Every week, we answer a common question about marketing or an aspect of business. This week, our question comes from a fan who entered our giveaway contest for a smartwatch. Today, we will answer the following question: “why is there so much unclear information in marketing?”

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Let’s face it: when you take your marketing questions to the internet, it’s amazingly difficult to get straight answers. Is it because marketers are sleazy and don’t want to give you the info you need to succeed? Or is marketing so complex that you need a degree to understand it?

Thankfully, the answer to both of those questions is no. In this post, I’ll give you my opinion on why marketing information on the internet is so unclear.

In marketing, success is subjective

The basic principle of marketing is simple. Marketing is how you spread ideas. The complexity comes from the ideas you want to spread and how you choose to spread them.

There’s no single way to tell whether a marketing campaign is successful. That’s why you have to define what you want out of a marketing campaign before you run one. A few common goals include:

  • Generating revenue
  • Building brand awareness
  • Capturing market share
  • Launching new products
  • Targeting new customers
  • Building relationships
  • Increasing profit

Each different goal will require using a different marketing playbook. If your goal is to generate revenue, then you need a lot of buyers. If your goal is to generate profit, then you have to focus on the buyers that contribute the most to the bottom line.

Want to build brand awareness? Don’t focus on sales. Focus on being seen by as many people as possible.

Want to cut out the subjectivity? Define your goals! Googling “marketing advice” won’t help you, but Googling “how to increase conversion rate for an existing product” might. The former will get you vague tips, and the latter will give you specific advice on how to clean up your website, retain customers, and so on.

Marketing is complicated

Marketing is a complicated discipline. It’s easy to understand why a complicated discipline would lead people to finding a lot of unclear information.

What’s less easy to understand is why marketing is complicated. Some people think marketing just means “how to sell stuff.” As we discussed in the previous section, though, this isn’t right. There are a lot of goals you can pursue.

With different goals come different playbooks. With different playbooks, come different acronyms, metrics, and jargon. It’s easy to be lost in a sea of ROASes and ROIs and AIDAs…

Even if you ignore the specialized language, marketing still requires a working knowledge of many disciplines. You have to understand business as well as psychology and sociology. Depending on what you’re doing, you may need specialized technical expertise, graphic design skills, programming, or more. Each of these skills can be complicated to acquire in their own right.

In short, to understand marketing, you not only have to have clear goals, but you need to know a little about many different subjects. To help reduce the learning curve, here are some of our articles that I recommend:

Good marketing is about experimentation

In marketing, every campaign is different. From one job to the next, your goals will differ, as will the audience you need to target. Some tasks you need to complete with no money and in others, you could manage millions of dollars or more.

Marketing often deals with sample sizes of one. That means every marketer, even the most experienced ones in the world, will need to come up with hypotheses and test them with experiments. You never know exactly which ad is going to work for a specific audience. You never know which tweet is going to be retweeted. There are only educated guesses.

This is also why marketing is confusing. You can read case study after case study, but not be able to recreate the same results. That’s because every situation is different. Some advice will be dated the minute you read it, and it will be unclear exactly why.

Final Thoughts

Unclear marketing advice is common because of the nature of marketing itself. There are many different goals that you can strive toward, and often people talk about marketing without clarifying their goals. Even when they do, there’s a lot of jargon and specialized knowledge. Then, on top of that, even with clear goals and understood jargon, every marketing situation is different and requires experimentation.

The lack of clarity in marketing is frustrating and intimidating. It’s also what makes keeps marketing interesting and fresh. You can enjoy the creativity while being self-aware enough to avoid unnecessary confusion. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Always specify your goals and seek out advice specific to those goals.
  • Read our basic guides so you will have the basic knowledge you need to understand marketing lingo.
  • Be prepared to experiment and know it might take several tries to succeed.
First time marketing your small business?
We know marketing can be confusing. Download our free marketing checklist for advice.

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