The One Thing Every Marketer Must Do

QuestionsQuestion everything you hear, see or read.

Yes, everything.

  • Everyone has a bias.
  • Everyone applies their own spin.
  • Everyone has something to sell.

The only thing you can rely on is your own understanding and knowledge, developed through your own investigation and experience.

In marketing, and particularly in B2B marketing where we have fewer sources of reliable information, we are all looking for new opportunities for our business. However, if you don’t question what you see, read or hear, you will fall prey to new “research” or the bevy of experts peddling “solutions” that benefit them more than you.

Question Research

If new research says B2B buyers rely on social media, dig into the survey. Just how was social media defined? Did it indicate how important social media is in the buying process? Did it even indicate that they use it in the buying process, or that they just have a Facebook account? Were respondents recruited through social media or is it a representative sample?

Be aware, there are lies, damned lies and statistics spun to the advantage of the company presenting them. Question it. There is almost always more to the story.

Question Networks and Publishers

Media companies say they can target and engage your audience: how are they doing it? Do they have experience targeting your audience for similar marketers with similar goals? Are they using tactics beyond the core program to deliver the promised leads, followers or visits?

As you peel back the layers, you may find the seller doesn’t even understand what they are selling that well. How can they possibly know it is the best thing for you? They don’t. Continue asking questions until you know if it is right.

Question Experts

Experts often present a perfect polished solution. It delivers exactly what you are looking for. It is already proven through their experience with other, often similar, companies. But is it right for you? Does it really work as advertised when you dig below the surface?

If someone positions themselves as the expert and implies you should trust them without questioning, just walk away.

You Must Question

Your personal and business success are not the singular priority of any outside expert, partner, vendor or client. Often it isn’t even the priority of individuals in your company who have an eye on the career ahead of them.

Your Turn

Why are we so quick to trust our business and personal success to companies or individuals simply because they present themselves with authority?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

Image Credit: Stuart Miles /

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  • Joshua Goss

    Why are we so quick to trust people who seem to have authority? Google the Milgram Experiment. We can’t help it.

  • Eric,

    This is so true! And a topic I am extremely passionate about. I am amazed sometimes at how self-serving research reports are–especially those from marketing tools companies and media outlets. There is bias in how the questions are asked and the sampling methodologies, as you duly note.(Surprise! when an online media outlet surveys its audience, “online media sites” are the number one source of information during the purchase process.) In addition, marketers need to be aware of how the results are reported.

    Is the number of respondents given on every chart? This is especially important when comparing responses across different groups of respondents. For example, saying that healthcare companies respond differently than do manufacturers is meaningless if the survey sample includes 200 manufacturer respondents and only 15 healthcare respondents. Furthermore, not everyone who takes a survey answers every question. Good researchers will provide the number of responses on every chart, not just the total number of people who responded to the overall survey.

    Does the research point out which findings are statistically significant? Again, this will relate to sample size as well as variability in the data. You can’t tell if a difference is real without doing the mathematical calculations (or having the computer do it for you!) I certainly would not want to “bet the farm” on data that was not properly analyzed.

    I read some research yesterday that was potentially interesting, with useful results, but I decided to discount it as bogus because there was no statistical analysis to support the claims. Here is an excerpt:

    “Software marketers consider these tactics more effective than their B2B peers do: white papers (65% vs. 57%), research reports (63%vs. 57%), ebooks (60% vs. 55%), and microsites (57% vs. 50%).”

    Hmm. Is 60% really different than 55%? Is this a finding upon which I should “bet the farm?” Of course, there were no Ns, or number of respondents, on the charts, so I did a little digging (the numbers were in the back of the report). It turns out that there were 165 software marketers who took the survey and 1,251 B2B peers (for a total of 1,416 respondents). That’s a nice sample size—even an enviable sample size. However, a 5% difference between the software marketers and their peers amounts to 8 people. That’s right—8 people. In the absence of statistical testing, that’s not enough to convince me that software marketers think ebooks are more effective. In the absence of statistical testing, that’s fabricating conclusions to have something to say and perhaps grab headlines.

    So, research consumer, BEWARE.


    • Now that’s a comment Julie! Awesome, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      I love the example. I would add just one more question:

      Would you completely change your approach for software marketing, even if the finding was “statistically” sound? I definitely wouldn’t. Nothing moved from insignificant to critical. Everything here was likely in the mix before for B2B marketers in general and should be considered in the mix for software marketers as well. All stat measurements aside, it just isn’t all that different.

      Love the comment, thanks for sharing!

  • I can agree with that. So much mis-information out there. It’s always best to do your own research, your own studies, and implement what works based on what the data suggests.

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  • People do with business with people they like, know, and trust. It takes credibility to build a brand.

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