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Marketing Complexity

post # 104 — June 13, 2006 — a Client Relations post

I hope other people are getting as much benefit from the advice contained in the reactions and comments to my blog on Creating Awareness. I also hope people will continue to joint that conversation.

However, I suspect that other people, as well as me, are rapidly beginning to realize the intertwined complexity of marketing. It’s not just complicated, it’s truly complex .Everything influences everything else, and it’s completely unclear where to start.

When I wanted to promote my consultancy, everyone said “write a book”. So I did that, and then asked – but how do I promote a book?

I treasure the responses that came back from publishers and publicists alike: “Well, there are no guarantees. There are some things we can try. Every book is different. We’ll give it our best efforts, act with good faith and good intentions. It’s really up to what you do. Maybe you should start a website.”

So, I did that. But then I asked, how do I make my website popular? Start a blog, they said.

Then, when I said how to I promote my blog, good friends said “People will get driven to your blogs if they hear about you in their trade press – get quoted or print your articles in print media. Do more seminars and invite the press. But how do I entice the press? Write more articles.”

Whoops! Back where we started!

If you read the commenters on the last blogpost (and you should – it’s GREAT stuff!) you’ll see things like “use your podcasts to promote your blog”. Well, yes, but forgive me being petulant if I ask “But how the heck do I promote my podcats?”

cover of David Maister's book, Managing thice Firm

I”ve been just as guilty over the years of trying to make things linear. In my first book, Managing the Professional Service Firm I argued that among the top tactics to create awareness in a professional business were speeches and seminars, and I was dismissive of things like direct mail. “But how,” people would write in for years to come, “do we get people to come into our seminars? Don’t we need direct mail to get them to attend?” Ouch! Good point!

The same topic came up when I was discussing the possibility of building a “Wikipedia” about professional businesses. “The key” he said “Is that it’s easier to pull that off if – like you David (he’s a charmer) – you have a strong existing brand to build it on.”

This was flattering, but ultimately frustrating. He’s saying that I can make the new things (and the new marketing media) work better if I’ve already succeeded (and am plugged in.) Actually, that’s not bad for me because I’m 58 years old, I’ve published numerous books, I’ve built the website, so I’m ahead of the game – I have something to build on.

But, boy, that must be immensely annoying for those just starting out, trying to get their market’s attention. “Get famous, kid, and all the tactics for getting famous will be available to you!”

It’s like the pop music that’s my hobby. If you’re already famous, you get press coverage, invited to interviews, they review your latest album in the music magazines and they display your latest release at the front of the store. If you’re a band just starting out, none of these things are accomplished easily – if at all!

And in some small way, I have that challenge. Part of what I’m trying to do is to reach NEW audiences (outside the traditional professions where I have spent most of my time.) In that situation, my marketing challenge is as tough as any new “band”: we’ve got this killer record recorded, but no one will stock it, play it, display it. And the advice on where to START is all over the map! (And yes, I have read the books on Buzzmarketing!)

I’m luckier than most – I’ve got something to build on, and I have a little money to invest in this (hard-to-understand, incomprehensibly complex) process. I feel bad for others just starting out trying to think their way through this minefield.

That’s why I hope everyone out there will keep contributing to this blogpost (and the last one ). I’m determined to write an article (or some articles) shedding a little more light on all this. I see pieces of an answer, but at the moment they are only tantalizing glimpses!


Joseph Thornley said:

David, the key point you make is: “what I’m trying to do is to reach NEW audiences (outside the traditional professions where I have spent most of my time.)”

OK. We all want to reach new audiences.

But what do we have to offer them?

To answer this, I think you need to be more targeted. What new audiences do you want to reach? If you can’t describe them, you really do not know them.

There is no effective generic formula for reaching new audiences. Instead, you must identify the audience and research their interests, their composition, their needs. Only then can you determine the content that you can provide them to serve their requirements.

You know what you want: to reach new audiences. But what do they want?

Answer this and you will have a solid foundation to reach those new audiences.

posted on June 13, 2006

David (Maister) said:

OK, Joe fair point. I have spent twenty five years being pretty focused on a few sectors, only slowly broadening my focus by adding new professions. I have always turned away work that took me outside my focus, because I didn’t want to become just “one more general managment consultant.”

I will confess that, due to some very gratifying feedback from managers outside my traditional area of focus, I am tempted to try to expose my writings (or at least an awareness that they exist) to a more general audience.

What I hear you saying, Joe, is that it’s still a matter of focus, not of broadcasting. Another (email) correspondent suggested that I continued with my past (successful) approach of tackling new sectors or industries one by one, so that my marketing could be customized and not overly general.

All sensible. But I can’t help feeling that the core question I pose in this blog is still unaddressed. There are a LOT of new marketing tactics and marketing channels out there, including the ones that have come up in the previous blogpost:

Click-through advertising



Email subscriptions to premium material

On-line salons

Particpating in other people’s blogs

Enhanced websites



I was foolish enough to believe that, in the old days, you could say something sensible about, say, the relative merits of seminars v. community relations v. direct mail beyond the general statement “Well, it all depends on your goals and what you are trying to achieve.” (I’ve heard that way too many times over the years.)

In our brave new world, since it is still VERY early days, I think we are all in danger of having to use that phrase too much when clients ask for their advice – “It all depends.??” (And yes, I use it too – way too much.)

I think we’ll be better off when we actually do know more about how marketing works – when we can be more precise about the interaction of different tactics and media.

Right now, I think we’re a little stuck saying things like “Blogging helps your podcast which helps your article which supports your click-through advertising”

Or am I being too rude about the modern marketing profession? Do we know more than that “all these things are interconnected?” If so, what do we know, and where do we turn to learn it?

posted on June 13, 2006

Joseph Thornley said:


You make a very good point about people too often taking the easy way out with “It depends” answers. And you go to the heart of the issue with your statement that “I think we’ll be better off when we actually do know more about how marketing works — when we can be more precise about the interaction of different tactics and media. ”

I think that we are in the phase now during which we are gathering the hard data to tell us what works, when and how. That has long been one of the big promises of the net and one-to-one interactions. Google has cashed in big on superior metrics.

With social media, we are moving on to the next level. I think it is noteworthy that the measurement tools are being developed alongside the social media platforms. Technorati, Google Analytics, IceRocket, co.mments – numerous tools are being developed and refined to enable us to follow conversations, gauge relationships and understand whether our strategies and tactics are contributing to the achievement of our goals.

In the meantime, we continue to be in the realm of “best judgments” by people who are immersed in trying to understand.

Yes, it’s trial and error. Yes, the advice is still too broad. But I think that we have reached the stage where we can point people in the general right direction.

Course corrections will be required. But that has always been the case in any professional services advice. Today’s best thinking can and must always be improved upon. That is definitely the case with marketing. However, if you enter the discussion (as you have with these posts), I believe that you will get answers. But keep pushing. We can always do better.

posted on June 14, 2006

Edward Gabrielse said:

There is a group of very bright marketing professionals who are wrestling with the same issues, the Association for Accounting Marketing. These folks (I am no longer a member since I have retired) have struggled for about two decades with the issues of how to market a service that consists of personal and professional relationships.

They have dealt with the hostility (initially) of the partners in accounting firms. They have had to sift through a plethora of marketing techniques used in B to B and consumer sales in search of those few that can make a difference. They have spent a great deal of effort and resources in the experimentation.

Engaging them and tapping into their collective experience maybe helpful in your search.

posted on June 14, 2006

David (Maister) said:

Ed, i think you’re right. There’s been a lot of good experimentation going on in a broad variety of services, and I’m sure there’s a lot that has been learned.

We tend most to hear from consultants like you and me, Ed, or from the marketing communications experts.

I wonder of any of the in house accounting, consulting, engineering, law marketers can and will share, with the rest of us, the first round of lessons about what works and what doesn’t.

posted on June 14, 2006

Bill Peper said:

Two quick thoughts as I check this site from the road between appointments:

I think it is easier for the generation just entering the work force to succeed in our wacky Free Agent Nation/cyberworld, as merit (and not pristine educational backgrounds) has a relatively larger role to play. Most members of my gen-gen-generation (a gratuitous pop music reference for David’s benefit)—I am 44—entered a business environment that no longer exists. Those coming of age now have a tremendous relative advantage in adapting to the new business world order.

My second observation is that David should not be so quick to assume that he has a “killer record.” I happen to think his materials are brilliant and meet my needs and interests. They may not be as well suited for a manager who is clueless about his/her ineptitude as a manager and who is not willing to digest challenging material. Just as I generally avoid most instrumental jazz because I cannot appreciate the complexity of the improv music, most managers I encounter try to avoid all continuing education that is not required.

I currently “assign” two books to my managers—especially those who are relatively new to the management profession: David’s Practice What You Preach and Better Than Perfect by Dale Dauten. Many more of my managers (notorious non-readers as a group)have read Dale’s book and not David’s.

To get a feel for the difference in style between the authors, read the two excepts of these books available on the Internet:



A generation that view Chicken Soup for Golfers as high literature may not appreciate David’s obviously brilliant and insightful advice.

More thoughts to come in the other blog.

posted on June 14, 2006

David (Maister) said:

Bill, I want more, more, more. First, I need to hear WHy you thin the current generation has it easier. Doesn’t EVERY generation think that? I’ve got loads of friends with unemployable college graduate children, and the newspapers (and Craigslist) are stiffed with offerss of unpaid internships. Why is it easier now?

Second, I accept completely your point about many people not being ready for my stuff, but why did you choose PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH as the entry point?

That’s kind of like a partyy game I like to play with those of my generation: if you really wanted someone to hate the Beatles, play the following tracks in order:

You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)

Wild Honey Pie

Revolution Number 9

Act Naturally


No-one will ever believe that this was a group that got a record contract, let alone were world-beaters!

posted on June 14, 2006

Bill Peper said:

Let me answer your second query first: why Practice What You Preach (PWYP)?

I am an independent contractor employed full-time as a facilitator/business consultant for 19 GM dealerships in SE Michigan and NW Ohio. I routinely work with several managers within a dealership concurrently; most have never received any substantive training in management.

I use the “book assignment” as a test of how seriously this individual wishes to implement my suggestions. A few are avid readers, and a few aren’t readers but are willing to read the books I suggest.

I picked PWYP among David’s books because it provides a great chapter of the role of courage in management (Chapter 25) that is accessible to all of my managers; and it contains several lists that describe the functions and responsibilities of a good manager/coach.

I use several of the FREE handouts from David’s website (for the record, pp. 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, and 26 of the management handouts section; and pp. 11, 12, and 14 of the strategy handouts.) I spend the most time on the diagram that provides the heart of the findings of PWYP to provide a basic structure for our work together. Having this basis of understanding with manager is critical.

Better Than Perfect by Dale Dauten is an awesome book that I would recommend to all. It is available at http://www.dauten.com 2-for-1 with an unconditional money-back guarantee (or you can pick another of his books for the second copy. All of them are terrific!)

This assignment has worked for me.

posted on June 14, 2006

Bill Peper said:

There are several reasons that I feel the current generation has an advantage in adapting to the new media and business environment of the 21st—century over previous generations.

First, I am referring to that subset of the current generation that is willing to work hard and seize the opportunities the landscape makes available. My Dad had a realistic expectation that he would spend his entire career as a manager/executive with General Motors — and he did. All four of my siblings (all brothers) followed Dad to GM, and I could have but elected to go to law school. Only a rare person now works only for one employer over the course of a career.

[Warning: two paragraph rant follows]

I worked as the Director of Career Services at a prestigious law school. I worked closely with many students to find permanent employment in law as the industry restructured nearly overnight after 9/11. In light of my extensive experiences, I have developed very strong opinions on this topic.

The world in which college graduates automatically received jobs with benefits and a promise of lifelong employment is gone forever. David’s friends’ children have likely remained on Mom and Dad’s dole into young adulthood and taken the career path of least resistance. They feel entitled to a large salary with full benefits in order to maintain the standard of living their parents attained after decades of hard work. The market, however, does not value a political science major with no real work experience. The delusion of these graduates is that a three-month externship will result in the “dream job.” They either will get with the program and work hard at some point or remain underemployed and continue to curse “how tough things are.” To paraphrase Jesus, the mediocre we will always have with us. The opportunities for success are available today, even if they remain out of the reach of those unwilling to work hard.

To avoid an even lengthier post, please allow me to list just some of the advantages:

•This generation will be exposed to truly helpful technology. I learned (against my will) about RSS feeds in order to listen to David’s podcasts. The ability to harness the power of these emerging communication tools is a very marketable skill. Japanese parents who want to raise a violinist place the violin in the baby’s crib.

•The young worker with an “old school” skill set and work ethic stands out among peers. I hear managers all the time say, “Help! I need somebody.” There are a number of jobs that David’s friends’ children could take and develop real skills and positive work experiences — but, alas, the positions are “beneath them.”

•Older workers have a greater need for security and are less able to relocate or take a temporary assignment due to family obligations.

•The key to success in the future will be demonstrating the ability to add value. Employers will not limit assignments to inexperienced new-hires from prestigious colleges, but the market will reward those who can do the work the best.

•The ability to telecommute can enable new workers to work on several projects at a time and eat while developing real-world skills.

•The pending retirement of the Baby Boomer generation and sheer demographics put today’s graduates in a great position to succeed.

There is no substitute for hard work and planning one’s activities to maximize opportunities. This requires a willingness to take some risks and to experience different work environments. The opportunities are there.

David, I recommend that those unemployable college graduates check out http://www.wellfedwriter.com and other websites that would help them take responsibility for their professional careers. The local public library and the career services offices of their universities are other great resources.

posted on June 15, 2006

Eric Boehme said:

Everyone wants to tell you that starting a blog is the ticket to getting attention. I read a blog written by an actor that reached the apex of his career while he was stuck in puberty.

He is miserable now and his blogs can’t get him the next job in L.A. Millions of people watched him on T.V. for several years. He could create podcasts, webcasts, and everything else the internet marketing gurus tell you to do.

What makes Boing Boing so popular?

I do not have a clue. It doesn’t do anything for me. However it meets a need out there that I do not understand.

I do not think this generation has it any easier than my generation or those before me. Yes we can talk to the world by typing into little boxes. The problem is that there are millions and millions of other people talking at the same time.


It is a problem of signal to noise ratio. Boing Boing and others have found a way to boost their signal and wipe out the noise.

It remains a mystery to me, but I am going to continue to share my experiences. I have seen a few areas where my blog resonates with a much broader audience. I will continue to explore those areas and look for new areas.

To use your example about bands

that are just starting out. Most bands that make it big work hard for years before they hit their stride and get a break.

Keep blogging, David, I would have never found you without your blog.


posted on June 15, 2006

Eric C Jaffe said:

Different Sectors. Hmm.

I was exposed to your book, managing the professional services firm a good 5-6 years ago when I was an IS Director for a law firm. The work inspired me. I recall thinking man, I would love to work for a firm that was managed in that way.

3 Years ago I left the Legal IT Niche and still love and apply the principles found in the book in my new profession as a the Pastor of a growing church.

When it comes to marketing a professional services firm, a church, or probably any other business the 2 words that come to mind are RELATIONSHIPS MATTER, relationships with co workers, suppliers, clients (congregants), the community.

I’ve taken tools like CRM that I learned in the professional services environment and applied them in a church setting and we have seen phenominal growth. Our church is actually ranked in the top 50 fastest growing churches in america.

Through relationships we have launched 3 campuses and have 3 more on the radar for the next 6 months.

I also love the Permission Marketing ideas put forth by Seth Godin in his works.

David, if you ever want to altar your work and apply it in church circles, wow do I think it would fly! I’ve actually even taught principles from your book during leadership bootcamps.. Powerful stuff.

posted on June 15, 2006

Bill Perry said:

David, thanks for this information. I never really thought about the whole “starting out” process in quite the way you have presented. It’s enlightening. It reminds me of the credit dilemma for teens just getting into the work force. “You can’t have credit, because you have no prior credit….”

another complex process…


posted on June 20, 2006