When my father passed away a few years back, my siblings and I shared stories and reminisced about the fascinating life our father had led. The bond we each had (or didn’t in some cases) with him was unique, but we all could agree on one thing: He was wicked smart and knew a little bit of something about everything. That’s how he lived his life – always learning – and that personality trait rubbed off on all of us in a big way. In my case, it was taught. My old man made me memorize what HTTP stood for in the early 90’s because he knew what the future held for technology, and I suppose for me, too.
Try to learn something about everything and everything about something. – Thomas Huxley
Personally, this pursuit of knowledge takes many forms. It started as a kid with National Geographic, Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines. As I grew older, it included reading as much as I could about current events, history, music, movies, science and technology. These days all of the above remain true, but add to that an ever growing list of news outlets (yay NPR!), blogs, Twitter feeds and anything I can get my hands on in the digital advertising industry. I’m always hungry to learn.
Why is all of this important, you ask? Knowledge is power. More to the point, a broad base of knowledge simplifies communication with just about anyone in any walk of life. In the day-to-day of agency life, talking with clients and prospects is far easier. People respond positively when you can have a meaningful conversation about their business, product or service and understand their place in the world. Our job as digital advertisers is about more than targeting specs, ads and a constant flow of data. Knowledge provides context.
When looking at the greater world of marketing, there are MANY areas of specialization. There is no way a single person can be an expert in all of them – print, TV, design, web development, SEO, PPC, social, display, email marketing, content marketing, analytics, conversion optimization… need I go on? While you can’t be an expert in all of these areas, any modern marketer worth their salt should at least be able to speak to these elements at a high level. We all have to work together and knowledge eases communication with other marketing professionals so that everyone wins.
Knowledge isn’t the end-all-be-all to power, either. Knowledge PLUS action truly equals power. And furthermore, a lack of knowledge, particularly when it is an area you are purported to specialize in, is an egregious error.
Over the past few weeks we had an experience with a web dev vendor a client had hired to upgrade an e-commerce website. Through a comedy of errors, all e-commerce tracking for Google Analytics was stripped and we were forced to troubleshoot for a fix. They had no idea what to do or how to re-install Google Analytics e-commerce tracking. HOLY CRAP. Ultimately, I fixed it. I’m not a developer and don’t sell that type of service. However, I have a working knowledge of websites, HTML and how digital advertising tags work. With a bit of additional reading and sheer brute force, I made it work. Something was (is) very wrong with that flow of events.
My point in all of this is simple. I would urge anyone who reads this, my team at Clix and my friends/peers in the digital advertising industry to always be learning. Stay sharp and we will ALL be better for it!
Image credit Quotes Everlasting via Flickr.