Tuesday 2¢: Where are the IRL ninjas?

This Tuesday 2¢, we have ninjas and gurus for every new discipline and doohickey in marketing, but are we neglecting meeting people in real life and is there a ninja to save us?


This month I have attended a conference, hosted a number of executive breakfasts and dinners, I am working with a potential client who has a wonderful attitude to meeting prospective clients over wine and as I type this I am on a plane, rounding off a Nordic tour hosting a series of breakfast briefings for a client helping them tell the story of a new acquisition.

All this got me thinking about marketing in real life, how marketers we do it as part of the hamster wheel we run around in, but is IRL marketing given the attention it deserves?

It seems weird typing this, if I was writing about social media or a new digital doohickey, sharing examples would be exactly what happens now, but… here are a few examples:

I have worked with software businesses that in their early days organically grew from start-up to a decent size with little marketing, or access to a font of cash, but grew through referral business. They created relationships with users and buyers that were so strong that they would take this vendor with them to their next job or recommend them to their peers.

Talk to experienced salespeople about how they develop their pitch – and they will tell you that when they present to clients, they get feedback and they use this feedback to fine tune their message. And like the proverbial rolling stone gathering moss, the more experienced they get in front of their audience, the more stories they pick up, the better the pitch becomes (we marketers really need to tap into this!).

To use the lingua franca of today, this process is also “agile” and dynamically personalized – face to face, you can see whether what is being said is resonating, when to increase the tempo, share more information, skip some slides or slow down and share maybe less.

On the tour I am just completing, the vendor presentation changed each time, depending on the vibe in the room.

The conversations at the dinner and breakfast events I’m invited to host are fantastic, why? The ideas flow, not just from the sponsoring vendor, but the attending executives sharing with each other, it’s a useful opportunity for learning that is reasonably unstructured.

And, I just read this wonderful story about a conversation on a plane, where a marketer invested the time sitting next to someone from his target market to learn about them.

These are examples of the value of talking to real people.

And yet, we marketers are obsessed with our screens and our machines, we are trying to simulate this real-life experience and scale it, we talk about personalization, of being social, of nurturing relationships all the while never leaving our laptops.

We never have the relationship we are trying to emulate. If we do leave the office to setup events, we set the stage, leave and busy ourselves with the important business of marketing, not meeting our audience.

This is the challenge for marketers, we need to meet the client digitally, how can we emulate this relationship if we don’t know what it’s like? If we never meet a client or talk to sales about their experience? How can we learn their language?

We have gurus, ninjas and hackers in every other marketing discipline, maybe it’s time for the IRL ninjas.