Why Digital Marketers Need to Be More Than Marketers; They Need to Be Entrepreneurs

Digital Marketing Noir

Note: I pulled this from the archives of unpublished work I have. On first glance I thought I saw why I never published it, but after rereading it I reconsidered. I’d like to hear your thoughts on whether or not this kind of storytelling has any place in online marketing…

So, it’s storytelling you want? Then it’s storytelling you’re going to get. Sit back, and get ears ready for a tale that sounds so tall that even Paul Bunyan couldn’t reach the top of it. But, on my grandparents graves, every last bit of it is true. Inbound marketing is a cruel world. Clients come and go, traffic is up and down, leads are good or bad, new terminology and jargon is used daily. The faint of heart shouldn’t set foot in an inbound marketer’s work space, for fear of certain confusion.

So, who did set foot near 2 x 4 sized desk one day, but a young lad. He was inquiring about a position he saw in evening edition of our local periodical. I made certain it was the evening edition as we had different positions listed in the morning, late morning, mid-afternoon and night editions. After confirming that it was indeed the evening edition I got up and shut the office door behind him. The person who took this position would need to be a certain caliber and I didn’t want to embarrass him during his interview in front of the entire staff.

The six other staff members that I shared the room with were equally intrigued by what type of person would have the gall to go after a job like this. The job in question was that of an inbound marketing coordinator. The person who is worthy of this position would have to do tasks like blogging, content creation, social media management and email marketing while all the while trying to stay ahead of the completion and harness as many quality leads as possible.

I said earlier that this job isn’t for the faint of heart, now you have a better understanding of why. This job wasn’t just for some creative type to come in and write a few lines, send a few Tweets, drink a little whiskey and call it a day. No, this job would require someone to write a lot of lines, send a lot of Tweets and drink a ton of whiskey. This job required not just a marketer, but an entrepreneur, that French word meaning adventurer.

So, I told him, “get out of here, this job isn’t for you.”

In response he asked, “how do you know, you’ve never met me.”

“I like your gumption,” I said, for I was just testing him to see if he was the type of person who gives up easily. You see, inbound marketing is a long, tedious process that will require resilience as campaigns ramp up and numbers aren’t being met yet. If the word ‘no’ is in your vocabulary being an inbound marketer isn’t for you.

Sure, digital marketing is often done in anonymity, sitting behind a computer, writing content, bidding on ad space, and posting and emailing. The basics of inbound marketing are simple enough, after all. Blogging, social media, email marketing and the leads start flowing in. That’s not what I wanted to hear from this guy, though. Of course, I wanted him to know how to set up the foundation of an inbound marketing campaign. Yeah, I wanted him to understand the analytics. But, I also want someone who can look past the definition of inbound and create a digital lead generation machine using whatever tactics possible.

I decided to give this guy some of my attention. “Tell me your name,” I asked. Since I was sitting at my computer I planned on Googling him and doing a little research as we spoke.

“The name is Tim, short for Timothy, which is short for Timothy William, which is short for Timothy William White, which is actually short for Timothy William White Jr.,” he replied succinctly. “But, people call me T to save time.”

“Tell me T, what do you think about inbound marketing?”

“I love the concept. It’s so great to be marketed to without any pressure and to find the right resources I need to educate myself when I need it. There are some things about it though…,” T trailed off into thought and looked embarrassed that he didn’t know what else to say.

I waited patiently for him to gather his thoughts. He seemed on the cusp of saying something prophetic. His lips began to quiver, he opened his mouth and what he said will be something I’ll never forget. He said rather glibly, “It just seems like there’s a limit to how many leads you can produce.”

He looked up at me to see if I would nod in agreement. I just stared. “I mean there are only so many people out there who can possibly find your content. Only so many people Google certain keywords. Only so many people follow you on social media, so I just don’t understand how your audience can expand.”

I glared at him. How could such a person respond to the ad in the evening paper which clearly said I need someone with gumption? How could this person, who had such promise, take such a turn toward disappointment?

“You imbecile,” I yelled, in retrospect, a bit harshly. “You can’t limit yourself to the current audience. If you don’t have a large enough audience you have to go out and find people to market to. You have to do what it takes. Put fliers on windshields, run a commercial, hell, higher a sky-writer for all I care, just don’t limit yourself.”

He stared at me apologetically. I felt bad. He had learned what he did from the books. Nonetheless, what he told me was theoretically incorrect, anyhow. You can certainly gain an audience organically with great content and a great product. T was too narrow minded to look beyond the current audience.

“Do reveal your source on that please. I daresay I misheard you and then rather harshly admonished you for no reason,” I decided to give him a second chance. No one can possibly think that in a world where almost half of the population, 4 billion people, use the internet, that the audience is set.

“Well, sir, I did read otherwise, even on your blog, but the market just seems so niche, who else could want to read new content and anyone else involved in the marketplace is certainly savvy enough to have already come across what they are looking for,” he responded.

My patience had returned, and I calmly got up from my desk and put my arm on his shoulder to see him out. “You see T, there is a reason I was so shocked that someone called for the position posted in the evening paper. Being an inbound marketer is more than meets the eye. Sure, there are the foundational elements that you need to be successful, but you can do so much more, as long as it’s ethical, to drive traffic, engage an audience and ultimately gain leads. I think you’re a good guy T and I admire your moxy, but this job isn’t for you.”

It was sad to see him walk glumly down the hallway and I was sorry I was so harsh toward him, but I can’t help it. I went to my desk and began to rewrite the ad for tomorrow’s evening periodical. This time I asked for someone who has tried and failed at something but then tried again until it worked.

Author: Douglas Eldridge

Douglas Eldridge began his career in content in 2003 as an editor at a global newswire. Over the years he has worked in almost every facet of digital marketing, from PPC to ecommerce. When he's not marketing you can find him with his wife, two kids, their dog and a flock of chickens in Denver, Colorado or in the right seat of a Cessna 172 teaching people to fly airplanes.

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