To Get Good at Marketing, Think Like a 4 Year Old
One of my favorite interview questions to quickly assess a candidate in a marketing interview goes something like this:
“I have a website about honey badgers. I just launched it, so it currently gets zero visitors. How do I get it from zero visitors to 100?”
Stop for a second. Imagine being asked this question in an interview. How would you answer?
The worst candidates answer with ideas that could have come from anyone: Karen from accounting, a random guy off the street, etc.
They will immediately say things like:
“Make a Facebook page”
“Start a Twitter page”
“Run a contest”
“Buy banner ads”
“Make an app”
In other words, a list of 101 tactics that randomly came to mind.
The tactics aren’t bad per se, but these candidates will start listing them off in rapid succession, as if more tactics somehow equals better marketing. The problem is, after they’re done speaking, they have nothing else to say and stare at me with a blank face.
The so-so candidates will say things like:
“Make sure your site is properly tuned for SEO.”
“Contact owners of similar websites and look for partnerships.”
“Start following Twitter people who may be interested, then message them”
If the worst candidates answered in 101 tactics, these guys are answering in 201, maybe even 301. They’re able to speak in detail about specific ways to get traffic that can actually move the needle.
However, they have the same problem as the first group. Once they’re done listing a variety of methods and tactics, they’ve used up all their material.
The great candidates have a completely different approach. They will say things like:
What is a honey badger?
Why did you start this website?
What are your goals?
Why would anyone visit?
What kind of people do you want visiting this website?
Do you have competitors?
Who is creating the content?
Why 100 visitors? Can I achieve those goals with 50?
This group takes a second to think, and before even coming close to answering, will ask loads more questions.
In this way, they first probe to find the root of the issue. By getting as much information as possible, they can then form a strategy that addresses what I’m really trying to achieve.
Only at this point do they even consider mentioning tactics, which are now useful ideas because they have the benefit of context.
Takeaway: Train yourself to ask questions
I’ve noticed a pattern in my career: the best marketing people I’ve ever worked with were also the most annoying. They questioned everything I did and always wanted to know more.
Every answer I gave was apparently pregnant with more questions. It’s like talking to my 4-year-old nephew who loves to ask “Why?” and is never happy until I tell him everything I know.
By training yourself to ask questions like a child who wants to know everything, you do two things.
First: you get as much information as you can. You minimize the chance that you’ve missed something silly.
Second: you’re able to surface any hidden assumptions and test them. When making decisions in teams, strong personalities or seniority can often be the deciding factor. Instead, base the decision on merit and reason by being annoying and asking questions. Lots of them.