“Not only did I get the contract,” I said to my business partner, “but he decided to change his entire marketing strategy according to what I told him.”

It was the day after a 2-hour “sales” meeting with a total stranger who is creating a mobile app. It was twice as long as my usual sales meetings, because I spent most of it telling him what was wrong with the app.one_wheel_motorcycle_goventosa

His last question: “Given that you don’t think we have a great technology, will you be able to write a great executive summary?” My answer: “I’ll have a hard time writing a great executive summary because you don’t know who your market is, not because I don’t believe in your technology.”

The next day he signed with me.

Get on with It Already

The #1 reason your marketing sucks is because you aren’t listening to your market.

And the #1 reason you aren’t listening to your market is because you have the wrong person running your marketing department.

YMMV

If you have a great VP Marketing, this article isn’t for you. Unfortunately, you are probably the one reading this.

How do you know if you have (or are) a great VP Marketing? I’ll give you 1 rule of thumb, as long as I’m focused on the number 1. If your VP Marketing has been systematically promoted from technical jobs into the marketing position, he (or she, but less likely she) probably isn’t a great marketing person.

Another new customer of mine recently told me that he is growing a product manager into the marketing position, and the guy has a great attitude. Since you’re doing this anyway, guess what? I’ll give you 1 tip that can give you hope for converting this techie into a marketing-oriented person and then I’ll give you 1 type of training that can do that.

#1 Difference between Marketing and Tech Problem-Solving

Resolving a technical problem involves creativity and study. You study the problem, how you are currently resolving it, compare it to similar problems, and come up with some alternatives. Quite a bit of this work is focused inward, that is, on the specific problem and on your ideas. You might ask a few people, but at the end of the day, your own creativity and comprehension of the problem are the deciding factors.

Resolving a marketing problem involves creativity and study. You study the market, what the market needs and what the market says. You come up with some ideas that answer the needs of the market. It requires creativity and comprehension, but at the end of the day, your ability to match the market’s needs and expectations is the deciding factor.

In other words, technical problem solving is an exercise in introspection and marketing problem solving is an exercise in listening to others.

Whether you are one or another has to do with natural abilities, but mostly it has to do with years and years of training and practicing your skills. I have been training myself and practicing listening to others for a very long time.

For someone as opinionated as myself, listening to others is extraordinarily difficult.

I’m sure you aren’t as opinionated and judgmental as I am. Oh, you are? Right, that would make you human.

#1 Best Training for Marketers

Having an MBA or formal marketing training is useful but not sufficient. You can learn marketing from books, online courses and blogs, but that’s just technical training, like learning a programming language. It isn’t necessarily thinking. I’m not knocking an MBA or marketing training, either. I have one and I read marketing training materials every week, if not every day. But all of that has to come on top of the most important marketing skill.

The #1 skill you need is listening, so if you want to be a great marketer, you will train yourself in listening and interviewing skills. There are great books on this, my favorite being Confidential by John Nolan, which is fortunately back in print. Another favorite is Get off your But, by Sean Stephenson.  However, listening is something you have to actually do, so I recommend a course. I don’t have affiliation with any of these organizations or methodologies, but they are my favorites from what I’ve tried, which, granted, is quite a bit.

My personal suggestion is the Communications Curriculum at Landmark Education (you’ll need to take the prerequisite Forum as well). Eben Pagan has online course that focuses on listening to your market. NLP can also be useful training in getting into other people’s heads.

I can’t recommend other methodologies, because I haven’t done them and don’t know if they are effective (or I have done them, and found them ineffective.) Imago, for example, is an amazing practice, but it’s designed for couples and it’s rather difficult to master. Meditation practice is also useful, because it gives you a higher level of tolerance for other people and reinforces your connection with humanity in general.