Most marketing is total bullshit.

Fun Pastime: try to encourage user error

It’s true.

Between clients who (having been inundated by the latest guru’s advice) insist on pushing nonsense on a customer that’s not interested – not the right demographic, not the right target market, not the right messaging – and clients who insist on chasing the wrong metrics – numbers that have no tie to business ROI, sales, or anything other than digital popularity (ie: likes) – most marketers give. the. fuck. up.

“Fine,” they’ll say. “If the client insists on marketing micromanagement douchebaggery, then bullshit stats and unfocused, ineffective shotgun marketing is exactly what we’ll do. Gotta pay them bills.”

So you get these marketing companies run by perfectly competent people doing stupid shit like chasing likes with nonsense contests and businesses flailing wildly at target markets who are not a good fit (or at least, might be a good fit if they weren’t so underdeveloped).

They continue to do this until they get a reputation like that guy who seems just a little too shady at the bar to sit next to. They’ll do this even when the client isn’t micromanaging them into poor choices – because they know the second they go back to trying worthwhile work, the client will raise hell again.

And most marketing becomes total bullshit because someone who knows better doesn’t feel like they can speak up.

It’s not just in marketing; across all industries there are people (customers, supervisors, budget mongers, etc) whose sole job it is to try to get you to cut your corners. To try to get you to lower your standards, just this once. And then again. And again. And again after that. Because to do it once – that’s a little soul crushing. But to dedicate to that habit time after time after time is a direct route to mediocre work.

It doesn’t have to be that way. I was guilty of it too, once upon a time. That struggle between “the bills must get paid” and “Goddammit I’m the expert” is constant – but that doesn’t mean you have to pay the bills by compromising your professionalism, it just means you have to get better about pushing back.

This month’s Word Carnival topic is “Secret Ingredients”. Things that make your business tick. Things that, when missing, make the whole thing less fun.

My secret ingredient is Humor.

There’s no better way to tell a wayward client they’re full of shit than to literally tell them they’re full of shit. And you have to do it with a sense of humor, otherwise they’ll think you’re being mean or disrespectful.

I love my clients to death. We’ve carefully honed a well-maintained bullshit prevention system that’s completely based around being able to joke with each other. It allows me to guide their marketing in a way that respects my expertise and their wishes, without blatant compromise. If you can’t be honest with your clients (especially when they’re wrong), you shouldn’t be working with them.

I don’t always get it right. Sometimes my humor is off-putting, like that time a reader chastised me via email for railing against my (non-existent) ex-wife when I was actually trying to teach people about plagiarism.

Isn’t occasionally offending some people worth doing great work? I’d argue yes.

The results speak for themselves. Honest intent is why our working relationship with clients allows us to do things like increase city-wide Library card usage by 12% in Fort Collins. It’s why there’s going to be a Fort Collins Comic Con. It’s why there’s a self-sustaining Ignite Fort Collins (funded almost entirely off the back of the After Dark event, featuring racier, more offensive, and typically funnier topics). It’s why I’m teaching cooking classes (both my wife and her sister literally LOL’d when I told them, they’ve both been victims to some of my failed dishes) and why I also wrote a cookbook called: Men in Kitchens – A Good Day to Dine Hard to encourage more men to step up in the kitchen, especially when they might have no clue what they’re doing.

Honest intent flows freely where there’s well-intentioned humor.

Is your method for getting to honest intent different? Lemme know in the comments!

This post is part of the Word Carnival. This month’s topic: Secret Ingredients. Favorite book, pack of Oreos, lucky rabbit’s foot, four leaf clover, a kick-ass CRM and project management system. We all have our own must-have accessories to complement our day-to-day activities and get to the next level. Here’s a rundown of my favorite bloggers’ things we can’t do without in our businesses.