You’ve probably done a bit of research when it comes to digital marketing. You’ve read some blog posts and you’ve watched a few YouTube videos on SEO or email marketing.
And in doing so, you’ve almost certainly encountered a few of the well-known marketing gurus. They have huge followings on social media, they’ve published a New York Times bestseller or two, and they offer training classes for tens of thousands of dollars.
But with all of that social proof and credibility, why do I constantly tell people to “beware of the gurus”?
To be clear, I appreciate what they’re doing and how they do it to a certain extent. There is one thing that they do very well…certainly better than I do at this point…and I definitely respect them for their success. But before I get into that one thing gurus do very well, I want to run through the reasons why I tell most people to take them with a grain of salt.
Gurus often have a very specific success story
In most cases, they will establish their expertise by citing an example of how they took their startup or blog and made it into a money machine within a few years. You’re meant to assume that this is proof that they can help you do the same thing with your business, however…
…these success stories are almost never repeatable. They usually leveraged some sort of good timing or fortunate positioning in the market that will never be available to you.
…these stories are often outdated. For example, creating a profitable blog ten years ago is nothing like doing it now. The same thing goes for MSPs. You shouldn’t be impressed by the rate of growth when someone leveraged a burgeoning industry or capitalized on a Blue Ocean. This is sort of like bragging that they came in first place in a race where they were the only car on the track.
…sometimes these stories aren’t even true. There are self-proclaimed experts — even in the MSP marketing space — who lean on the past success of their own business to prove their expertise. Being in the Channel long enough, you start to find out that some of these “success stories” stretch the truth well beyond credibility.
Most of their information is pretty basic
Marketing gurus are a great resource for the DIY-type or the small business owner, but beware of any “marketing expert” who constantly name drops their favorite YouTube hero. The vast majority of what gurus talk about is first-year marketing knowledge blended with common sense. It’s not bad advice…it’s just stale. When you see someone basing the whole of their marketing expertise on podcasts and YouTube videos, it’s safe to assume that they probably have no formal education in marketing and/or they’re not doing what marketing professionals are supposed to do: cultivating their own ideas so that their clients get an actual advantage.
Which leads me to the next point…
Guru marketing is too readily available
As a marketing guru grows their audience, their information becomes incrementally less valuable. Why? Simply because millions of other people — including your competitors — are doing the exact same things because they just watched the same YouTube video. Following these trends will do little more than help you maintain the status quo. Innovation and creativity are incredibly important because you can’t truly begin to leverage marketing as an advantage until you’re breaking away from the norm.
So, what is the one thing that all gurus do right?
That’s easy! They’re incredibly good at marketing themselves. They market themselves like any other e-commerce product, and their success has very little to do with the information they’re actually providing. This is because a gurus aren’t selling their expertise, but rather the experience of being one of them — part of their secret cadre of successful followers. As long as you feel like this person is turning you into a marketing expert, they’ve done what they need to do.
Gurus aren’t bad…as long as you remember that they’re a product
As with any industry, there are mastermind groups and clubs for gurus who want to be internet famous. There are businesses built around getting seemingly-exclusive speaking engagements to build their credibility. And yes, you can even buy your way onto the New York Times bestseller list by ensuring that bulk orders of your book are processed the day that it launches (fun fact: the list isn’t based on overall sales. It’s based on volume of orders in a certain time frame.)
So all of the marketing rules apply. Caveat emptor, and don’t take anything at face value. Bear in mind that you are their customer, not their protege, and you can usually mine some good tidbits from what they have to offer.
Ongoing education is the key to success
Marketing is an thriving industry and not just something business owners can do in their spare time, and for good reason. You can’t learn everything you need to know on YouTube. You can’t follow the pack and expect to rise to the top. You can’t even lean on your college degrees to get through your career. Marketing is dynamic and exciting — a constant flux of brilliant new ideas, flops, and experimentation.
Just like IT, you’re in it for the long haul…you will spend your entire career learning and keeping up with changing times.
Each member of the Your Sales Energy team has been formally educated in either marketing or IT (or both) and we are sure to keep our certifications in everything from to email marketing to eCommerce marketing current. I personally try to read one or two books a week, often times on subjects like behavioral science or economics, because it gives me the raw materials to bring fresh innovations to IT Channel marketing. Research and development is a huge part of what we do (we currently have two marketing software applications in the works) and innovation comes from blending numerous disciplines and ideas.
I recommend you take the same approach. Look beyond what’s happening in the Channel and imagine how you can bring something new and exciting to your own marketing.