We’ve been promised big results with a quick turnaround. We’ve been told that social media is a silver bullet for increased sales (so far, we haven’t seen an impact). Our marketing team and vendors have overpromised and underdelivered, and we’re disappointed. We’re frustrated. Perhaps we’re close to giving up on marketing entirely, but something tells us that we shouldn’t—we just need to know how to use it wisely.
In Lies, Damned Lies, and Marketing, Atul Minocha reveals the root causes of our frustration and provides us with the insight we need to utilize our marketing dollars for real results. He helps us understand why we need marketing, the important distinctions between marketing and sales, and how to attain the right blend of hard data and softer creativity to persuade our audience. Bringing with him more than 35 years of experience, Atul shows us how to make marketing work for us and finally achieve the results we’ve been waiting for. I recently caught up with Atul to learn more about how this book came about and his favorite idea he shares.
What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?
Something about how marketing has been practiced (and delivered to CEOs and companies) had been bothering me for the last few years. Every time I spoke with a CEO of a company, I discovered two things that were almost universally true. One, they all described marketing in an incomplete manner. Almost like blind men describing an elephant (a parable I share in the book). And two, even worse, they had a relatively poor opinion of marketing in general.
I got curious and discovered that this can be attributed to: (a) incomplete understanding of the function of marketing and what all it can (and should) do, and (b) many practitioners of marketing had, perhaps unwittingly and sometimes deceptively, oversold and misled the CEOs. No wonder most CEOs felt they had been taken for a ride by their marketing folks—internal and/or external.
I started building a PowerPoint with my observations that I would share with various groups of CEOs in an attempt to help them overcome this phenomenon. And often I would think of “writing a book” to get these thoughts to a wider audience. But as often happens in such pursuits, there was always “one more thing” to discover and add to the proverbial PowerPoint.
And then COVID hit.
On March 17, 2020, I was on a 16-hour flight from Dubai to Los Angeles, getting home ahead of the COVID wave that was just beginning to show up in the US, when I made the decision to finally write the book that had been bubbling within. I expected to have much more time locked up within my home, and writing this book seemed like a good way to stay “meaningfully occupied.” It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to call this book my “COVID baby.”
What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?
That is like asking “who’s your favorite child.” In a book that has been a labor of love, I have at least a couple dozen ideas spread within 19 chapters that can be implemented by almost anyone. That said, there are a couple of foundational thoughts that qualify as my “favorites.”
One, regardless of how burnt and misled one may feel about marketing, marketing is a crucial function. Each year, CB Insights, a market research/data analytics firm in New York, analyzes funded businesses that fail in that year. Almost always, 8 out of the top 10 reasons for failure are those that could be solved by great and timely marketing. What’s the lesson? Marketing is crucial for business success and survival.
Two, often both CEOs and marketers get taken in by the superficial and buzz words that have become part of the business rhetoric. For example, I am sure, you have heard “unless there’s an ROI, I don’t spend a dime.” Well, guess what? Sometimes it’s impossible to measure the ROI of actions even when such investments make sense intuitively. (Can anyone at Apple tell how many more iPhones they sell due to the very expensive billboards they have in the Bay Area?) So, the right thing to do is to double-check your instincts and go ahead and make those investments even when there’s no direct attribution (or ROI).
What’s a story of how you’ve applied this lesson in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?
This is a tough one. Can I hide behind “do what the doctor says, not what he does?” Those of us who studied what’s now called STEM courses and majors, are prone to over-relying on “data.” I am not saying that data is not important. It is.
However, it is not important to the exclusion of intuition and common sense. Even Jeff Bezos, one of the universally recognized data nerds, has often said that when he finds data and intuition don’t match, he questions the data and digs deeper to see where he got the data wrong. I studied science and went on to graduate from one world’s premier engineering schools. Thus, I was totally steeped in data and analysis.
However, over the years I have come to value instincts and emotions. Now I do my best to blend these together with my analytical training to serve my clients, and frankly my own decision-making. For example, when shopping for a car, it’s no longer just about horsepower and torque. It’s much more about how it looks and feels.