Ideas Blog

It’s Marketing, Not Magic

My dear friend and mentor, Bruce Cummings, told me a long time ago, “Marketing is 99% percent spreadsheet work and 1% inspiration.” Although Bruce is no longer with us, his words ring true every time I set out to create a marketing campaign or consult with clients on their marketing objectives.

Recently, I took on the role of marketing chair at SCORE, a non-profit that provides free business mentoring to small and medium-sized business. As a volunteer, I lead a group of 11 other volunteers who also graciously give of their time to market the services of the Miami-Dade SCORE Chapter.

The SCORE experience is personally gratifying on many levels, but two reasons standout in particular. First, given that everyone is a volunteer, I can’t be as demanding and critical as I would normally be–yes, patience is a virtue. The second thing is that most of the volunteers have little or no marketing experience, forcing me to spend a lot of time “teaching” marketing.

I’ve always “done” marketing and worked with employees who were hired to do a job, with the corresponding skill set and motivation to carry out the work. Yes, I mentored and taught a bit, but the work product and results is ultimately what mattered. But, of course, the work at SCORE is very different.

Just the other day, the programs group (I organized our team as a marketing department) presented their Q1 marketing plan. I needed the plan in order to secure the corresponding budget. It was a noble effort, but fell way short of my expectations, especially since I had to present the plan to the executive committee. Then it hit me–I failed the programs group! I assumed they knew what to do and how to do it. I was forced to take a step back and start with the basics, which lead to the creation of this Reverse Marketing Pyramid.

With limited time, both on my end and that of the volunteers, I wanted to find a quick way to explain the mechanics of marketing. I wanted them to understand that marketing is systematic, hard, calculated work and not magic. I presented the Reverse Marketing Pyramid to the programs group members, explaining every element in the graphic and how one flows from the other, as you work your way up the pyramid. I happy to report that their response was, “Ah, now I get this.” I’m very optimistic that version two of the Q1 plan will exceed all expectations and get funded.