No good at marketing? Don’t worry – not many people are. Here are ten easy ways to look like you know what you’re doing. You might recognize a few of these…

1) Never say what you expect to achieve in advance, and you can spin anything as a success: “We’re going to do direct mail. We think it’ll be great.” If somebody asks for your “clear criterion for failure” dismiss them as negative. Say that you’re focussed on achieving a positive outcome. Don’t say what that is.

2) Declare the results of your projects in positive terms, regardless of the actual outcome: “Our junk mail was a great success. We wrote to 10,000 people and generated two new subscriptions.”

3) Use lots of buzzwords and horrible grammar so the reader can’t understand what you’re actually saying. Force them to take their cue from your tone, rather than the facts. Misusing mathematical terms will help lend an air of empty substance to your presentation. Suggest that the best is yet to come, so that it’s too early for criticism but high time for praise: “Our direct mail initiative has been a great success, generating 10,000 user impressions with a .02% conversion ratio to date and still rising.” Don’t bother to mention that the growth in your response rate is already miniscule and trending toward zero.

4) Compare your work to arbitrary baselines. Select these baselines after you’ve had a chance to see the results: “In direct mail, it’s common to have a 0.01% response rate, so we’ve outperformed the baseline by 200%.” Never mention what it cost, or somebody will work out that it lost money.

5) If anybody works out that two $200 subscriptions wasn’t much of a return on $4,400 in postage, claim that the real value of your campaign was in impressions: 10,000 of your best customers now have a brochure, and many of them will be coming back later to make their purchases. Claim credit for a portion of all subsequent sales. Talk about the “bigger picture” so everybody who disagrees with you will seem short-sighted or narrow-minded.

6) Set incredibly low expectations. Find evidence of decline in one aspect of the industry and use it as a baseline across the board, claiming everything above that line as a victory resulting directly from your work. If you’re forced to set realistic targets, don’t worry: you can always adjust them later to account for unexpected events beyond your control.

7) Don’t waste your time with teamwork. Instead, ask questions in meetings like “How can we connect this with what the education department is doing?” If anybody comes up with an idea, you’ll be able to take the credit whilst looking like a team player. If they expect you do to some of the work, make sure the whole thing comes out of their budget.

8) Make a show of staying informed about everything. It’s much easier to steal ideas and associate yourself with the organisation’s successes if you know what they are, and if it seemed, in some vague way, like you were involved.

9) Announce everything positive to the interdepartmental email list before anybody has enough information to know if it really worked. You don’t actually need to claim that you did anything. After a while, people will come to associate you with stuff that goes well. Praise others for their part in it, and they won’t even be able to complain that you’re taking the credit. Do this for long enough, and eventually you’ll become the arbiter of success: a project hasn’t gone well until you announce that it has.

10) Present everything as an experiment, and there’s no such thing as failure. Claim the information gleaned from your expensive mistake is “invaluable”. Never quantify it. You don’t want somebody comparing what you are getting paid to the cost of learning something you should have already known.



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  1. June 25, 2010

    Could the truth be told any clearer? Bravo for hitting the nail on the head!

    • properdiscord #
      June 25, 2010

      Aww. Thanks Elaine. I always enjoy your comments. Especially the ones about how I’m right.

  2. mclaren #
    June 25, 2010

    A little out of focus on this one. In some cases you’re talking about an “interdepartmental email list,” which suggests some kind of academic setup, while in other cases you’re talking about subscriptions, which points toward symphony or chamber music concerts. The mention of calling everything experimental applies well to a certain kind of non-profit Manhattan loft concertizing or CD sales setup, usually one guy in a garret with 5-foot stacks of shrinkwrapped CDs in his bathroom.

    Doesn’t work overall because the goal of the guy in the garret is very different from the symphony subscription marketers. The symphony people have to cover a whopping huge budget shortfall that gets bigger every year. The guy in the garret selling experimental CDs (or tickets to experimental concerts in some loft in Soho) probably has an adjunct professorship at SUNY and is selling the stuff at a loss to get the news out about his preferred niche specialty that he teaches about at SUNY, algo-death-metal Serbo-Croatian free aleatoric Cajun klezmer.

    • properdiscord #
      June 26, 2010

      Perhaps I should clarify here that I’m talking about experimental marketing, not experimental music.

      While my examples (in quotes) might be specific to certain types of business, you can see the underlying fallacies hard at work in marketing departments the world over.

  3. Vicki Allpress Hill #
    June 26, 2010

    Ah, you found me out…I guess it was going to happen…

    “You don’t actually need to claim that you did anything. After a while, people will come to associate you with stuff that goes well.”

    • properdiscord #
      June 30, 2010

      …unless you have a habit of working for companies that do badly, in which case you just make it clear that they could have been successful if only they had followed your advice…

  4. cozy #
    July 1, 2010

    Implementing best 5 today, spectacular results to follow. This has changed my life!

  5. August 9, 2010

    Hilarious! I’ve seen these brilliant strategies at the big symphony and at the tiny theater co. They do tend to work, but you need to add number 11. Speak at conferences and on panels whenever possible. Nobody will ever call you out on your data sources, your conclusions, or your expertise.

    • properdiscord #
      August 9, 2010

      An excellent suggestion – although you might want to make sure that I’m not coming to the conference first.

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