In this conversation, Jeff Julian and Vishal Khanna discuss the need to grow as marketers and ways to consider the different approaches from different trades for becoming better at what we do.Read More
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love the change of the season, the need to determine if a jacket is required for your daily events, the covering of all warm drinks with pumpkin spice, and the costumes.
For the past 12 years, our family has dressed up together in themed costumes. Sometimes we pair off, and Addison and Michelle will dress together, like the year they went as young and old Maleficent, and other times we dress together, like this year when we all wore blow-up costumes that made us look like we were riding animals. It is a tradition we love, and it helps define the season for us.
Costumes aren’t just for Halloween, though. There’s another special time of the year when folks dress up to parade up and down the sidewalk: Tax season. Each year, accounting firms and tax preparers line the sidewalks with sign-wielding Uncle Sam’s, dancing Statue of Liberty’s, and those giant blow up tubes with waving arms that you usually see lined up at car dealerships - all hoping that passing business professionals will stop by when their taxes just can’t wait any longer.
The competition is fierce, and every year these companies have to think further outside the box to get folks to stop by their strip mall offices and, hopefully, spend some money getting their taxes done.
What Do Dancing Statue of Liberty’s and Marketers Have In Common?
Yeah, I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything, but there is a point to this article and a direct tie to our roles as marketers.
At the beginning of the year, I had tons of hope that this would become the year of video, agile, and accurate content marketing. I felt the collective finally got it and we would see more and more great content. This would be the year that digital marketers just got it
However, for me, 2017 was a year of grumbling. 2017 was a year of "I don't do that." 2017 was a year of "What do we always do?"
Sure, I get it, we’re all tired. I know I’m tired of hearing about analytics, ROI, the cost of being creative, and the lack of tools to do the job in our organizations. But the thing I didn't expect to see as much of was this unexplainable tiredness of learning and trying new things. If I have to teach another class and hear "That’s not my job," or "You can't expect me to learn Photoshop or Premiere Pro," I am going to scream. Well, not really, but this incessant refusal to change just seems bizarre.
Uncle Sam or Uncle Same
So, I pose the question, would you wear an Uncle Sam costume and dance on the main thoroughfare in your neighborhood to drive business if that was what your customers really needed?
Here are four reasons why your answer should be YES:
- You need to be with your audience. When you are engaging an audience, to learn what works and what they want, it is important to not stay at your desk. Going out to the curb and getting uncomfortable to get their attention is one of the most eye-opening experiences you will have for your marketing effort. You can see the reaction of these potential customers, learn how to adapt to each situation, and see results as folks turn towards your brand and become customers. For me, my transition took me putting down the keyboard, mouse, HTML, and source code. As a software developer who couldn't stand to see marketers not have the tools they needed to win and not have an understanding of the landscape, I had to make the change. I had seen the effects of great content marketing, understood the formula, and wanted to share it with the world, so I had to get into the world and be with the people of marketing, no matter how uncomfortable it made me.
- Your company depends on you. Your next email campaign might just be the last email campaign you send for that company. I’m coming to the end of a year since my former company AJi was forced to close its doors after 13 years, I know first-hand how true this is. Sales, operations, product, and service teams need marketers who can look ahead, see the iceberg, and get everyone to listen and make a change in course. This is a "not my job" moment for most marketers, but marketers should know more about the customers and prospects than anyone in the organization. You are a marketer, meaning you go into a market and drive business! You are not just a writer, manager, social media guru, or designer. You are a member of an organization that understands a market and drives awareness for the business.
- You must stay relevant. When your skills as a marketer are needed, it is no longer a question of breadth or depth, but how deep are you within your skill sets. Just like a carpenter can use many tools and produce many different results, you need to be more than the silo you are placed in. For example, about 15 years ago, I noticed a trend in blogging where people were using graphics at the top of all of their posts. Folks like TechCrunch and Engadget led the charge in bringing the visual in with the textual. Within five years, it was the defacto standard, and now I find it hard to read any post that does not have a visual aid to go along with it. If you look at current trends, curious and thoughtful marketers are replacing those images with videos and increasing retention of the content with motion graphics, rather than static images. Just look at your Facebook feed and the number of videos that are presented compared to images and text. The video captures your attention and helps provide greater context to the blog itself, just as the written words help provide in-depth context for the video. No longer can we believe the book is better than the movie: the two will ultimately live together and be able to enhance one another.
- Your team will not get any more budget. Go ahead and stop complaining about this one. If your team gets more budget, for the overhead cost to stay consistent, your ability to execute with great results will need to come directly after that budget change. The problem is, you will likely not see an increase in sales and leads even though the budget has increased. That budget increase is just to match the efforts of your competition as markets become more crowded. You are now able to capture the attention better, but competition is greater than ever for that attention. So instead of requiring a new platform or more media spend or another member of the team (which is likely the greatest expense a marketing team has), your team needs to expand its understanding of its tools and trade skills to adapt to the ever-changing tactics the digital marketing industry is facing.
You Can Do It?
I know it is cliché, but if I can do it then so can you. In all seriousness, if a smug software developer that hates being around people, having conversations, and talking about his feelings can do it, so can you. If a guy who is used to sit in the hallway instead of attending English class (I seriously thought writing was like geometry and that I would never use it outside of school) can become an author, you can too.
The only thing I have that others might not is an unquenchable desire to solve problems. To feed the beast inside, I have had to do these uncomfortable things for me, including:
- Learn to write and share thoughts and ideas in long-form content.
- Speak to large audiences about a variety of topics as an expert.
- Speak to individuals and look at people in the eye when I do. This one has been the biggest to overcome.
- Get in front of a camera even though I am not comfortable with the way I look.
- Record my voice even though I think I sound weird.
- Spend my own money without the promise of return because it is the right thing to do to help others.
- Read books about business, psychology, design, marketing, and the creative process so I can learn more about people even though I could just write software for the rest of my career.
Some of these may be easy for some of you, but for me, they were difficult - some of them extremely difficult. I do them anyway because that’s what kind of marketer I am.
But, I get to do what I love every day, and over time, I have learned to love those things I hated. Yes, I used the word “love” because I am no longer the software developer people thought was a jerk, the kid who hated to read, the guy who wanted to build wealth to be rich, or the employee that only did what was asked of me. Instead, I am a marketer.
So, bring on the Statue of Liberty costume and show me the street with the most traffic, because it is time to help the business and those we are in business to serve!