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Do most marketers have any idea what it is they’re marketing?

Do you know what you’re marketing?

I mean this in all seriousness. Part of what should make marketing easy is when you have an awesome product or service. Awesome goes a long way towards a product making itself well known by word of mouth, but at least to get the ball rolling, you need someone – marketing – to tell your target audiences that your product or service even exists.

How many times have you been to a specialty store like a Best Buy or a Petsmart where the sales person you were talking to had absolutely no idea what it was that you were asking about, or were just plain making things up because they had no idea what they were marketing?

How much money is your company losing from lack of knowledge in marketing?

Here’s a sniff test, a gut check for you and everyone on your marketing staff. Pick one product or service your company offers and ask your team – and yourself – to explain 3 aspects of the product or service, like how it works, who’s eligible to use it, what role it’s best suited for, etc. If your company’s marketing team is outstanding, everyone will be able to knock this out in 30 seconds flat. If your company’s marketing team is not yet wholly awesome, you’ll get a lot of stuttering, downward glances, and shuffling feet.

If you can’t explain what you do as employees whose paychecks depend on your products or services, what hope do you have for your prospective customers understanding enough to buy from you?

There are two solutions for this problem. Neither solution costs much money, and both cost time that’s well invested.

First and foremost, and the one that we use where I work, at the Student Loan Network, is to make everyone work in customer service. From the CEO down to the coffee intern, everyone works in customer service, answering customer questions, researching financial aid issues, going to financial aid conferences, volunteering at events like College Goal Sunday. Everyone is in service whether they want to be or not, whether they personally think it’s beneath them or not, because that’s the best way to stay in touch with what customers are really asking for. I get tons of messages on Twitter and Facebook daily about financial aid, and I’m happy to answer them because it keeps me trained on what we can do.

Second, make sure marketing and production/manufacturing/creation have lunch together weekly. I’ve said this before about marketing and IT on Marketing Over Coffee, but it’s equally important here as well. Make sure the folks who make the stuff that you sell and marketing are dining together on a regular basis so that the creators can help the marketers understand what the heck it is they’re trying to sell. If your product or service is something that your marketing team can use, every single person on the team should have a free one issued to them in perpetuity, so that they always know what the thing is and what it does. On a recent trip to Hubspot, every employee has their own personal web site’s Website Grader score posted publicly on their desk, so that they know exactly what their public facing tools do and how it can help them.

Neither of these things are rocket science. Both are cheap and impactful. Please, I beg of you, do this at your company, so that the next time I want to buy from you, the person marketing stuff to me can actually answer my questions.

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