Last month my daughter turned 10-months old (she is not pictured above!)
It’s clearly a very young age, and yet I realised she still had lots to teach me about marketing (and life in general).
Here are a few of those lessons.
1. Be persistent. The number one reason for failure in marketing – and in life – is giving up. If you stop trying and throw the towel in, then you are guaranteed not to achieve your objective. Imagine if babies just stopped trying to crawl, walk or talk the first few dozen times they try and fail.
The human race wouldn’t have gotten very far, that’s for sure! And neither will your marketing if you pull campaigns too quickly, stop A/B testing prematurely or change your slogan, target group or key messaging every 5 minutes.
The return on good marketing tends to compound over time as people get familiar with your brand. This is why persistence is such a key ingredient to success.
2. Be curious. I don’t think anyone would argue that babies aren’t curious little creatures, and our daughter certainly is. She’s into everything, trying to unpack bags, open cupboards and peer over ledges too tall for her. Everything is fascinating, and that’s why she learns so quickly.
Great marketers are curious about everything too. They love asking open ended questions and getting to know people (particularly their customers), reading about disparate and seemingly unrelated topics, trying to understand the mechanics of online behaviour and marketing tools.
All of these inputs become the creative fuel that powers their next great campaign idea.
And, given the pace at which marketing changes, and new technologies disrupt the landscape, it’s also a prerequisite to be a lifelong learner if you want a long-term career in marketing.
3. Don’t be afraid to fail. This is different than having persistence in that it often stops people trying at all, never mind giving up. The fear of looking stupid, or silly, or even worse, the fear of losing their job, stops so many people from even attempting something new.
Babies don’t have this fear. They’ll happily fling themselves off the sofa or crawl into a washing machine given half a chance. Now this might not be the kind of behaviour we’re driving after as marketers, but that same lack of fear is ultimately what helps them develop, and the same instinct – to have a go – is hugely beneficial in marketing.
If you’re the first to try something, you have to accept it might not work out and you could end up with a professional bruise (equally you might just hit a home run), but so long as nothing too serious results from your experiment, and you mitigated risk where possible, you’ll walk away with a valuable lesson and be more likely to succeed next time. You’re growing as a marketer.
4. Trust & support matters. If you’re going to take the odd calculated risk, then it’s really important you have a support network in place that you trust. They’re there to help if things don’t work out, and prevent you doing anything obviously foolish. This could (and should) be your boss – someone who is supportive of you testing new boundaries, who will have your back if it doesn’t work out, and who will help you evaluate what could be improved next time.
But it doesn’t have to just be your boss. It could be other colleagues, friends or family – so long as you trust them and they’re there to help you learn from mistakes and not do anything too harmful to yourself (or your career).
This is the trust that babies have in their parents, who provide their support and do whatever they can to stop any actions that would cause serious injury (like diving headfirst off the sofa), while providing the flexibility for them to learn, which includes getting a little bump every now and then – and we’re there to comfort them when that happens too.
5. Imitate…then make it your own. Babies are incredible at picking up cues from you, as they learn by mimicking. This is why smiling is one of the first deliberate actions they’re able to make, because parents (and everyone else) can’t help but spend hours smiling down at them, which they learn to copy. It’s how they develop language, and why they seem to enjoy doing everything you do.
However you’ll also notice they never do things quite the same way. They always have their own version of your action, their own interpretation. Well, this is a great lesson for marketers to learn too.
If you want to be successful, learn from what others are doing well. Check out other successful campaigns. Be inspired by what else is already out there, rather than staring at a blank whiteboard for divine inspiration to strike.
Just be sure to add your own twist to it; craft it so it becomes your own, unique message. By sparking off of ideas that work, you should capture some of the fundamentals which led to its success, while not simply being derivative but actually adding unique value.
6. Be noisy. We British can often be a reserved, self-effacing bunch. 10-month old babies? Not so much. They’re always keen to get your attention, and will happily employ whatever method necessary to gain it.
Marketing that doesn’t make noise is never going to be successful. It’s the whole ‘build it and they will come’ fallacy that has dogged a lot of content marketing efforts. Quiet marketing is pointless, and it’s your job as a marketer to make some noise about it.
Rally your colleagues to share it with their networks, phone up journalists, email influencers, throw budget behind it – just make sure people are actually paying attention to your work, otherwise you’ve got to ask what the point is?
7. Be tactile and learn by doing. Spoiler alert: babies don’t read manuals! Or blogs, or anything else for that matter. They simply learn by doing.
As a marketer there’s obviously a huge amount of value in learning from books, blogs, videos, conferences etc. but none of the theory really sinks in, or becomes useful, until it’s actually been put into practice.
If you’re not going to roll up your sleeves and start to experiment with what you learn, then again, you’ve got to wonder why you bothered in the first place. It’s only by getting direct feedback from the market that you’ll know if a particularly marketing idea is going to fly or not.
8. Actions speak louder than words. Have you ever been let down by a baby? Have they ever raised expectations, only to disappoint? Of course not, because they can’t talk yet!
This is why they’re such good examples of ‘actions speaking louder than words’. When they want to do something, they do it.
Unfortunately many marketing professionals love to tell you all of the amazing things they’re going to achieve…and then reality kicks in. The same happens in group brainstorming sessions, where dozens of great ideas flow back and forth, everyone leaves excited, but then none of them actually get off the ground.
Marketing is about execution as well as creativity and vision, so make sure you’re focused on the deliverables of your current campaign, and are not too distracted by the next shiny object to chase or new tool to play with.
9. Be amazing. Babies are almost universally loved (there are exceptions to every rule!) because they’re just pretty darn amazing. They tap into something emotional in us, and quite frankly they’re just very cute, funny, and each of them is unique. Well, at least every parent thinks their child is.
To stand out and matter to people, your marketing needs to be equally amazing. It needs to be exceptional, it needs to make an emotional connection with your target audience, you need to inject it with personality. Great marketing makes people laugh, or cry, or share it with their friends.
10. Be authentic. Babies don’t really have agendas. You know if they want a hug, it’s because they want a hug. When they laugh it’s infectious because it’s so genuine. When they need comfort they’ll cry, because they don’t try to mask their feelings.
To be an effective marketer, you need to be authentic too. Be vulnerable, be up-front with what you’re asking for, don’t try to trick people, offer something of value. You should care about your audience, their needs, and also about the solution you’re providing.
People can smell BS from a mile away these days, so keep your marketing authentic and you’ll have a chance at building a closer relationship with your audience.
At the tender age of just 10-months old, there’s a lot my daughter has been able to teach me. As she continues to grow and mature, I’m excited to continue learning from her and seeing how she interacts with the world.
Let me know if any of these lessons particularly resonated, or what other things children have taught you about marketing and life!