When you’re sitting at the dinner table with your aunt and uncle, and they ask you what you do for a living, how do you explain what it means to work in marketing?
Few people outside of the discipline understand marketing, though most of their perspectives fall into a few buckets:
- “Marketing is advertising.” Actually, that’s not a bad starting point, although “advertising is a form of marketing” is more accurate. My father worked in advertising for centuries, and only a few years ago did I realize that it had to do with marketing.
- “Marketing is Sales.” Many people confuse the two; I call them “engineers.” Marketing and Sales are complementary functions, but not all marketers can sell, and not all salespeople can market.
- “Marketing is throwing parties.” In some organizations, that’s true, even if people sound cynical when they say it. Some industries rely on trade shows and large, splashy events to get attention; the auto industry comes to mind.
- “Marketing is public relations.” Again, PR is part of marketing, but it’s not the whole thing. PR is one way – a rather expensive one anymore – of getting attention.
- “Marketing is starting the conversation.” Now that…that’s an idea.
When you hire a marketing writer, does she know that her job is to tell a compelling enough story to start a conversation which, if all goes well, somebody in Sales will monetize?
You assign a white paper or a case study to a writer. What do you get back: a surgeon’s report or a conversation-starter? What will the ideal reader do after reading it: close the browser window forever, or give you a call? (Or better yet, retweet it?) What else do you have in the campaign if the first piece doesn’t work? What else do you have in the campaign to keep the conversation going?
You need to think about marketing as a conversation. What’s more, you need to ensure you work with writers who think about their work that way as well.
If you need to mull this over some more, have your aunt and uncle invite you over for dinner more often.