I Don’t Know The First Thing About Marketing, And I’m Glad

Posted · Add Comment
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someone

Over dinner my kids were asking what I do. What my job is. I stumbled over the explanation a few times. I experienced the age-old “Explain it to me like I’m a 5-year old”. Finally my daughter said “You don’t sound like you know your job”.


It’s true. She’s right. I don’t know the first thing about marketing. At least, not in the traditional sense. I never took a single marketing class in college. I wasn’t trained on the practices of Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. Truth be told, I always found marketing to be “artsy”, cluttered with overused alliteration and stock photography. But, by recognizing my lack of knowledge, I’ve certainly benefited. Not “knowing” has taught me how to listen. And over time I’ve learned that I’m not a marketer. What I do educates and empowers people. Below are 7 things I’ve learned that have made me an Enabler, versus a Marketer.

1. Learn more about your customers than merely what their job is. Last week I attended a customer conference. Participating in workshops and roundtables certainly provided some excellent feedback, but the biggest insight resulted from a side conversation with a customer. We were commiserating over our parents’ shared disappointment that we didn’t pursue other careers. I learned through our conversation that her Mom wanted her to be an attorney. She explained to her mother that essentially she is, because so much of her time is spent working her marketing material through the legal approval process (she’s in Pharma). She said “I wish you had a document that explained your product to attorneys. I have an email for a post-show event that’s been with our attorneys for 10 days!”. It was a wake-up call to the need to redesign personas and content (blog post coming of course :)).

2. Recognize that your sales team can be your greatest ally. I’ve had the awesome pleasure of working with some great sales teams these last few years. Of course, sales people can be demanding, but that’s how you know they care. If I don’t have a rep calling, emailing, or stopping by my desk, I’m failing. By supporting and enabling your sales team, you’re contributing to a strengthened front line of business. You’ll also learn immense amounts of information. Through that relationship you can identify patterns in industry and geographic spaces. You can better understand how your message resonates when communicated verbally. You can also recognize gaps in the tools and information requested by both your sales teams and your audience. I value salespeople because not only do they have the toughest job in business, but they’ve also been my biggest advocate for marketing internal to the organization.

3. Say “yes” more than you say “no”. Ahhh, this is such a hard one to follow. Our knee-jerk reaction is to always respond with “no”. Take a breath and ask for some time to think through the request. I always find that not only can I satisfy the request, but by saying “yes” I inadvertently improve the project at hand. For example, I had a sales rep ask for a presentation he could give to a prospect. My first reaction was “we don’t have anything”. Instead, we hopped on a call together, walked through a few different documents, and came up with a presentation. It took less than an hour and now I have a presentation that can be replicated. Oh, and I have sales buy-in!

4. Read non-marketing books. I enjoy David Meerman Scott and Seth Godin as much as the next the guy. But when everything you read is focused on marketing you can very quickly develop tunnel vision. Swap out some of your marketing books for papers on cognitive reasoning, publications on process improvement, and the occasional Hunger Games book.

5. Appreciate the science of marketing. Beauty, and creativity, are in the eye of the beholder. We all appreciate a fun marketing campaign, a slick web design, and a craftily filmed video. But everyone has a different opinion on what looks “high-tech”, reads “well” or appears “sexy”. We can’t, however, argue with what our audience responds to. Marketing analytics provides the data that takes the guesswork out of marketing and removes the emotion from the business decision making process. Let the numbers, actually your audience, speak for themselves.

6. Disagree with yourself. Anytime you think you have a good idea, or have something figured out, argue yourself out of your own point of view. Yes, a bit crazy, but you need to challenge your thinking and avoid spotlighting. Great solutions and ideas often reside around the perimeter of your thinking.

7. Identify mentors. This is so key. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have amazing mentors during the last 6 years of my career. These people took the time to teach me what I couldn’t learn from the 6 lessons above. Surround yourself with people that have done it before, or are doing it again. Don’t underestimate reverse mentoring as well. There’s so much to be learned from those with fresh minds and lots of energy.

I didn’t pursue a career in the marketing field. I accidentally stumbled into this, but boy I’m glad I did.


Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.

Comments are closed.