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I had an “enlightening” dinner recently with a group of young marketers.

The conversation ranged from SEO hacks and content marketing to keyword-driven micro-businesses and click funnels. For a storyteller, it was fascinating and terrifying.

marketingIt was like they were speaking a different language from my day-to-day world of storytelling, brand positioning, and value propositions.

It got me thinking: Have I missed the digital marketing boat?

Is this the new digital landscape and, if so, what does it mean for old-fashioned storytellers like me?

First reaction: I think to upgrade my skills…and fast.

I need to learn how to embed pixels in Facebook ads. I find out how to build campaigns around getting links from other Websites for evergreen content. I need to figure out how to build a click funnel. Any maybe I should learn how to use Illustrator and become an SEO ninja just for kicks.

So much to learn but so little time, but where to begin?

Once the panic started to evaporate, I thought about the dinner and the key lessons.

Thought #1: The digital marketing landscape has fragmented into dozens of skill sets. While it is possible to be a multi-skilled player, the game is about specialization. You need expertise about a specific area to understand the mechanics and how to stay current enough to reap the benefits.

Thought #2: The five-tool growth hacker is increasingly a myth. No one can do it all. In a fast-moving world, no one can effectively write, code, design, film videos and hack. And, to be honest, no one should be expected to take on all these responsibilities.

Thought #3: I may be older than the other people at the table but my skills are still relevant. Storytelling will always be important for brands looking to connect with audiences and build relationships. Stories are how we communicate, learn and coexist. Stories are how brands separate themselves from the competition.

Thought #4: While tactical expertise is important, it takes strategic thinking, creativity and planning to make it work. You can have an army of industrious worker bees but the Queen rules the roost. With strategic planning and guidance, the tactical experts can be more effective and successful. The ability to establish and implement strategic plans often comes from experience. It provides context because you’ve been there and done that before.

Thought #5: As a digital marketer, it is important to always be learning and explore new ideas, tools, and approaches. You can’t be complacent or focused on what you know or enjoy doing. The marketing landscape is constantly evolving so it is important to upgrade your skills and knowledge.

In hindsight, “Mark’s Dinner with Young Marketers” was a reminder to stay curious, interested, engaged and listening. It was a reminder to leave your comfort zone to see what’s happening in the world. You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll learn!

Here’s the video version of this blog post:


I’ve worked with dozens of startups and fast-growing companies looking to accelerate their marketing. My services are driven by frameworks and processes to create messaging, strategic plans and content. If you want marketing that makes a difference, let’s talk. If you are looking for hand-picked startup content from across the Web, subscribe to my weekly newsletter.

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