How To Get Your (Marketing) Way Without Being a Jerk

Let’s face it – when it comes to marketing, everyone thinks they know a little something, even if they got a C minus in a marketing class they took 30 years ago. Which is why marketing professionals tend to be the often unwilling recipients of a lot of “advice” and opinions, or even direct orders, from non-marketing professionals.

Marketers also tend to have a lot on their plate, since it’s not uncommon for businesses to understaff marketing teams in order to save on payroll, even as they increase their expectations of the marketing team’s output. A combination of too much unqualified input plus a ton of tactical directives will always lead to “checklist marketing” – and checklist marketing will in turn lead you far away from the business of integrated strategic marketing. (Read “Signs and Symptoms of Mediocre Marketing“.)

If you’re a marketing manager with an ounce of talent or ambition, you’ll always have the urge to push back against checklist marketing or uninformed marketing strategy you know to be at odds with your business’s best interests. To help you in your battle for marketing greatness, here are five strategies that can help you get your way in marketing discussions – without being a jerk about it:

Put data on your side.
While it may be tempting to grab the know-it-all colleague by the collar and shout “We’re doing it my way because I’ve been working in marketing for 15 years and you haven’t”, that approach usually won’t position you as a leader and subject matter expert. Instead, let cold hard facts and stats make your point for you. Customer profiling data, PPC advertising analytics, case studies, even trade magazine articles about marketing trends are just a few of dozens of resources you can marshal to present a compelling, data-fueled argument.

Remind everyone of your objectives.
According to legend, Herb Kelleher, the celebrated founder of Southwest Airlines, once famously shut down a popular proposal to serve a chicken sandwich (or chicken salad, depending on the source) on longer flights. “Yes, the passengers will probably like it,” he conceded. “But how on earth will serving a chicken sandwich forward our business’s singular purposes, which is being the low-cost airline?” The next time you’re in a marketing meeting that’s gone off the rails, borrow from Herb’s playbook and see what happens. A simple “These are all interesting ideas, but I’m wondering how they tie back to our business objective of X?” may be all the muscle you need to deploy in order to bring your team back around to your way of thinking.

Do a little less talking and a lot more listening.
Have you ever known that guy who seems to have little to say in meetings…but when he does speak up – pow! Every word seems to resonate with wisdom and insight, and he quickly garners attention and buy-in for his ideas. Most likely, this quiet sage is able to command that kind of respect because he’s engaged in active listening, as opposed to what the rest of us do, which is merely waiting for other people to stop talking so we can jump in. When he’s ready to speak up, the sage’s words have immediate impact because they were formed with the perspectives of his colleagues in mind, and not just his own ideas.

Use the “rule of ones”. (Also known as “picking your battles.”)
Before you push back against a proposed tactic you don’t like, or before you come to your boss with an idea that you suspect won’t have much initial support, ask yourself if getting your way will really matter to the company (or to you) one day, one month or one year from now. Even if your boss or client wants you to do something that you believe to be pointless, it may not be worth the pushback if the only loss is a few hours of your time or a few dollars out of your budget. Conceding small points here and there will help you start from a position of strength when you’re ready for the big marketing strategy battles that truly matter.

Convince people that it’s really their idea.

Non-marketers like for their ideas to prevail, too. It’s just human nature. Which means that your clients, team members, or your boss is more likely to get on board with your marketing strategy when they think it’s their strategy, too. Rather than sailing into meetings by announcing “here’s what I’d like to do”, then going over PowerPoint slides for 20 minutes before you let anyone talk, start by asking leading questions. “So tell me a little bit more about what we’re trying to accomplish here. For example, who do you see as our target audience?” You’ll be able to build faster consensus when you can say things like “I love what you said earlier about the motivations of our franchise owners, Lindsey. Based on that, I’m wondering what you’d think about X”. Once you’ve gotten buy-in for your ideas, you’ll be amazed at how much stronger your strategy will execute when it’s got the enthusiastic support of your team members or stakeholders.

Need help implementing your ideas for marketing world domination? Let’s talk.