Marketing Expert Interview with Margo Aaron on the Essence of Marketing

Today’s interview is a little different. I usually interview marketers I have had the opportunity to know or work with for many years. A few weeks ago I stumbled across Margo’s posts on on Medium and then on her blog. I was immediately hooked by her writing style and her views on marketing, which I am proud to bring to this interview today:

1. What company is an example of good marketing today? Who do you admire?

There’s a famous saying, “When Aeschines spoke, his countrymen said, “How well he speaks.” But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, “Let us march against Phillip.”” In other words, the best marketing doing look or feel like marketing. You don’t want someone to say, “Wow that was a great ad!” you want them to say, “I need those shoes!”
Bench does a fantastic job of this, so does Masterclass.

The copy doesn’t say “Learn how to act” or “take a class on acting” – it says, “Meet your new acting teacher.” It’s speaking directly to it’s target market. They don’t want to “learn acting” – they want to get better and they who want to learn from a pro. 

2. Did you have a mentor or a person you learnt the most from? What was a key lesson?

As far as marketing, Seth Godin has been an informal mentor. I completed his altMBA program in February, so I feel fully indoctrinated as one of his disciples (haha). The key lesson for me was that the marketing I was taught (that was “right” or “proper”) was not always the marketing that worked.
To get to the marketing that works you have to understand one thing only: the person you are trying to reach.

3. What story of a successful marketing strategy could you share?

Treat people like people. When you start treating people like people instead of like “a market” or a “data point” your marketing becomes instantly more effective.

4. What is your marketing superpower, the most important skill that makes you a great marketer?

I can read minds. [Gerardo: I was going to summarize what Margo means by reading minds but your really want to read her post about reading minds, it’s my favorite, and the reason I asked her to be interviewed here]

5. What interesting book have you read recently?  

Lying by Sam Harris. Fantastic short read on the topic. As a marketer, the line between manipulation and deception (and lying) it’s particularly interesting to me. This draws some heavy conclusions that will open your eyes to your own less-than-moral behavior.

6. What new, modern tactic, tool, or aspect of marketing should marketers pay more attention to?

Inbound and permission marketing. The world has changed. It used to be enough to tell people, “I have a widget. Buy my widget!” Today, that’s no longer the case. You can’t (and shouldn’t) talk to the masses. You need (and should) talk to the people who want to hear from you. And for that, you need permission.

7. What good aspect of basic marketing have marketers neglected in recent years?

Listening. We got drunk off screaming at people – in TV ads, in Radio spots, in Print, in everything. We need to get better at listening to our customers, listening to the results of our campaigns (instead of just running them – paying attention to how they perform and how they made our customers feel), and listening to the market.

8.What skills will marketers need in the future? How do you stay sharp?

This is a great question since so much is becoming automated and done by technology. A lot of our skills are being replaced by software. The part we’ll need in the future is the part you can’t automate or outsource and that’s the human element.

9. What was the turning point in your career?

When I decided to leave academia after graduate school. I was at Columbia studying psychology and I was frustrated at the disconnect between theory and application. That’s when I discovered marketing as a way to bridge the gap.

10.How do you increase marketing’s relevance and influence in the organization?

Two specific things: #1. Do better marketing. I call it “show don’t tell.” People will stand up and recognize when you’re doing your job because marketing, unlike other departments, effects ALL parts of the organization. So when you succeed, so do they.

#2: Make everyone feel like they’re part of the marketing department. Put the onus on them to contribute, since marketing cannot work if the product or service is bad, if the front desk lady is mean, if the supply chain isn’t getting people their stuff on time…etc. In truth, everyone (including your bookkeeper) is part of the marketing department. They just need to feel like it.

11. What blog would you recommend other marketers should follow?

OkDork. Everything Noah Kagan puts out is actionable with a lot value for marketers.

12. How would you summarize your digital marketing strategy philosophy?

Recognize the human behind the data point.

13. What experience in your past has best prepared you to be a marketing expert?

Watching my dad growing up. He could strike up a conversation with anyone and got all sorts of things for it as a result. People loved him. He taught me about how to connect – authentically – with others. Which is what makes my marketing strong. If you can’t connect, you will never succeed with your marketing.

14. How marketing leaders can be better mentors and true leaders of their teams?

Let your team members shine where their strengths are. If you see your project manager has a penchant for copy, let him write copy. If you notice your strategist enjoys design, let her design. People will work harder for you when they care about what they’re doing and they feel good at it.

15. Any final thoughts or anything else you would like to share?

The best marketing is rooted in age-old principles that transcend time, technology, and trends. Focus on those things, not the hype. Marketing is a connection vehicle. It connects your solution (the product or service you sell) with your customer’s problem. Your customer should never recognize your marketing as “marketing.” Instead, they should read or see it and say, “I NEED THIS!!”

I hope you have enjoyed this interview as much as I did. Margo represents the new generation of marketers. She is a self-described millennial with a degree in psychology, and he has a unique understanding of the human aspect of marketing.
Margo is the founder of Argotics, a boutique marketing agency. I encourage you to follow her on Medium, on Twitter, and to visit her blog. And of course, to read other marketing expert interviews on this blog.