Marketing Needs to be Uncomfortable to be Successful

I have been selling stuff for a long time.  With every day that passes, there seems to be fewer and fewer people that have been in the fight longer.

It occurred to me some time ago that the only real success I have had personally, or been witness of, involved a hold-your-breath moment.

There will be those that profess great moments in marketing occur after rigorous market analysis, intense focus groups, exhaustive A/B testing, etc. I disagree. Tactics such as these grind out a few more points of market share, which is critically important if you are SAMSUNG.

In my experience marketing greatness is born from one thing, and one thing only…desperation.  And all you battled-hardened marketers out there will understand exactly what I am talking about.  An important clarification, I am talking about marketing, not selling. A desperate salesperson is no good to anyone.

Any major leap forward I have ever had as a marketer happened when I stepped over the “why the hell not, nothing else has worked” line.  It is only at this point you say the “I could never say that” stuff.

And before I am attacked, I am assuming that everyone out there understands that you can push limits in a tactful and smart way. Yes, there is the risk that you will step over the line, however, that’s the dance.

If you have done something 100 times and it hasn’t worked, do you think the ratio is going to change on the 101st try?  Probably not.  People need to listen for the white noise, the static that is the industry. You can churn out incremental growth, maintain market share, keep paying dividends, and frankly, survive - but you will never make a material leap forward in any industry if you are the industry.

This is especially true for us. Asset managers need to step off the conveyor belt and record their own pitch.  If they play it back to themselves in context of the industry, more often than not, the manager will lose interest (and I am dead serious). All of this is even more relevant for emerging managers. If you aren’t walking out of an established organization with a secret, under the table handshake from a friend named Bob promising to give you a $100 million dollars when you start your fund - guess what, as a marketer, you have already reached the point of desperation.

I don’t care if you are selling stuffed rabbits, or complicated quant hedge funds. If you want to make material gains, things need to get uncomfortable.

You need to push your language, push your tactics, and push your creative. If you aren’t worried about offending or alienating someone, your message has no bite and there is a good chance you aren’t going to get where you want to go. (Right or wrong, in our industry, as it pertains to marketing, being “institutional” typically equates to diluting the prominence of your message and creative to the point where it is lack luster and uninspiring).  Most importantly, appreciate that which seems earth-shattering uncomfortable to you is typically just barely shiny enough to get you noticed.

At the end of the day, as general rule of marketing, be anything but boring.  If you are going to get results in a competitive marketplace you need to step outside of your comfort zone.

By Kyle Dunn