My cousin is only 10 years old and has already learnt the difference between B2B and B2C marketing. It helps that both of her parents are marketing executives, but she still understands the real world much better than I did at her age. So the other night when she asked me what I actually do for a living, I could’ve either dumbed it down or told her straight up. Instead, I avoided the question. Like I always do with family.
I’ve been doing the same thing for over 7 years now, and still haven’t really talked about the details with my family. At first it was because the concept of a startup marketing consultant was so foreign, that every time I tried to explain the appeal of it I was asked why I don’t just go to a headhunter and get a real job. Then as online community management became more of a thing, no one could get over how I got paid to tweet let alone that there was more to startup marketing than posting social media updates.
The biggest hang up of it all was admitting that I was a marketer. If you’re hiding something from the people who love you and know you best, then you should ask yourself why are you ashamed of it. I could’ve been patient and explained that I helped new companies build communities around a product that makes those people’s lives better. I could’ve chatted about companies that failed even though they were valuable just because no one has ever heard of them. But any way I’d spin it, the word marketing would have to be included. This was difficult because for years I thought marketing would be the last field I’d end up in.
Growing up I wanted to be a designer or an artist of some sort. I was very vocal about how marketing was evil and manipulative. Creating value was much more important to me than making people believe something that may or may not be true. Many people still think marketing and sales are evil, but that’s just a generalization that can be true within any field. Trying to help incredibly talented creators share their ideas with the world can be done ethically, and there are tons of non-spammy marketers out there committed to figuring out how to reach the right people with the right solution to their problem. It took me years to learn this, and even longer to publicly stand up for marketing.
The only way for me to confidently talk about my work is by swallowing my pride and admitting I was wrong. Out loud.
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