5 Ways to Think about your Marketing Career that you Probably Haven’t Tried

Do you write copy for brochures? you may be in MarCom (marketing communications)…or maybe not. Do you like writing clickbait? That’s content marketing…unless it’s email…wait..(note, I have #bolded) things that need to be clarified later.

Some people have to wait until they get into the tech industry before they realize what kind of marketer they really are. That’s creates a disadvantage for everyone who is not in tech. So, this post is simply to clear up some terminology that you may have about marketing.

For example: MarCom (Marketing Communications)

If you are a MarCom, you are in charge of the voice of your company externally. That means that you may write press releases and do media relations, you may write brochures, ad copy, etc. Better said, you help tell your company’s story better and more clearly, in order to help customers engage. Think of marketing as a verb — it’s the work of offering and of giving value to others; then add the work of “communications” among any number of your communications #channels (facebook, email, tv, etc.).

Customer Marketing

This is a really fun one! You help tell the world success stories that your customers have had by working with you!  This usually comes as part of the #inbound marketing process. These stories can be lots of fun and use the “co-branding” space. As you remember from your college marketing classes, co-branding only works with two well known brands (or at least brands both known to one consumer). Customer marketing is a key place where you can grow the feeling of success and importance customers will have when using your product, and often work indirectlywith #customersuccessheros. NB this is not necessarily customer experience management, that can be more of a product marketing department.

Product Marketing

Product marketing is all about features, packaging, manuals, all the inserts, labels, you name it . When Steve Jobs put his first 5 page add for the Newton in the New York Times, it bombed. That’s because he didn’t realize the NYT is the field of MarCom and not the field of Product Marketing. Product marketing is a great area t put people who have a lot of experience and intimate knowledge with the product, and they should be flanked by legions of #customersuccessheroes.

Lead Generation

Is what it sounds like. The basic tool here is how you funnel Pay Per Click (PPC) / SEO (Search Engine Optimization) work into an effective sales pipeline. It’s essential to know your inbound sales funnel ratio in this position. For example: 40,000 clicks, leads to 10,000 engagements, leads to 2,000 email subscriptions, leads to 500 interactions, leads to 100 phone calls, leads to 10 client meetings, leads to 3 enterprise-level sales. Boom.

Project Marketing

This is what we do with people (like me) who have a broad skill set and are just not super defined yet in their careers. Project marketers are extremely useful and usually can move into any other role, but if they do not have an effective Project Marketing Manager, then their salaries will be a sore spot for the CFO. Project marketers are like the cash that some companies keep on hand just so that they can make an acquisition. Without them, companies are dead in the water if there are any time-sensitive work or initiatives.


Now, happily, the sales process these days looks a bit like this:

Lead Generation (LG), is at the beginning, and can include content marketing in as much as it is a strategic means to get more “clicks.”

This filters into….

Content marketing. This is the phase of education, of teaching, inspiring, transferring value and helping others see the value of the product in solving the needs they have. It follows the principles of Jay Baer’s “Youtility” book.

This filters into…

Customer / Project marketing. Where we champion our customers and show off those testimonials.

This filters into…


Which filters into…

Product Marketing. Where the customer is shown over and over through design and experience just how smart they were to have purchased this product.

This whole filter moves into

PR/MarCom. Where the company tells its story to the world, and starts the cycle over again!


Now you have 5 news  ways to think about your marketing career, and you have the context which will show you how it filters into the sales pipeline for your company. Nifty, eh?


A Prescription for the Unemployed

Even with the super-low unemployment rates, finding well paying work in the industry of your choice can be a challenge, especially if your CV doesn’t exactly match up with what a crusty hiring manager is looking for. Now, don’t let that discourage you, because his crustyness has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with the pressure he feels.

As one “unemployed” here is my prescription for what to do until you have that full-time, “best effort,” exempt from overtime job that you (and I) are looking for: Take 20 hours of RCI (Research, Contact, Invest) and 20+ of other work. These three, when taken together, will certainly produce an excellent outcome and give you confidence and faith during your search.


This is where you are searching for companies in your geographic areas or industries of choice. Keep in mind that the more specific you are to a geography, the more general your job type and the flexibility of a hiring manger is going to be. So, if you want to stay and live in a small town or city, don’t complain if you end up working at the hardware store even if you would be an excellent materials test engineer. Likewise, if you want to do something super specific, for example a professor of medieval philosophy, you will likely have no choice over your geography. In addition, the larger the labor market means the more selection employers will have and the more work you will have to do in order to earn a more “livable” wage. Spend one third of your time researching companies and contacts.


Simply put, you need community and relationships. I recommend treating the job search a lot like a sales job. I don’t know what the exact filter is, but here is a proposal for what to do with a contact you have researched.

  • 50 contacts a week…leads to:
  • 10 correspondences…leads to:
  • 2 interview (one informational / one job related)…leads to:
  • 1 possible job lead.

It is VITAL to keep score here. This is where you will challenge yourself to hit a number and trust the process, building confidence and hastening your job!

Keep in mind that your objective in contacting someone is to offer to be of help to them and show them how you can make them into heroes, not make yourself a hero.


Investing is all about learning, participating, developing yourself, reading, etc. This is vital work for you to do. You must be reading books in your industry and current magazines / blogs. Polish your resume, polish your online presence, and spend some time writing your own personal blog (like I am doing now)! After  year of blogging, you will be a much better blogger and professional than you ever imagined. Also, this is a good time to look at additional education you might want. If you have an irrelevant degree from a great school, consider a solid marketing certificate. Certificates are way easier than masters degrees, way cheaper, and help shine up your degree in a big way. They might seem expensive on the front end, but if you show the comparative cost with an MBA, this is a bit like finding antique gold at a garage sale.



Cut Social Media Clutter with a Solid Framework

Don’t believe there is social media clutter? I direct you to exhibit A.


This “supergraphic” designed by Scott Brinker is a summation of everything you will see in the Marketing Technology Landscape, i.e. anything where marketing uses technology. I actually quite like this graphic because it helps localize not only the many functions of marketing and technology, and it’s brilliance is in its flouting the conventional wisdom of infographic / data visualization.

To cut through this clutter, however, I believe we have to be able to simplify all our efforts and take a really well reasoned, accessible approach to what we are doing as marketers that help kill the clutter and focus on the essentials. If we don’t have a good hierarchy to follow in our minds, then we will be ineffective  in our teams and our services will fold.

Michael Hyatt proposes I think the strongest framework for organizing our marketing efforts and cutting the clutter. Here it is:

  1. Homebase: This is your home and where you want to direct all traffic in order to convert social media interest to mailing list signups and product purchases. This is what you own and where you deliver.
  2. Embassies. These are part of any service, like facebook or linked in, and they focus on interactions with people on their own terms. They are not the greatest source of value but always point toward the homebase.
  3. Outposts. These are where you have a listening ear to what the conversation is doing, where you monitor your name and can respond to critiques and issues quickly.

With this framework, we can start putting the marketing technology landscape to better use. Once we start to see how each of these services can fit inside to each of these area, then we can get more clarity within our organization and drive more business. This does not mean business isn’t complex, only that complexity needs to be well organized.

In addition, this follows the Rule of Three’s, that I love so much. Data that comes in threes is always easier to remember than data that comes in any other format.




Magically Memorable Marketing Part III: The Parts also the Whole

You will see this routine quite often in product demonstrations, when a company is showing off it’s technological prowess. From microprocessors to BMW engines, people love to know how all the parts work together, or at least feel like they do.

Simply, this routine describes the whole of a complex image, idea, text, in a coherent narrative, then it dives in and shows what the individual parts are. It can show ownership, it can show belonging, status, passion, tribal status, education,

The parts and the whole can help craft one’s identity in a very strong way. For example, Budweiser is attempting to replace, well, “Budweiser” with “America” On their bottles:

Budwiser America Credit Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau

I don’t know enough about the Budweiser clientele, sales, etc to judge whether this will work, but this is a BRILLIANT use of “the parts and the whole.”

The whole: America
The parts: If drinking beer, Budweiser is the brand.
Message: America drinks Budweiser.

Simple, and it makes a very bold statement about one’s belonging.

Marketers should be careful to put themselves in their customer’s point of view when they start using this routine. This routine is best implemented when you are looking to educate your customer on something that is complex, it acts as a filter for all the information that you will have.

An interesting insight: people are usually comfortable to not know how, until you show them that by learning the parts they can get some benefit or reward. Physicians study the systems of the body, down to the finest minutiae of detail, because they know there is a reward for knowing how the parts and the whole work together. Boeing is extremely proud of it’s carbon fiber wings on the 787, because its a part that makes the whole (cheaper aircraft to operate) possible.

In fact, there are two questions best associated with the two parts of this routine. The “what” corresponds to the whole, and the “how” corresponds to the parts.

In fact, this is perhaps the most effective strategy for those who sell online courses like Michael Hyatt, Ray Edwards, etc. They show you what you get (the whole) and then they tell you how (the parts). Their offer is, “here is the whole, don’t you want to know what the parts are that make up this whole? For very little money, I can teach you this valuable information”

The human brain finds this irresistible; it can’t not know “how” something works. Ask any scientist (mad or otherwise) and they will tell you their motivation is to understand how things work, how evolution works, how a reaction takes place. Philosophers and theologians also ask “how” (what is a reasonable way I can describe existence) in response to “what” (I exist; or do I?).

The parts and the whole are especially effective when you have information overload. The key is to know where to start. This will depend on your audience and their needs. If you don’t have a relationship with someone, the best place to start is actually the parts, to ask the question, hey, do you see how your ___ is actually part of a whole?

  • Do you see how your [ROTH IRA] is actually part of [FINANCIAL PEACE]?
  • Do you know how [PENZOIL SYNTHETIC] is actually part of [LESS ENGINE BREAKDOWNS]

Each of these are just the parts, leading up to the whole.

On the other hand, when someone has a problem, they want to go from the whole to the parts.

  • “Doctor, my head hurts!” “Oh, you have a gall bladder problem.”
  • “I feel uncertain about my retirement” “Oh, let’s take a look at your 401k.
  • “I want a new job and don’t know how to get there.” “Oh, let’s take a look at the process you are using.

The parts and the whole, are extremely useful for distilling big ideas into simple ones, and allowing you to go very deep. This is why a doctor can prescribe a medication, not because they know the molecular structure, but because they see the whole person, then they figure out the systems, then they figure out the reaction that will take place, then they know how things will work out. It’s seems so complex, and it is, but you can trust safely that the doctors know their stuff because they understand the parts and also the whole.

The brain is just built that way.


Magically Memorable Marketing Part II: Compare and Contrast

Here it is the second of a three part series on how to make your marketing message memorable to your audience until they meet their maker. It uses the same principles of teaching, and it encourages the audience to do the work.

We call these the “routines” of learning. By making someone engage one of their routines, you help them make the information their own. Also, the great thing about these routines is that they are very easy to activate in the subconscious, so if you have their attention (key!) they will easily be able to perk up and learn. The first routine of learning we looked at was “I see; I wonder.”

Today’s magical tool: Compare and contrast.

That might sound like kind of a letdown for some of you, but look how often compare and contrast is used in marketing. List of features between different plans? Compare and contrast. Your product do something better than another? Compare and contrast. You want someone to make a life change and sign up for your coaching services, but in order to do so they have to weigh two alternatives for their future life? compare and contrast.

Here is a quick example from the interwebs:


Compare and contrast is almost everywhere, but instead of shying away from it, we should engage it, using the exact same wording if part of body text, but more probing questions or quality visuals for headlines.

Compare and contrast is also useful for helping us understand completely different ways of thinking, of dressing, of living. In Marie Kondo’s book, The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up, she teaches us a new way of organizing and improving our life, simply by comparing her old with her new, looking at what her previous methods got her and what her current method gets her. She uses compare and contrast to accentuate the cost of doing nothing and also the benefits of following the KonMari method of organization. Guess what? I’m a total convert.

Compare and contrast is also part of our evolution, especially when we are constantly calculating our social standings or social hierarchy. This can be used very subtle. For example, there is a story about how a guy won a round of golf with Michael Jordan. The guy showed up wearing a pair of very nice golf cletes but Michael Jordan refused to play with him, because they weren’t Nike’s. He actually told the guy to go into the clubhouse and buy a pair of Nike’s, I can’t remember if he comped them or not. What that story illustrates is that Jordan knew if he were photographed with a guy wearing another brand of sneakers, then he would be creating confusion. The line of contrast between the best (Jordan and Nike) and everyone else would be blurred if Jordan were to appear on the green with someone else, even if he weren’t wearing them.

Compare and Contrast belongs in every part of your marketing, branding, sales letters, etc. It is enormously powerful because it activates the brain very, very quickly.


The Routines of Learning: I see, I wonder

As promised I am writing a series on the routines of learning, better helping us understand how people process information most easily so that our marketing messages can stand out.

The first routine of learning goes a little something like this: You present a picture, a passage of text or a scenario and you ask, “what do you see?”

Take the example of the picture in the “featured image” at the top of this post.

What do you see? I see:

  • I see a black boy reading a bible.
  • I see that the Bible is torn.
  • I see that his brow is just slightly wrinkled,  as if concentrating.
  • I see he is lying on a bed with white sheets.
  • A wood paneled back wall.
  • I see him looking intensely.
  • I see a very good job by the photographer in having good contrast.

Now, what do you wonder?

  • I wonder what passage he is reading?
  • I wonder if he is confused or interested?
  • I wonder where he got that old bible?
  • Since the Bible is ripped, I wonder if he is poor?
  • I wonder why he is reading the bible alone?
  • I wonder what he might be feeling?
  • I wonder where he is, if he is at home or on vacation?
  • I wonder who gave him that bible?

All of the sudden, “I wonder” has made us open to the story that we are about to tell. Maybe we are going to talk about how to interpret the bible, or literacy, or what people do in their free time, or poverty? Guess what, now we marketers get to give a narrative to what we are thinking.

What if there was copy at the bottom that read: “His grandfather left him a great inheritance. Discover yours at St. Matthews” and was the copy for attending a local church?  That would work fantastically well, and it would pick up on each of the questions we might have. It’s copy that answers our questions, it’s copy that allows us to tell the story ourselves, because it matches with the things we naturally wonder about.

For marketers this puts a great burden on the quality of the images, and it requires us to ask the question “what do they see and what do they wonder?” about our audience. For example, a devout atheist might see this and wonder:

  • I wonder when he will grow up and get into Kant and Dawkins.
  • I wonder who gave him that to read?
  • I wonder what he is going to do with all the sex and violence he is reading about? It looks like he might be in the song of songs after all.

Then you have to change the copy to match the image. “Full of sex, violence and lies. #BanTheBible” Okay, honestly I’m having trouble coming up with good copy for an atheist audience, but you see where I am going.

The first routine of learning is extraordinarily powerful for coming to one’s own judgments about a deep, big-picture questions. For example, how do you get a group of 5th graders to talk about what do international children’s rights look like? First, show a picture, then ask the questions. What do you see? What do you wonder?

This routine is also powerful for discovery and priming the mind and helping it ask the questions that ready it for an answer. This means that the audience is ready and prepped to discover something big–they have already made mental space in their minds for the question you are about to ask. If we are looking at a cell membrane, the teacher can more effectively ask, “what do you see,” and then ask, “what do you wonder the function of this cell might be? What do you think these purple structures are?”

Perhaps the best location for this kind of advertising is places where your eyes tend to wander and gaze on things for a while. For example, in the inside of a subway someone will tend to zone out and look at the posters. If the image and text is engaging for them, then they will naturally start to ask questions. However, they may need some guidance and you may have to literally ask “what do you wonder?” If the image is clear enough, you will be able to simply add some guiding copy that starts to answer questions and ask more questions.

Making Information Unforgettable: the Routines of Learning

How do you make information completely unforgettable?

I’m talking “in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” kind of unforgettable. In a world where attention and being memorable matters more each day, how do you stand out?

Let’s take a look at this psychologically: when the brain is confronted with new information, it has to digest that new information somehow, it has to “learn” something. Learning Astrophysics? Physiology? How to wear a tie? What is the nature of reality? You have to start digging into these immense topics with some kind of cognitive tool, otherwise it’s just a flash that you forget–kind of like the majority of interruption marketing that we see.

Only when the brain starts to “learn” something can it remember something. Let that sink in. Unless your marketing is actually “teaching” the brain something, it will not stick. In essence, by “teaching” the brain something, you are earning psychological permission to take up space in the neural networks of your students. Effective teachers, by profession, are those that promote the greatest amount of learning. They have become masters of helping our subconscious digest information quickly and turn it into actionable, memorable and concrete information. By contrast, ineffective teachers spend most of their time is spent saying, “pay attention.” And no, students really aren’t going to respond to that request.

So what are is the cognitive trick to making information completely unforgettable? There are only three, so it’s easy to remember. These are called the routines of learning. That is to say, they are the cognitive processes that help us digest new information and make it extraordinarily memorable. Over the next couple of days I’m going to write about how to use each of them in our marketing. They are:

  • I see; I wonder
  • Compare and contrast
  • The parts and the whole

They don’t have a lot of meaning just yet, but I guarantee that you will find them very powerful in the coming weeks.

FYI, this blog post was inspired by what Harvard Scholars have done as part of the Visible Thinking project, so I must give them their due credit.