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Why even the best marketers can find themselves screaming into the void


By Grace Kite, Founder and economist

September 11, 2023 | 7 min read

Economist Dr. Grace Kite and Andrew Nethercott of Magic Numbers explain why even the best practices in marketing can get lost in the void - and share how to avoid it.

Screaming void

Here’s how it goes: you’ve done the work, read ‘How Brands Grow’ cover-to-cover, and sifted through the post-Cannes articles and podcasts. You’re at the forefront of marketing; you know the theory and are determined to stay on top.

But then it gets complicated.

It’s September planning season, and you talk through your big ideas and put forward plans that you know will benefit the business both now and in the long term, but… nothing. No one’s listening.

For the senior leaders who are supposed to listen to you, marketing theory seems abstract and disconnected from their business. It’s so one-size-fits-all and contradictory in places that the theories don’t come together into a coherent context-specific whole.

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And here we are seeing such a waste of talent, ideas and opportunities for growth, especially as the fix is available. Because there’s more data than ever at the marketer’s fingertips, and there’s training on how to put the correct numbers alongside the theory and sell best practices.

Can you hear me? Am I on?

In interviews with marketers this year, we asked what blocks them from being effective.

What we heard most was that senior people who could spend the money don’t respond to presentations on marketing theory. Some people say the boss thinks marketers are just spending money for the sake of it. Others believe that this theory is subjective–just someone’s opinion.

But it’s frustrating, infuriating, and, for one marketer, even depressing: “Sometimes I feel like I am just talking into a vacuum. And can you hear me? Am I on? Why are you not registering?”

And it’s such a waste, too. We could do better marketing plans if the theories could be applied and used properly. We’d sell more stuff and at higher prices.

So, what’s the solution?

Data and measurement have a role to play. Econometrics is the gold standard, but cheaper and easier options are available. Analyzing search terms gives a picture of underlying sector demand. And simply tracking the right metrics shows if initiatives are on track.

But more important than the actual numbers used is the match between the evidence being presented and the person hearing that evidence. It has to be data and numbers that can convince the concerned people.

And different people need different evidence. You’re going to have to adapt to who you are presenting to.

The slide below shows the steps needed to get a change signed off in a real-life business trying to get the brand building off the ground.

Magic numbers

In this case, the CMO needed a perfectly plausible explanation for why they hadn’t done demand building before if it was so good. The CFO was required to test and learn with the ability to call a halt if it wasn’t working. Neither would approach the founder without the other being in agreement.

There’s also a role for training. Post-covid, there are brilliant courses available online that teach you the theory. But you’ve got to look for the training that gives you clear, practical steps to implement it, ideally with convincing data or things to do with it.

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Even businesses feeling pressure on their budgets should be looking at this issue. If it only costs a grand or two to enable a key person to find the right plan this Autumn and get it off the ground in 2024, it’s a no-brainer.

So, if you’re back to work and a brick wall of silence has hit your new-school-year suggestions, think about what your specific stakeholders need to hear. Talk to them. And then look for the support and training you need.

And who knows next summer, it could be you up on the stage next year explaining in a conference how successful you’ve been - or again shouting into the void...

Magic Numbers’ course for online businesses that have grown beyond start-up starts on September 25, 2023. It covers how to do all the analyses mentioned here and various other ways to get the right marketing mix-up and running. Find out more here.

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