When I decided to “take a break” from years in marketing to build my business acumen the wild world of product management, I came to question: can one truly take a break from marketing?
My decision in 2014 to embark on this new journey, to take on new challenges in a new world we called customer segment management was exactly that – a journey with new challenges that seems to have been all to familiar.
What I learned was that I truly never left “marketing.” I may not have been in the org, or had the title, but the practices and applications of the science (yes – it is a science) that I formed over the years are so engrained, I could not possibly avoid them. The practices and applications of everything from content marketing, blogging and social, to brand marketing, marketing strategy and everything in between translated to customer segment management. The very marketing principles I leaned on not only still apply, but empower me when engaging 1:1 with customers:
- Know your audience – not knowing is a waste of time
- Always be listening – buyers want to be understood
- Always be exploring – curiosity is where knowledge starts
- Always be discovering – markets are mysteries waiting to be solved
- Never stop creating – without a story, you’re just telling
Know your audience is the cardinal rule of marketing, yet I cannot stress how little attention is paid to actually knowing the buyer. Maybe knowing the buyer is too vague and subject to interpretation, so perhaps we should try to “be” the buyer. When you put yourself in the world of the buyer, you being to realize what their challenges really are – what they care and don’t care about. What makes them tick.
Always be listening comes off as obvious, but there is a big difference between hearing and listening. I found that there are things buyers will tell you openly, and things that they might say with a bit of reservation. Document everything, synthesize all of the data points you’ve captured, and a picture will start to form in your head. The picture helps you begin to actually start knowing your audience.
Always be exploring is when those questions and ideas start to form in your head – don’t allow them to be passing thoughts. Write them down. Think about how you would go about answering them and start digging. What I found is that the more I dig, the more questions I have, the more exploring I do, and the clearer the path became to uncovering real opportunities. Which brings us to the next principle.
Always be discovering is about mystery solving. I like to think of markets as mysteries. Our goal as marketers is not only to solve the mystery, but discover new ones yet to be solved. The beauty is that if you are always listening and exploring, and you know your audience, this becomes a heck of a lot clearer – not easier – but clearer in terms of a path to discovery, to solving the mystery. That path may take you all over the web scouring for data points. It may take you to customers, new types of market research, or social media forums and buyer hangouts. Like any good detective, don’t leave any stone unturned that may help solve the mystery.
Never stop creating is all about storytelling. Storytelling captivates the audience. It pulls them in and entices them into a conversation and that’s what we are after. Discussions support our knowing the audience and ability to listen which means we can explore, discover, and create more effectively. Presenting, on the other hand is simply telling. What’s worse than sitting in a room listening to someone tell us about their products and services. We all have sat through those meetings, and they rarely lead to anything.
Marketing is just as much telling a story to create customers as it is listening to the stories your customers are telling you.