The Moment I Found Out Marketers Aren't What They're Cracked Up To Be

I was driving down I-95 on my way to work.

I was listening to my favorite podcast at the time, I Love Marketing, with Joe Polish and Dean Jackson.

These two would talk about all things marketing, from basic marketing principles to upcoming tech platforms. 

This particular morning, I was listening to the newest episode.

About halfway through, Joe Polish dropped a knowledge bomb so huge that it had me reassessing my career choice (on my way to work, no less).

After making a few comments on the topic at hand, Joe says:

”…this is why I always tell companies to never outsource their marketing.”

I almost missed it.

Almost kept the episode playing.

But something in the back of my brain did a double-take, and I felt it.

Like a “wait… what?” kind of moment.

Here I was, on my way to my job as a marketing consultant, working at an outsourced marketing agency, being told by one of the most respected marketers in the world that my work was not in the best interest of my clients.

I thought about those clients.

I thought about how hard I work for them—and what they would do if I wasn’t in the picture.

I paused the podcast and sat in silence for a minute.

I thought things like, “he’s got it backwards,” and “no, he’s just bitter.”

Yet, before I even thought those words, a seed of a thought had burrowed itself into the depths of my mind.

Like really deep.

Inception-level deep.

A thought within a thought within a thought—one that would be patient and wait for the right time to take root.

It wasn’t until almost ten years later, ten years after I listened to that podcast, that the seed Joe Polish planted in my head finally poked a tiny little leaf through the soil of my brain.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ll tell you what happened next shortly.

Right now, I need to tell you about Allison.

Allison is a friend of mine who owns a small business.

Being a good and loyal marketing “person,” I was on the phone asking her some questions about her marketing challenges.

After speaking for a few minutes, Allison blurted out that she found marketing to be “baffling.”

That’s the exact word she used.

Baffling.

Hmm… Interesting.

Baffling.

I chewed on that word for a little bit…

…but honestly didn’t think much about it.

…until I started mentioning that word to other friends who owned small businesses.

They weren’t marketers.

Like Allison, they had their own businesses.

Which means they had their own daily struggles with marketing—and I wanted to learn from them in the same way I did with Allison.

On those calls, I mentioned that a friend told me she found marketing to be “baffling.”

The responses were unanimous and immediate:

“Yep. YES. That’s it!”

“Perfect description of how I feel, too!”

“You nailed it. Baffled.”

…What had I stumbled across?

This word seemed to resonate with entrepreneurs whenever marketing was brought into the conversation.

It seemed like there was this unanimous sense of overwhelm combined with an urgency to just get marketing done.

So I kept using the word to see what reactions I would get.

I started mentioning this finding to other marketer friends of mine, and to my fascination, there was zero reaction.

Nothing. Nada.

Nobody batted an eye.

These marketers—the people who were supposedly “tapped in” to customers on the deepest level–had no idea what I was talking about.

Almost like they were thinking, “What can I help you understand here? Nothing is baffling.”

Remember the seed that Joe Polish planted in my head almost a decade earlier?

Well, every time I would get that reaction from a fellow marketing expert, I felt that little seed…

Twitch.

I began to realize that marketers have become incredibly and undeniably…

What’s the word…

…ah, yeah.

Arrogant.

If you’re a doctor, it’s easy to understand why a patient doesn’t know the inner workings of their own body.

So you, as the doctor, explain it to them in plain English.

You educate them on the situation, explain why it’s happening, and recommend a solution.

Unless it was an emergency, you wouldn’t tell a patient they need surgery and rush them into the operating room before they even had a chance to understand what the surgery was for.

But marketers do this to businesses every day.

In the same way a doctor isn’t inside your body, feeling what you’re feeling, a marketer isn’t inside your business.

They don’t feel urgency like you do.

They don’t prioritize your problems over their own.

Marketers can rush a business into an expensive surgery that it doesn’t need, leaving it with a bunch of painful scars and no improvements to be seen.

It happens every day.

know because I was part of the marketing services monster for years.

What I discovered was chilling (to say the least) and it’s why I don’t let Vivid Labs provide done-for-you services anymore.

I’ll get back to that in a little bit. 

There are two reasons marketers rush their clients into new projects.

The first, as you’ve probably guessed, is money. 

Big projects with high setup fees and long-term commitments are the pot of gold at the end of the marketing services rainbow.

But the second reason is more… complicated.

To explain, I need to introduce you to Eddie.