Why read this? : We look at the support marketing needs from other functions to get things done. Learn how to explain marketing in simple and motivating ways so non-marketers help rather than hinder you. Read this for ideas on how to explain marketing to non-marketers.
Marketers spend a lot of time talking about customers and how to communicate with them.
Seriously, only marketers use words like “convey” and “articulate” when they could just say “show”. No wonder, many non-marketers ignore what marketers say. Bunch of jargon-spouting blowhards, right?
How do you explain marketing to non-marketers?
Thankfully, not all marketers like that. The good ones understand the value of being able to explain marketing to non-marketers. You know, the rest of the business who sell, manufacture, handle customer service, pay the bills and make sure we’re all safe and happy in our business lives.
And in particular, the ones who have to approve your creative work before it goes out the door. If you can’t explain marketing to them, you’re not going to get very far in marketing.
We’ve sat in many cringey cross-functional meetings and company town halls where marketers stand up and talk ‘marketing’.
Brand awareness gains, emotional benefits, service propositions. You know the sort of thing, right?
Tools of the marketing trade. But to everyone else, mostly meaningless marketing jargon. Watch the audience when marketers talk like this. Within about 5 minutes they’re yawning, and wondering how long the marketing windbag is going to go on for.
Like an artist talking about the brush they use, or an architect what influenced their design, nobody else cares. To avoid this, you have to explain marketing in a way that shows what’s in it for them.
Most marketing is only interesting to other marketers
When marketers talk about marketing, they usually do it to make it interesting to other marketers i.e. not ‘normal’ people (!).
Why can’t marketers apply their marketing skills to internal audiences? Why aren’t they better at marketing to non-marketers? What is it someone from finance, supply chain, HR, IT or sales actually wants to hear from you as a marketer?
Well, have you ever asked them?
From our experience, what seems to work best when trying to engage an audience of non-marketers are topics they can relate to.
The best way to explain marketing to non-marketers is to make it relevant to them.
Show them your new advertising campaign. They’re customers too. Everyone likes being among the first to see a new advert. It makes them feel like they’re part of a special ‘insiders’ club.
For the amount of time and money advertising costs, it’ll probably tell a better story than you can.
After you show the advert, share the thinking behind it. Show what you learned evaluating the creative idea. Talk about how you’re going to measure the advertising impact on sales and profits. These are interesting and relevant for non-marketers.
Just don’t drone on too much about everything that needed to happen before the launch. Innovation sounds great, but people don’t want to hear the tough reality behind it.
If other functions helped you launch it, make sure to thank them publicly. And if it’s something people can see, touch, taste, listen to, or smell, let them experience that. Sensory experiences are interesting.
“Hey, you know how people can’t seem to walk down the street without being glued to their mobile phone …“
or “Hey, have you noticed that all ‘healthy’ brands tend to come in green coloured packaging?”
… is the sort of thing even non-marketers can relate to. If you then show how you took that insight and used it in your marketing planning, that’s a great way to explain marketing to non-marketers.
(see also our opportunities in online behaviours article for more examples).
How to make it interesting - tell a story
And finally, it’s not just the topic you choose, but how you communicate it.
If you can tell a good story with drama, a funny incident or something memorable that happened, use that. Marketers should be good at storytelling.
Stories add a lot of value. They’re easy to understand, easy to remember and easy to talk about.
How to make it NOT interesting - 3 topics to avoid
So, if that’s what you should do to explain marketing, what sort of things should you avoid?
There’s a few things marketers love doing and talking about, but which are like kryptonite when it comes to marketing to non-marketers.
So, here’s our avoid-at-all-costs top 3 topics.
Topics you should only talk about if your aim is to bore people to death. That’s usually not your aim. Leave that to finance 😉
Marketing conceptual frameworks
Marketers all love a good matrix (like the Ansoff matrix, for example), and showing flow charts and process maps. But they’re dull as dishwater for almost everyone else.
It’s like the mechanic showing you a a diagram of how your car engine works. You don’t really care. You just want to know it works. And it’ll do what it’s supposed to. Avoid conceptual frameworks when talking to non-marketers.
They want to see the outcomes, not the process.
Brand equity measurement
For most non-marketers, the brand is ‘doing well‘ or ‘not doing well‘ is about as much as they’ll care.
When you talk about ‘brand awareness has gone up by 2 points‘ or ‘our intent score is showing good progress‘, nobody really understand or cares. Avoid getting deep into brand equity or imagery statements. They’re only of interest to other marketers.
Market research agencies are particularly guilty of this. Using the first 20% of a presentation to talk about methodology is a guaranteed to kill attention.
Nobody cares it was 1,000 people in the survey
Nobody cares what the recruitment selection criteria were and how the results were double-blind analysed. Confidence intervals? Boring!
This sort of behaviour from market researchers drives you crazy.
Nope, non-marketers only want to hear what the outcome was. And what you’re going to do with it.
We’re not saying these aren’t important topics. Just they’re not worth discussing outside marketing. Those other teams have their own concerns. This sort of stuff, they really don’t care.
So, you're asked to explain marketing at a meeting ...
So what would be our top tips if you have to explain something in marketing to the rest of the business?
Highlight the brand goal
Your brand should have a clear goal. Make sure you say how what you’re doing delivers against that goal. Show the brand activation delivers against the goal.
More sales? Deliver your brand purpose? Lots of happy customers? Whatever it is, remind people why the brand exists. Show them the progress you’re making together.
Keep it simple, short and honest
If you’ve someone from another non-marketing function you trust to give you honest feedback, run your presentation past them first.
Make a point of asking for feedback. Ask what they remember from your practice run, and then focus on amplifying that.
And remember, most people have an attention span of about 20 minutes.You don’t want to be going much longer than that (why do think Ted talks are all 18 minutes long?) The more concise you are, the more your audience will love what you have to say.
Conclusion - Be clear what you want from non-marketers
Most importantly, always finish with a call to action. What do you want people to do with the information you’ve shared?
Do you want them to tell others about it? Do you want them to do something specific? Should they go on social media and share, for example?
If there’s no action, there’s no real point.
Doing these things reduces the impression the marketing team is full of self-absorbed, jargon-babbling idiots. And that’s a good thing to aim for when marketing to non-marketers.