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From the Trenches

Marketers, First Do No Harm

Will Davis | July 6, 2011

Just as a doctor must follow the Hippocratic Oath, strategic marketing consultants like us must First Do No Harm. All too often we see the unfortunate results of a new, well-intentioned VP of Marketing or CMO coming in bursting with energy and anxious to make an impact try to do everything – and doing more harm than good.  Marketers in a new role, just like doctors with a new patient, first need to take a step back and assess the situation.  Before you change the design and structure of the website, re-engineer an existing pay-per-click search campaign, or make a 180 degree change in the tone and focus of the company blog and social media presences, take the time to evaluate everything.

Start By Asking Questions

Your doctor does this all the time.  Marketers should understand what has been tried previously, what has been successful and what may need adjustment. Then, they should set some objectives and ways to track against those objectives.

Your doctor (hopefully) doesn’t prescribe you a bunch of things the minute you walk in the door.  He or she reviews a chart of your history, asks questions, listens and gains knowledge, looks closely at things and only then determines a proper course of action.  And yet far too many marketers walk in the door and immediately start prescribing — running right to a bunch of tactics and throwing a bunch of solutions against the wall to see what sticks, often doing more harm than good.

One of the most important things that we do in our business is ask questions. I like to joke that my job is to ask a question and then shut up and listen, eventually ask another question and again shut up and listen. Only then do we start to get the right information to understand which solutions to prescribe.  It may turn out that the patient doesn’t need website plastic surgery, a blog transfusion or 50 cc’s of social media right now.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have you recently seen marketing malpractice in action? Chime in with your thoughts, experience and comments below.

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