Paul asks, “What’s the most valuable marketing knowledge you could impart to someone at an early stage of their career?”
Two things, if I had a magic wand that could simply make functional knowledge appear in someone’s head. First, the ability to understand and make decisions with data, because humans are really bad at that. We have a tough time understanding data to begin with and need machines to process it at scale – and then we have an even harder time making decisions from it.
A lot of the latter problem comes from things like confirmation bias, where we’ve already made a decision in our heads and we’re looking for things to justify our decision, or having unclear goals and hoping to root around in the data like we’re at a yard sale, looking for a diamond in the rough.
That’s not the most useful knowledge I’d impart, though. If I wanted to make a substantial difference in someone’s career, I would encourage them to start writing their cookbook as soon as possible.
The Power of a Marketing Cookbook
Take the average cookbook, and what do you see?
It’s a collection of recipes, details about ingredients, some background and culture (and perhaps some old legends in the mix), all bound together to make an easy reference for common situations you find yourself in. Cookbooks bring order to chaos.
Take the average marketer and the marketing education they consume. People read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch videos on YouTube, attend conferences and webinars – they do all the things they’re expected to do, and yet marketing’s competency overall isn’t improving. Talk to the average marketer and they feel like they’re drowning, overwhelmed with data, conflicting advice, confused strategic priorities… the list goes on.
Why? Why is this happening when you could literally learn everything you ever wanted just from YouTube videos alone?
Imagine a cookbook where there weren’t organized recipes, and where the recipes that did exist were centered around tools and not outcomes – “52 ways to use your frying pan” and “optimize your French toast with button 13 on your air fryer”. That cookbook would be frustrating and nearly useless, save for maybe the occasional interesting tidbit here or there. We’d immediately take that cookbook and donate it to the local library or something.
And yet we put up with that as marketing students seeking to further our education, instead of bringing order to the chaos that is marketing education today. Why? It’s not like the idea is a foreign concept, nor is the idea of a cookbook relatively new. We’ve been writing down recipes for millennia; the oldest known cookbook is from the 17th century BCE, from a series of Akkadian tablets.
So my advice to anyone at any point in their marketing career, but especially to those early in their career, is to start writing your own cookbook as early as possible. As you gather little facts, ideas, tactics, etc., start filing them away in literal cookbook format. You might have a section, for example, on SEO and have a recipe for how to optimize a blog post. And as with any cookbook, you’d keep it up to date as times change; just as we couldn’t cook a Mesopotamian recipe accurately today because some ingredients no longer exist, you couldn’t use an SEO recipe from five years ago because SEO has fundamentally changed.
However, instead of being bewildered and overwhelmed by all the new information floating around out there, you’d be updating your cookbook, filing away that information as you obtain it so you ultimately end up with as modern and up to date a cookbook as you could have – and every time you need a plan, you refer to your cookbook. The CMO says leads are down? Great. Open up your cookbook to the lead generation chapter, in the same way that a cook would open up their cookbook to the main courses chapter, and look through the recipes you have. Don’t have a recipe that fits the exact need and you can’t adapt your recipes? Now you know what videos to watch, what conferences to attend, what questions to ask your mentors and experts.
You will probably not find any credible marketing cookbooks on the open market. Why? Because it’s a literal book of secrets, and even if the recipes come from others, the work of assembling, categorizing, and organizing them is valuable unto itself. That’s why you need to make your own, and I’d caution you to share it very selectively.
Over the years of your career, your marketing cookbook will be the most valuable piece of intellectual property you own, and as you move from job to job, company to company, you will be able to bring your particular brand of magic with you. In time, you will be known for your ability to do more and bring more to the table than most other marketers.
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