Hi, I’m Dan, the Founder of Vivid Labs. I post just about every day. You can connect with me using the links in the menu.

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Baffled

I recently began chatting with friends and colleagues who aren’t in the marketing industry to ask them a simple question: “From your perspective, what’s wrong with marketing?”

I got a range of answers, but they all had a similar theme summed up nicely by a word that a friend shared in one of my discussions:

Bafflement.

When I repeated this word in passing during my other conversations, the universal reaction was, “YES! It’s BAFFLING! That is the perfect way to describe how I see marketing.

I was still trying to figure out the reason behind this when I sat down with a local friend for coffee.

He runs a very successful online business with his wife and is currently hiring a director of marketing. I asked how the process was going. He said he was down to his top four candidates and that the process was going well. But then he made a comment that stuck in my brain:

“Early in the recruitment phase, one of the interview questions was ‘If you could only have access to two numbers to run a marketing campaign, what would they be?’ and the number of people who had no idea how to answer that question was staggering.”

I won’t assume that you are a marketer, but if you are (and if you’re a relatively good one), you’ll know that those two numbers are cost per acquisition and customer lifetime value. You need to know how much money you’re spending to get a customer and how much that customer is worth. Basic finance.

The problem that my friend pointed out was that most times, marketers don’t know these fundamental mechanics. They might be experts at a certain software, or great at copywriting, but if they’re ever in a position to make strategic decisions or analyze a campaign, they will fail.

I was thinking about this later that day when I was on the phone with another friend. She’s an EOS coach, and a great one, which means she works with businesses to help them get their business structure, reporting, and strategy in order so they can get more productive and grow.

She said that one of the problems with the systems they use, and more generally other business strategy trainings out there, is that there’s not really any guidance for businesses on putting together a proper marketing strategy. They may have well-formed goals and a highly-documented executive hierarchy, but there isn’t a specific plan on how to reach those goals.

“So,” I thought to myself, “let me get this straight. The marketers don’t know marketing fundamentals AND the businesses don’t know marketing fundamentals. No wonder people feel baffled. No one is in charge.”

It’s not a mystery why marketing is thought of as a cost center. Without understanding the mathematical relationship between conversion rates and costs, marketing will always be a black box.

It’s not complicated, either. If you can calculate a tip, you can understand marketing math. It really does come down to those two numbers – cost for acquiring a customer and customer lifetime value (we teach all of that in our workshop).

Marketing doesn’t have to be baffling. People are baffled because the people who should be in charge – the marketers – are, more often than not, focused on shiny objects like software and certifications than they are on being able to diagnose and fix sales problems.

Where do you fall on the baffled/non-baffled scale? Have you encountered moments where you have felt overwhelmed or confused with who to hire or what numbers to look at?