“Imagine you’re a famous neurosurgeon,” said Dr. X.
Now that was a stretch. But I nodded my head: I was interviewing the young New York City skull base surgeon—here called Dr. X. to protect his privacy—for a copy project.
“You’re a renown specialist,” he continued, “and you’re famous for an innovative surgical procedure. You’re the best at it in the country, maybe the best in the world.”
I nodded my head again. Where were we going with this?
“Then, a new technology,” said Dr. X, “a new procedure, comes along. And it works as well as your surgery. In fact, better.”
The new procedure was endoscopic brain surgery, Dr. X’s specialty. Back when I interviewed him, it was a breakthrough: “Bloodless,” less expensive and faster than traditional surgery.
But some surgeons pooh-poohed the new technique. The resistant doctors were often specialists at the peak of their careers and earning power, noted Dr. X. To learn the new procedures, they’d have to go back to school–and lose income.
But lost revenue wasn’t the only disincentive. The doctors also had to let go of their egos. To learn the new methods, they had to become beginners again. In midlife. It was more than some could take.
That story stuck with me years later. Today, I see similar dynamics playing out with marketers.
Marketing is changing—along with everything else.
A globalized workforce, industry implosions, downturned economy, digital media and consumers’ increasingly scarce attention—all these factors reshape the way we market today.
Traditional copywriters, creatives and marketers stuck in their “specialties”—and unwilling to adapt—get left behind. But we can take a lesson from neurosurgeons–at least the ones who managed to adapt to the new technology.
5 simple steps to new marketing expertise: It’s not brain surgery.
To survive—and thrive—in the new marketing arena, you need to…
- Commit to learning. Forever. Digital media, social communities, content marketing—these concepts and practices aren’t mastered in a few hours. Or even a few months. Today the relentless pace of change requires a commitment to lifelong learning.
- Get personal. A successful practice—in medicine and marketing—forces you to connect with people on a human level. This represents a huge paradigm shift for marketers who built business with one-way messaging. Social media demands real human interaction—no hiding behind the corporate logo, mission statement or marketing spiel.
- Find meaning. “The market for something to believe in is infinite,” writes cartoonist/copywriter Hugh MacLeod. More than anything else, your tired, over-messaged consumer seeks authenticity. She wants genuinely useful products and services made and marketed by real people. People she can trust. Yes, scaling human connection is challenging. But you’ve got to find a way, your way. And it begins with finding meaning in your work, management, employee relations and customer service. Choose all four.
- Take action. Execute. Ship. Do it. Of course, you need to study, digest, lurk, percolate. But you also need to take action. The best way to learn about blogging? Blog. The best way to learn about marketing with content? Start creating useful content. The best way to build social communities, create iPhone apps, and generate location-based sales is to do it. And learn. And that means you will…
- Fail. The only way to grow, innovate and create is to fail. Repeatedly. “…if you believe your talent grows with persistence and effort, then you seek failure as an opportunity to improve,” writes Harvard Business Review writer Peter Bregman. “People with a growth mindset feel smart when they’re learning, not when they’re flawless.”
And one last thought on brain surgery: Turns out the traditional surgical approach is sometimes optimal. So, for traditional surgeons, the deal breaker wasn’t learning an entirely new technique. Surgeons’ viability came from being open, flexible, curious—and willing to partner with others.
See any takeaways for marketers?