When you ask a marketer what she does, you get a politician’s answer: “We bring innovative solutions to complex problems to help our clients achieve success”
What does that even mean?! WHAT DO YOU DO?!
That nonsense answer is code for: “We’re not sure what we do either.”
You could argue, and many do, that marketers are consciously deceiving you; but having worked in the underbelly of this institution, I can assure you that’s giving them far too much credit.
Most marketers are just as unclear on what they do as you are. It’s why you’ve probably walked out of a 2-hour meeting going, “Wait…what?”
No one is blurring the truth (at least…not on purpose).
We’re all confused because marketing, as an industry, is in transition.
Marketing is where medicine was in the 1950s.
Today, you’d never expect a podiatrist to perform an appendectomy. That’s CRAZY. But back in the day, we did because we didn’t have specialists. We didn’t know any different. You had “doctors” and “not doctors.” And doctors did everything.
The same is true for marketers today.
We’ve clumped everything together and called it “marketing!”
We say “marketing” when really we mean:
- Public relations
- Market research
- Graphic design
- SEO/Inbound Traffic
- Social media
- Web development
- The list goes on…
We’re trying to be all the things, but we can’t. A good web developer is probably not a great social media manager, in the same way your brilliant IT guy is probably not great at being the MC at your holiday party. They’re different skills.
It’s no one’s fault, but it is our problem.
Marketing started out as something to help people businesses get attention. That is not what it is today.
Which is why we’re all confused.
Today, marketing is about getting people to care. It’s changed because getting attention is no longer useful.
Back in the day, a business could take out an ad on one of 4 channels (Radio, TV, Print, and Out-of-Home (stuff like, billboards)) and it would garner the kind of attention that led to sales. Because you had limited formatting options and the internet wasn’t a thing, so there wasn’t quite so much to do.
You had limited options and limited way to execute on those options.
Today, a lot of the marketing that was done by agencies and gatekeepers is now being done by business owners. Which is awesome and terrible because it means you now need to know design, copywriting, HTML, CSS, how to keyword search, and a variety of other skills you never learned…just to be in the game.
Same for marketers. Where back in the day you could be “just a designer,” today you need to know a lot more: Are you a graphic designer? A UX designer? A UI designer? A web designer? Do you do branding? Can you make that button you designed connect with my calendar (which means you need to know HTML) and send subscribers an email (which means you now need to learn Ontraport or Convertkit or whatever ESP that client uses)?
Marketers and business owners alike are expected to be “experts” in skills they don’t have.
And everyone thinks their skill is the thing you need because that’s how they were trained (and once, it used to be true).
Today, you can’t just “hire a marketer.” You have to hire specific niche experts who do things to build and optimize parts of your marketing system.
Luckily, we’re nearing the phase where medicine was in the 70s where we go, “Maybe we should have a foot doctor for feet and a different doctor working on the brain? That seems like a good idea.”
Today, you would never make an appointment with a psychiatrist for a broken rib. We are nearing the stage in marketing where we’re ready to do the same.
These seemingly unending set of confusing skills are becoming mainstream enough that soon we’ll know how to advise and recommend different things appropriately and as needed for your business.
Until then, if someone tells you they’re in marketing, reserve judgment when they cannot tell you exactly what it is they do.
Odds are, they aren’t quite sure what they do either.