About 10 days ago, I heard a respected industry person put forward the premise that marketers are really just paid to be good bullsh** artists. There was a lot more to the conversation than that. In fact, after asking about it later, it turned out that’s not really what they were saying, but it’s certainly not the first time or even 20th time I’ve heard someone make that claim of marketers in general. For some reason, the statement really got under my skin this time. I’ve heard it enough that it really made me question things. Is that a true statement? Am I just fooling myself in this field?
I decided to examine myself and be willing to answer the question honestly whatever the outcome. Taking the deep dive into personal and professional motives has been challenging, but rewarding too. There are certain things I discovered about myself and choices I’ve made that sometimes do describe bullshi**ing. Yuck… that feels terrible. Specifically, past clients that I questioned whether we were the best fit for them. Often we weren’t. Obviously, we didn’t produce stellar results. I’ve also worked with folks where I knew there was a disconnect between vision, ideas, values, etc. but I was too intimidated to call it out. The willingness to ignore my best self in those situations haunts me today.
Clearly, the first issue I had to look at is whether we are putting our client’s interests first and using our expertise to produce the best work possible on behalf of their goals and vision. At first, we sometimes failed at this, but as we grew into our shoes, so to speak, and our expertise started to take hold, we achieved this more and more. Growing to be industry experts simply by not working for our success but for the clients’. I think that is the standard we can agree on for all professionals.
The second issue is where the situation gets tricky. How can we really represent a client if we don’t wholeheartedly believe in their product, service or their values? The truth is we can’t. That’s the key for us at Beacon and for myself personally. There has to be buy-in. There has to be a belief that the person and company we work with and represent is one that we stand behind. Anything less than that and some B.S. is going to be involved.
Part of the advantage of being 46 and gathering the self-awareness that I have so painfully acquired over these past many years is that I know and accept myself for who I am. When my heart is not aligned with a situation my stomach hurts, literally. A headache generally follows next. In the past, I might try to stuff my feelings with food to numb the situation, but since I’m not doing that anymore (Yay, to mindful eating and exercise) I just feel terrible instead. This does not in any way lead to great creative work or representing my client well. You see the problem. Even when I did go the BS route – it always turned out badly.
Here’s what I know that I know now. I am an Idealist Marketer, and when I act against those beliefs (basically bullsh***) then I am: miserable, client work is less than stellar and our company just doesn’t thrive. On the other hand, when we believe in the company, people, and values for whom we are marketing we will put our heart and soul into the project. Creativity flows in a beautiful way, great results often follow.
Here are a few examples of the incredible people we get to work with every day. They are the people, companies, and causes that not only align with our idealism, but they actually inspire it!
-The HVAC company who employs over 50 people in Anchorage, who’s owners rode out the recession in the 80’s with less than 5 people remaining and took 10 years to personally repay the debts and stand strong again so they could honor their commitments to our community and rehire and build staff again. Their clients love and trust them so much that they often give them the keys to their house when they are vacationing in the winter. We helped lower this client’s monthly marketing budget and substantially increase new leads over the past few years. It’s an honor to work with them because I know our community is better because they represent the best of businesses in our city.
-The Property Management Company that has grown from 1 employee to over 40 in the past 5 years. They started with the mission to educate our community and raise the standards for property management services in Anchorage. They have done just that. They offer free classes monthly, at their own expense to DIY Landlords, they constantly educate their staff and provide best practices in their profession. They have not only raised the standards in Anchorage but provided new jobs. We’ve provided their marketing throughout their growth over the past 5 years and it has always been an honest reflection of who they are. It has worked.
-The non-profit online homeschool program that was losing students to their competition and on the verge of laying off teachers. They have an incredible service and were struggling with the proper messaging to reach the specific parents and students most in need of their services. We were able to help raise their new student attendance and raise revenue by 15%. This meant no teachers were laid off, in fact, extra teachers had to be hired to meet the new enrollment numbers.
I could go on and on about the amazing clients that we get to work with every day. The folks we truly align with- The holistic dentist, the midwife who owns a freestanding birthing center, the people that are making our community, or in the case with our national clients, their community a better place. I realize that being an Idealist Marketer may not be for everyone, but it is absolutely where I feel we belong…and we’re staying here.