Typically when I need to learn about a subject I’m unfamiliar with I seek out the best books, blogs, and articles from experts on the topic, presumably like everyone else. Recently though I’ve read The Signal And The Noise & Liar’s Poker so my whole faith in “experts” has been shaken. Another one of my favorite examples of the truth about experts is this experiment with wine experts, which I regularly remind my wife of when I bring home cheap wine. So how then do we best learn about a new subject?
I bring this up because in the last few months I’ve been trying to become a true marketing expert. In this context by expert I just mean learning the framework that I should operate within. I’ve been diving into everything I can get my hands on, but ultimately I have no idea what will work and what won’t for my specific demographic, and neither does anyone else for that matter. So how can I walk into my office and tell my employer this? And for that matter how can you ever argue that your approach is best in a world full of opinions and others that (falsely) promise instant results? Luckily my work environment is awesome so I don’t have to battle with egos, but most people don’t have that luxury. So how do you make improvements and become an expert? By testing and testing and testing and testing and testing some more.
I’ve recently launched campaigns with 3 new marketing service providers, in our launch meetings I’ve requested the kitchen sink. This has made them all super excited and they’ve commented about how great it is when clients are willing to try anything. This made me wonder – who is not willing to try anything (within reason)? Do you really know what is going to work and what isn’t to the point that you won’t even try? Shouldn’t our approach be more open? As Thomas A. Edison said – “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work.”
Of course many people don’t have the luxury of a big budget to test with, but if you want to have any success in marketing you need to be willing to put money at risk in order to gain valuable insight into your customer base. When I run ad campaigns for my wife’s photography business the budget is obviously a fraction of my employer’s budget, but a similar percentage is put up for experimentation purposes.
In his book Built To Last, Jim Collins’ talks about how successful companies “Try a Lot of Stuff and Keep What Works”. This is the fundamental game plan you should adapt in order to grow both as a person and a professional. We all like to think we are smarter than the next guy, and that we know something that gives us an edge. But if you begin running a lot of tests and pay attention to your results you will get knocked off your pedestal quickly. This might be painful but the sooner you can get over it the better. So you don’t have to be intimidated because you don’t know exactly what to do. Even an expert won’t have the answers instantly. Our best path to success in marketing is to test extensively, thoroughly, humbly, and without bias. Our egos interfere and lie to us daily, the data doesn’t. If you have the discipline to do that, you’re an expert!