Marketing Is A Toolbox

Photo by Hunter Haley on Unsplash

I’ll put a caveat here at the beginning — I’m a self-taught, gone through the fire, and still learning marketer. I started out as a scientist, then web developer, then blogger, then marketer. I’m not saying this to lessen my thesis, I’m pretty confident in it, but to give you perspective on how I came to this line of thinking.


I’ve been looking at a lot of marketing jobs lately. I generally stick to tech companies, but hey I dig a good challenge so I’ve put myself out there for a few decidedly non-tech companies. Coming out of an interview last week I realized, that if you really learn your craft, if you become more than just proficient in marketing, you probably can market anything to anyone. I realized that like a lot of key skills marketing is like a carpenters toolbox of tools. Lots in there. A skilled carpenter can use those tools to build a table or a house. He might not be the super awesome best at tables or houses, but if he’s competent enough, they will be good, solid tables and houses.

And that’s how you should approach marketing in the 21st century.

We’ve taken specialization a little too far

I read a lot of job postings looking for people with years of experience in B2B or SaaS or retail or consumer packaged goods. I am not for a New York minute suggesting that people who specialize in those areas are less worthy marketers. When you specialize in one part of marketing, you without a doubt get a head start on your job if you already have experience in that area.


When marketing started out (I’m thinking in the Mad Men era as the starting point, yes I know that isn’t the true starting point — work with me here), a lot of folks were generalists. It was a pretty new thing and everyone was just trying to figure it all out. Don Draper sold makeup, pantyhose, cars, and made me every show want to put on a suit, smoke, and drink Scotch. He was flexible. He took a (self-taught) basis for knowing how people thought and bought and applied it to the product at hand.

And it worked.

Yeah, yeah, fiction, but that fiction was based on reality and when I say Don Draper and Mad Men, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

And this kind of flexibility and mastery is what I think all marketers should strive for. I think building a career solely on SaaS or B2B marketing is about as smart as building a career on selling client-server apps. Things change. Technology moves on. SaaS didn’t exist 10 years ago. I was pitched a lot of client server apps in my time. And I used a bunch too. If you only knew how to market client-server and that mindset, you were hooped.

The basics count

Will I go so far as to say “Marketing is marketing, regardless of vertical”? Nope. There are differences in how you market one thing over another, but there is a lot that overlaps with other verticals. Could I market anything? Anything is pretty big, but, yeah, I can give a lot of things a shot and make some impact.

For everything you market there is a buyer (even if no money changes hands, when you’re using a free app, you’re buying something to spend you time on). Every buyer has a reason to buy, some pain to solve or gain to create. All buyers fit into personas. Who they are, what they do, why they do it. The trick to marketing is figuring all those things out and then turning the dials to make the product click with them.

I believe there is also something to an outsider’s perspective to marketing. Look if I went into a job marketing consumer packaged goods, my perspective is only as a buyer, a consumer. That perspective has value. I don’t have to put myself “into the shoes of the buyer”, I’m still the buyer when I’m starting out. That outsider’s perspective is refreshing. It helps clear out bad habits and softball marketing tactics.

And when that outsider view wears off, then the real marketing chops shine through. Because I have my marketing toolbox full of tools. Tools I know how to use as a craftsman and I keep sharp and ready.

Marketer as craftsman. Keep your tools sharp. Keep practicing. Keep trying.

And market like you the skilled person you are.

Originally published at on July 23, 2018.



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