Monday, February 20, 2017

A marketer's worst mistake?... "To know".

When I was in High School, I hated philosophy classes. I hated it so much that at the French baccalaureate Philosophy exam, I aimed to have one of the worst grades in the nation to make my point (to be fair, I only made a point to myself, my parents and teacher did not agree with me at all - lesson learned). I thought philosophy was a lot of BS and rhetorical non-sense. Only in college did I start to appreciate the reasoning behind some of the philosophical principles. 

One principle stuck to my mind and has become my mantra ever since: "I know that I know nothing" (Socrates). If you still think philosophy in non-sense, feel free translate this principle into the Game of Thrones language: "You know nothing Jon Snow" (Ygritte).

Many people think they know a lot, they know everything. Maybe they do. But in marketing, my experiences and lessons learned from other marketers' mistakes have taught me that if you start thinking that "you know", you get on the path of "alternative facts", of biased thinking.

I'm a huge believer in Design Thinking, the process where you are presented with a problem to solve, where you put aside your own assumptions, beliefs and "lenses",  you empathize with the targeted audience, and put yourself in their shoes, to understand what their perspective is. There is a whole lot more behind Design Thinking, but my point here is the necessity to emphasize, observe, and learn. It's not about what you know (or you think you know), it's about discovering.

When it comes to execution, there is no miracle recipe. I love the agile marketing approach, simply because it applies the same principle: you don't know if/how your targeted audience is going to react to, engage with your product or messaging. You prototype it, test it, fail it, measure it, iterate it, try it again, etc. 

When it comes to product marketing, I witnessed first hand how building a product (for that matter, a PaaS - platform as a service) based on your own assumptions of what the market wants (because you "know what they want", without any research to back it up), ends up in a complete disaster. Even if your product launches successfully (and meets market needs), at some point down the road you will still have to learn from your market in order to make improvements to say relevant, especially in the SaaS/PaaS world.

The same applies to marketing campaigns. It's all about testing your messaging, tracking how your targeted audience responds to your message, measuring the campaign's success or failure, gaining insights, iterating, testing it again. Even if you run a successful campaign, your message will have to evolve at some point: whether a new competitor comes in with a more compelling message, or your audience simply gets tired of your message, you will have to be agile and make the necessary adjustments.

What are your thoughts? What do you know?

Disclaimer: I don't pretend to say what I'm writing is right, simply because I know one thing, it's that I know nothing.