
that is going to take way longer than they think
this doesn’t align with our strategy
that is nowhere near industry best practices
The last thing clients want to hear is “no.” However, they did hire you for your expertise, so use it! Here’s how to communicate why a client’s bad idea won’t work
Present an example of the idea they have to show you are on the same page
Provide 3+ reasons why this does not support the goals of your project/contract
Present updated alternatives based on their idea. Make sure they feel heard while shifting the focus to a new, better idea!"
You were hired for your expertise in marketing. Whether it's from your boss, your boss' boss, or someone from an entirely different team, bad or ill-timed ideas should be discussed and ultimately turned down.
Can great ideas come from anywhere? Sure. That's why the idea should be discussed so everyone understands why it is being done (or not done). But 9/10, let the pros handle it and take the honest criticism of your bad idea.
Marketers use a combination of data and their own gut to make good decisions. The former requires research - actual time spent to understand the context and provide a solution that will net the best results. You can't just "spin up a campaign" in an afternoon without understanding the goals, the topic, available channels, content for those channels, etc. etc. Well, I guess you can but it won't be very good.
Audience research alone is a huge part of marketing. "Marketing research" is very much a thing that falls under market research. If you don't spend time understanding your ICP (ideal customer profile), then you're spending your time on the wrong people.
(not sponsored, just a great response)
There's...a lot to talk about with this one:
data privacy laws, GDPR, CCPA
your customer's communication tolerance/preference
being more intentional with your marketing content
I'll focus on the second one for now: understanding your customer's communication preferences.
Every business will have a different answer for this. And every marketer should know these preferences don't just vary based on customer type or industry. They vary by channel, time sent, and the content itself.
It can seem like a delicate balance communicating to your customer. Too little and you aren't top of mind. Too much and they will unsubscribe and cut you off forever (or worse, report you as spam!).
The easiest way to find the balance? Ask. Literally just ask. If someone opts into your newsletter, they probably know how often you will send it. Check in and see if that's the right cadence for the audience. Same applies to text promotions or any other regular marketing communication. That data from your customers should then inform your publishing cadence.
And be thoughtful with your subscription preferences. It's one thing to create a few subscription types and allow the customer a way to customize their preferences. It's another to opt someone into 9 subscriptions across 2 devices just because they filled out one form (*cough* mlb *cough)
Stuff takes time! Great stuff takes more time! This is a concept a ton of non-marketers cannot seem to grasp. But if the roles were reversed, marketing would be scoffed out the building.
The truth is, experts in any thought-based field will believe 2 things simultaneously:
They can do their job very quickly because they are an expert
Their job can take a lot of time though (and they know this because they are an expert)
The belief changes based on the situation and the job to be done.
I'm sure some of us have seen those marketing TikTok videos of someone's "day in the life as a social media manager" and they always say it takes them 20 minutes to write content for the month. If you do that, I don't trust the quality of your content. Some non-marketers (and tbh some marketers) will say "that's easy of course you can do that in 20 minutes". But when you ask what the strategy is, what the KPIs are, or how their KPIs are supporting the larger marketing team, you get silence. The point is: good marketing work can take time and likely takes more time than a non-marketer would expect.
Looking at Audrey's response, one newsletter will likely need:
Coordination with guest contributors or ad partners
That is not just 1 hour of work!
No job will ever be fully understood by people who don’t do that job. Otherwise, they would just do that job…
For marketers, this can seem like a constant in your career - having to hear and navigate misperceptions about your job that can directly impact your morale and how you even view marketing.
Taking an educational approach is usually my way out of this. It’s the best way to have a long-term, positive impact on how non-marketers view marketing.
If someone wants to assume a million things about my job, I’ll take the time to educate them in the moment. Depending on the person, I’ll just knowledge bomb them and share a ton of subtopics related to their assumption until they are just overwhelmed. But there's other (healthier) ways…
Hope you liked this edition - any other things non-marketers misunderstand about marketing? Reply to this email and I'll share some on social.
See you in 2 weeks!