Originally published on November 7, 2017. Updated on May 30, 2019.
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. Of course, 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 at all.
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?
Marketing Needs Shared Values
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 to put into words.
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 and values, 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. To put it simply, we became industry experts not by working for our own success, but for our clients’ success.
I think that is the standard we can agree on for all professionals.
Authentic Marketing Works Best
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 Media + Marketing, 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 have tried 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 B.S. route – it always turned out badly.
Return of Idealistic Marketing
Here’s what I know that I know now. I am an Idealist Marketer, and when I act against my beliefs, I am miserable, my work is uninspired 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 and great results follow. Here are a few examples of the incredible businesses we’ve helped, who not only align with our idealism, but inspire it:
- The HVAC company that employs more than 50 people in Anchorage, whose owners rode out the recession in the ’80s with less than 5 people remaining. It took 10 years to personally repay the debts and stand strong again so they could honor their commitments to our community and rehire staff. Their clients trust them so much that they often give them the keys to their house when they are vacationing in the winter. We’ve 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 they represent the best of businesses in our city.
- The property management company that has grown from 1 employee to more than 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 and 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.
- 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%. No teachers were laid off; in fact, extra teachers had to be hired to cater for new enrollments.
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 – are making our communities better places. I realize that being an idealist marketer may not be for everyone, but it is absolutely where I feel we belong… this is where we’re going to stay.
Jennifer Christensen, Vice President of Marketing.
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