Take a break from marketing (or not)


When I decided to “take a break” from years in marketing to build my business acumen the wild world of product management, I came to question can one truly take a break from marketing?

My decision last year to embark on this new journey, to take on new challenges in a new world we called customer segment management was exactly that – a journey with new challenges that seems to have been all to familiar.

What I learned was that I truly never left “marketing.” I may not have been in the org, or had the title, but the practices and applications of the science (yes – it is a science) that I formed over the years are so engrained, I could not possibly avoid them. The practices and applications of everything from Content Marketing, Blogging and Social, to Brand MarketingMarketing Strategy and everything in between translated to customer segment management. The very marketing principles I leaned on not only still apply, but empower me when engaging 1:1 with customers:

  • Know your audience – not knowing is a waste of time
  • Always be listening – people don’t want to be heard, they want to be understood
  • Always be exploring – curiosity is where knowledge starts
  • Always be discovering – markets are mysteries waiting to be solved
  • Never stop creating – without a story, you’re just telling (no one likes to be told…)

Know your audience is the cardinal rule of Marketing 101, yet I cannot stress how little attention is paid to actually knowing the customer. Maybe knowing the customer is too vague and subject to interpretation. Perhaps we should try to “be” the customer.  When you put yourself in the world of the customer, you being to realize what their challenges really are – what they care and don’t care about. What makes them tick.

Always be listening comes off as obvious, but there is a big difference between hearing and listening. I found that there are things customers will tell you openly, and things that they might say with a bit of reservation.  Document everything, synthesize all of the disparate data points you’ve captured, and a picture will start to form in your head. The picture helps you begin to actually start knowing your audience.

Always be exploring is when those pesky questions and ideas start to form in your head. Don’t allow them to be passing thoughts. Write them down. Think about how you would go about answering them and start digging. What I found is that the more I dug, the more questions I had, the more exploring I did, and the clearer the path became to discovering opportunities. Which brings us to the next principle.

Always be discovering is about mystery solving.  I like to think of markets as mysteries. Some we realize all too well, and some are mysteries yet to surface. Our goal as marketers is not only to solve the mystery, but uncover new ones we can solve. The beauty is that if you are always listening and exploring, and you know your audience, this becomes a heck of a lot clearer – not easier – but clearer in terms of a path to discovery, to solving the mystery.  That path may take you all over the web scouring for data points. It may take you to more customers, new types of market research, or social media, forums, and customer hangouts. Like any good detective, don’t leave any stone unturned that may help solve the mystery.

Never stop creating is all about storytelling. Storytelling can captivate an audience. It can pull them in and entice them into a conversation or discussion, and that’s what we want whether it’s 1:1 with a customer, or in social media with many customers. Discussions support our knowing the audience and ability to listen which means we can explore, discover, and create more effectively.  Presenting, on the other hand is simply telling. What’s worse than sitting in a room listening to someone tell us about their products and services. We all have sat through those meetings, and they rarely lead to anything (getting back to know your audience).


Marketing is just as much telling a story to create customers as it is listening to the stories your customers are telling you.

Image of my pup Lucy taking her own break.


When blogging, go beyond just clicking “Publish”

In my last post, I wrote about search and the importance of priority, plan, and purpose to how we use the social platforms available to us. That thinking too me back to step one in this effort to better understand content marketing – the content itself.

I will be the first to admit that I am as guilty as the next in worrying more about blog post frequency and substance than the nuts and bolts of optimizationsyndication, and communication.

Thanks to Brody of DivvyIQ for sharing this extremely helpful infographic that break down exactly what one should do beyond creating content.

Key Takeaways:

  • Don’t rush to publish – take the time to optimize for search.
  • Tweak and “tweet” more often because one size does not fit all when it comes to status updates.
  • Get outside and play –  Break away from the walls of WordPress or Blogger and ask for feedback, comments, retweets, and always return the favor.

Why Storify is all about “conversation curation”

I love this quote…

“The online social landscape today sort of feels to me like search did in 1999. It’s a mess…Everything is decentralized… As a user, I spend far too much time weeding it all out to find the few gems of real content from people I care about. And I end up missing a lot of important content that I want to know about.”  – Michael Arrington Tech Crunch

It’s true. It’s virtually impossible for individuals to take notice of everything, and equally as difficult for brands in social media to ensure their message is being heard, by the right people. One product that may help messages get through and help consumers find what they want is Storify (now in public beta).  You have content curation services like Scoop.it, Curated.by, Trunk.ly,  Redux, heck LinkedIn has one as well called LinkedIn Today.  The way I look at it is Storify is a “conversation curation” tool that enables “storytelling” (as Storify puts it) in the eyes of the consumer with engagement by the brand.  Storify defines themselves on their FAQs page as:

“Storify is a way to tell stories using social media such as Tweets, photos and videos. You search multiple social networks from one place, and then drag individual elements into your story. You can re-order the elements and also add text to give context to your readers.”

Content is everywhere on the web and in social media. We are bombarded with content one by one on Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, Blogs, etc. For me, I scan headlines and take a deeper dive into the pieces that grab my attention, or cater to what is already within my stream of consciousness. But sometimes, I want to know what people are saying about a product, service, or brand in general.  I do what almost everyone out their does…Google Search. And what comes back?  Typically more content organized one by one, and my entire process of reading headlines and diving in to the ones that catch my attention starts all over again.

I think Storify has an opportunity for brands to do the work for us, while maintaining the impartial, unfiltered opinions and ideas we crave in the social environment. Why? It’s simple:

  • People love stories
  • Stories evoke emotion
  • Emotions drive behavior

And isn’t that what brands ultimately want from consumers – behavior?  Think of the countless stories you could empower your customers to tell. In some cases they are being told without you having to do anything. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. The beauty is that brands have the ability to “curate” these conversations where the story is unfolding and pull in ideas and opinions from other storytellers, engage with the storytellers, and literally either rewrite the story, or make it that much better.

And a bonus – its SEO friendly, so it may just be that much easier to find.

What stories have you helped tell?

Image by: http://www.fightpink.org/healthy-living-tips/create-a-supportive-life-story.html