#7 - Marketing: Professors or Journalists?

On storytelling, honest marketing, expertise and taking customers on a journey

So much of technology marketing these days is about playing the role of an expert. A “thought leader”. Knowing more than your customers. It’s not uncommon to see blog posts with titles like:

  1. “The Ultimate Guide to SEO/Content Marketing/Outbound Sales”

  2. “3 foolproof ways you can increase sales today!”

  3. “The only template for sales proposals you’ll ever need”

Sure, many marketers and companies are experts in their field. And if you are- the kind of content above makes senes. The “problem” is - most startups aren’t (yet) though. In addition, buyers are bombarded with expert content today. Every garage-startup claims to be an expert.

Many startups and entrepreneurs are building companies in an industry for the first time - and in fact, that lack of experience is often a competitive advantage. A different perspective, a lack of legacy-thinking, a set of fresh eyes.

So, it’s only logical then that many startups are not in a position to play the expert-role. Doing so would just be disingenuous.

However, much of the current sales<—>marketing<—>customer paradigm means that it makes a lot of sense to act as an expert. A professor if you will.

We’re told, and feel instinctively that customers trust experts, which of course they do.

However, lately I’ve been pondering an idea. We all know that startups are often disruptive by default. Startup builders are more like scientists: discovering, hypothesising and finding new solutions, often for old, “already solved” problems.

Wouldn’t it makes sense then that the role of marketing be more analogous to an investigative journalist? Digging, investigating, questioning the status-quo, uncovering mistruths, finding new angles?

Or like a documentary filmmaker as Doug Kessler observed over on the Velocity blog (absolutely, must-read blog for anyone building companies by the way).

Customers may too just find this form of storytelling refreshing.

As one reader noted when reviewing content-guru Jay Acunzo’s great marketing book Break The Wheel.

"Usually business writing is for people who want to be led, not for people who want to think”. (Link)

We all know that good stories are at the core of good marketing. Good stories should make you think. Yes there is a place for experts in marketing, but they take up too much of it today.

Strong, thought-provoking stories that take customers on a journey should be the next big thing. And no-one does great stories better than journalists.

So if you’re doing marketing - be a real storyteller. Be a journalist. If you’re already an expert, great. That will work too. If you’re not, don’t pretend: embrace your non-expertise and take your customers on the journey to expertise with you.

Until next time,

James.