Sunripening grapessomeone wrote a great blog post the other day about marketers spending too much time consuming, studying, and theorizing, but not enough time doing.

There’s a flip side to this problem, too – marketers who spend all their time doing, so much so that they’re stuck with the same solutions they’ve been using for problems that are in the distant past now, like the best structure for a Yellow Pages ad.

Two extremes: knowledge without experience, experience without knowledge.

In the absence of a mentor or teacher, the problem can be made worse by thinking that the problem is the solution. The theoretical marketer thinks that just one more conference, one more trade show, one more Webinar will contain the piece they need to “get it”… and meanwhile their sales team starves to death from a lack of any inbound leads.

The practicing only marketer keeps working and working and working, 60, 80, 100 hours a week, seeing rapid diminishing returns, and wonders why they just can’t get ahead when all their competitors are racing by them, not realizing that their methods grow more ineffective by the day. Their sales team starves to death, too, as the flow of leads trickles to nothing.

In the absence of a mentor or teacher, you as a marketer have to pay careful attention to your own feelings when you run into trouble, tough times, or diminishing returns so that you know which problem you must solve.

A clear sign of the marketer who has more than enough theory but not enough practice is someone who knows exactly how to solve a given marketing problem but feels they have no time to do it and still keep up with what’s going on. It’s frustration, but that frustration comes with a sense of, “Why doesn’t anyone else know this?”. Get out of the ivory tower, close the RSS reader, turn the tubes off, and use the knowledge that’s overflowing in your head to make some rapid power moves that will move the needle quickly.

A clear sign of the marketer who has tons of practical experience but not enough fresh knowledge is someone who faces a problem and can’t find a solution. You know there’s a solution out there, you know it’s possible to solve your problem because you see colleagues and competitors solving it, but you can’t for the life of you figure out what the solution is. You feel like you have to work harder just to tread water. It’s also frustration, but that frustration comes with a tinge of desperate anger, wishing something would just work, thinking that the breakthrough will happen if you put in just a few more hours. Time to hang up your hat for a little while, delegate if you can, accept a short term loss if you must, and get out of the office and into some fresh knowledge and ideas.

The theoretical marketer who puts some wear and tear on their shoes quickly gains a much better understanding of all the tools and ideas they have and gains the ability to decisively cut away things that sound good in theory but fail in application. This is someone you want on your team.

The practical marketer who gets some fresh ideas quickly and almost instinctively adapts the fresh new knowledge to processes and audiences they know by heart, making ideas come to life more vibrantly than the idea’s originator ever dreamed. In a very short time, the idea inventor is probably calling the practical marketer to do a case study. This is also someone you want on your team.

The lesson is one that is as old as time itself, one I learned from master teacher Ken Savage of the Winchendon Martial Arts Center: knowledge + experience = wisdom. One without the other produces no results. Both in balance produce incredible results.


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