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I don’t know online marketing and neither should you

I came across a fascinating passage in a book that I’m currently reading in my spare time. The book is about improving how you practice guitar playing, but I believe that it can be applied to virtually any pursuit including interactive marketing.

Here’s the paraphrased excerpt for your reading pleasure:

One of the best things I ever did for my own playing is when I put a sign up in my studio that said, “I don’t know how to play the guitar.” This was after 25 years of playing! Now, this sign sure did cause some questions and comments from my students, but it made me incredibly better by leading me to discover many new things I wasn’t seeing because I thought I already knew what these things were about. Every time I touch the guitar, I try to make it the first time. I recommend you do too.”

Listen to the words of Hector Berlioz (a famous composer): He once listened to the music of another composer who was very educated and learned and knew “everything” there was to know about how to compose (but whose music was rather unremarkable).

After it was over, Berlioz said of the composer, “He has everything. The only thing he lacks is inexperience.”

This really hit home with me because it has so many applications in life as well as in the business of marketing. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tactical specialist (SEO, paid search, dev, design, email, social, mobile, analytics, etc.) or manage a team of specialists or even direct an entire division or organization. The fact is that the moment you lose your sense of humility and curiosity you lose the very competitive edge that will help you succeed in what is becoming an increasingly saturated online marketing landscape.

By the way, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be confident in your skills and experience. It just means that you must guard against creating a close-minded “I know it all” mindset that often hinders true marketing and advertising innovation. And if you do happen to manage a team of marketers, it’s your job to not only create this mindset for yourself, but to also instill it in your people, so that they can become innovators in their own right.

I feel that certain marketing channels really lend themselves to this very humble and open-minded mindset (SEO, development, and analytics come to mind since they reward people that shy away from “best practices” and focus on establishing cutting-edge techniques and strategies) but the truth is that every channel affords you the opportunity to break away from mainstream “best practices” generalizations and into the land of true innovation.

And it’s this breaking away that leads to major ROI, happy bosses and clients, and a happier life in general.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://twitter.com/scottkrauss Scott Krauss

    Socrates said it best ” As for me, all I know is that I know nothing”

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the comment, Scott! Always dig when someone can reference Socrates in a marketing blog post.

  • http://twitter.com/FrankMcDade Frank McDade

    I’m loving this post Hugo! I completely agree with going in to every situation with an open mind and expecting to build something out of nothing. Through it all, we never forget where we’ve been and what we’ve learned along the way.

    • Anonymous

      Glad that you enjoyed it, Frank! Your mindset will take you to great heights both professionally and personally.

  • http://yoyoseo.com DanaLookadoo

    So agree with the guitar player! And there is no way any of us can know all there is about online marketing. Even if Google didn’t change algorithms constantly and there wasn’t machine learning in search and if new social networks were not popping up so frequently, we still couldn’t know it all. Why? People change along with culture, economics and seasons.

    Thanks for the reminder that we have to constantly be improving and learning and observing!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the comment and the perspective, Dana! Even if online marketing was more static (which it isn’t) it’s good to stay humble and approach everything with an open “beginner’s” mind.

  • http://www.MarketingProfessor.com Travis Campbell

    As someone wiser than myself once said, and I’ve found to be true, “The more I know, the more I realize how much I don’t know…”

    Great balanced ideas presented here.


    • Anonymous

      I’m glad you enjoyed the piece, Travis. Thanks for chiming in!

  • http://twitter.com/jmloquist Jeff Loquist

    I read a similar book a few years ago called “Zen Guitar”. To this day I have retained the concept of knowing that I don’t know and I think realizing that forever keeps us students, which in the forever-changing world of marketing is a must.

    Great post Hugo.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for chiming in, Jeff! The author of this book seems to have a Daoist leaning, but it’s more or less the same thing. Glad you enjoyed the piece and have a similar mindset!

  • http://whatbillthinks.com Bill Bean

    Value wisdom for life and business. Thanks for saying it. Wiser clients will appreciate the humility and will be better to work with in the long run.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for chiming in, Bill! You make a valid point about how clients (and bosses) react to this mindset.

  • http://twitter.com/rosstav Ross Tavendale

    Very Philosophical Post Hugo. I really like the writing style. Humility over arrogance. Mastery over proficiency. Practice the fundamentals day in day out. Success follows.
    Cheers Hugo.

    • Anonymous

      Glad you enjoyed it, Ross, and I appreciate the feedback and compliment!

  • http://www.thecmoclub.com CMO

    Interesting approach to marketing.. But I do not fully agree with it. I think what you wanted to say is that we need to be unpredictable and very creative. For acting this way you do not need to forget about your experience – you just need to constantly change your approaches. This can also be done by a very experienced person.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for chiming in, Andy! All I can say is that even experienced people should approach their craft as if they know nothing.