Common Wisdom or Common Sense?


Share on LinkedIn

I don’t know about you, but I am getting very tired of the platitudes, nostrums, assumptions, and just plain silliness that passes for wisdom in marketing and business.

For example:

– Everyone needs to be on social media.

– The more likes, connects, and follows, the better.

– Every marketing piece must have a “call to action.”

– The more you mechanize and automate, the better.

– There is a giant, almost unbridgeable, chasm between consumer marketing and B2B marketing.

– New ways of doing things are inevitably better than older ways. (For instance, who needs market research these days when we have conversations on Facebook and Twitter?)

The list could go on and on.

But, just for a moment, let’s try injecting some common sense into the discussion.

– Why does every business need to be on social media? Everyone would agree that different industries, industry segments, companies have different audiences. Different kinds of products require different ways of approaching prospective buyers. So why do these time-tested rules change with the introduction of social media? Does anyone really think that selling industrial products, for instance, will be facilitated by a Facebook page? Does anyone really think that tweeting about jet engines will make a sale?

– I’ve had people tell me that on social media “quantity becomes quality.” Really? If that is so, then companies with large Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, LinkedIn, and blog followings should be spending a good part of the day turning away business. Does anyone know a case where this is so? The right following, even if small, beats a large, indiscriminate following every time.

– I’m continually fascinated by the insistence that a “call to action” is a marketing imperative. The assumption here is that if someone is interested in your content, product literature, sales pitch, etc., they wouldn’t think to call or get in touch unless you tell him to. Or, if he’s not interested, somehow your “call to action” will make the difference.

– Mechanize, automate, make it machine-doable. I like labor saving devices as much as the next person. (Maybe more; I’m lazy at heart.) And there is certainly a need to use them to manipulate large amounts of data or remove the drudgery of routine and repetitious tasks. But let’s not forget that marketing – and business in general – will succeed or fail based on insight, intuition, and finely honed judgment. When machines get between you and the customer or you and the data or you and the marketplace in general, they also get between you and insight, intuition, and judgment.
– How did we decide that there is a great divide between consumer and B2B marketing? Sure, we need to prove value in a B2B sale. But don’t we have to do that for most consumer products as well? Why is it a commonplace to use evocative, emotionally potent images on the consumer side – but refrain from using them on the B2B side? When did we decide that our audiences are schizophrenic, that people are essentially different when they move from behind their desks to in front of their TVs?

And on and on and on.

But here’s the point: Before we follow the pieces of common wisdom that surround us, we need to subject them to a test of common sense.

Where did these notions come from? I suspect that they developed in the dim, dark past because someone tried something new and it worked – and then everyone followed in that path.

But being derivative, following what worked for someone else, with no thought of why it worked or questioning whether it will work for you, is the very essence of poor marketing, and poor business.

Successful businesses distinguish themselves from the crowd. Following common wisdom sets you firmly within the crowd. Successful marketing makes your product, your company stand out in the customer’s and prospect’s mind. Following common wisdom, by definition, puts you where everyone else is.

Common sense is, actually, quite rare. I encourage you to have the courage to use it. It will distinguish you from your competitors.

Emily R. Coleman
Dr. Emily R. Coleman is President of Competitive Advantage Marketing, Inc., a firm that specializes in helping companies expand their reach and revenues through strategy and implementation. Dr. Coleman has more than 30 years of hands-on executive management experience working with companies, from Fortune 500 firms to entrepreneurial enterprises. Dr. Coleman's expertise extends from the integration of corporate-wide marketing operations and communications to the development and implementation of strategy into product development and branding.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here