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5 Things I Learned About Marketing from Writing a Novel, Part 5

· B2B

Four weeks ago, on May 22, 2018, I officially published my debut novel. Writing and publishing The Reluctant Coroner was a frenetic, messy, wonderful process, and I learned a whole lot—especially the way writing and publishing a book correlates to B2B marketing. This is the last lesson—well, the last lesson I’m going to write about in this series, anyway—about what I learned during the writing of The Reluctant Coroner.

Lesson 5: “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

I’ve worked at three different enterprise software companies with a sales leader named Terry Mahoney. Terry is a driven sales leader, and if he ever needs anything from the marketing, I’m pretty sure he’s got me on speed dial. He wants to blow out his numbers every quarter—and he almost always does—and I think 80% of his success can be attributed to his mantra: “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”


Last week, I talked about the importance of teamwork in the success of both novels and B2B marketing. But teamwork doesn’t come at the expense of ownership and accountability.


Many indie authors write books, sink to the bottom of the Amazon charts, selling only a few books a month, and blame everyone else for their failure. It’s Amazon’s algorithm. It’s the Big 5 Publishers’ stranglehold on the market. My favorite one: readers are too stupid to know what they want.


What they need to do is figure out why it’s not working. Maybe your cover looks unprofessional. Maybe your book description sounds boring. Maybe when people click “Look Inside!” they’re not hooked on the first couple of pages. Maybe you’ve been targeting the wrong audience.


B2B marketers can react in similar ways when their marketing programs fall flat—and I’ve heard every excuse in the book (and I’ve made a few of those excuses myself). We’re ahead of the market. The big players in this space aren’t playing fair. And, of course, my favorite one: customers are too stupid to know what they want.


Product launches—or any B2B marketing program—require teamwork for success, just like novels. But as marketers, we can affect for a lot more than perhaps we think we can. And figuring out why it’s not working—especially if you have data from win/loss reports—is a crucial thing for marketers to do. While marketers are getting MUCH better with data, there are still far too many “creativity purists” who run screaming from data like they’re beach extras in a shark movie.


There are easy things for marketing to affect: message, pricing, focus on audience. There are more difficult things, however, such as product features or user experience. But buckling down to do your research and presenting recommendations to the product team is just as much a part of marketing as datasheets and social media.


Marketers should take advantage of the opportunity to take product training so they can put themselves in the customers’ shoes when interacting with the product. (Many companies do a great job with this—but others are AWFUL at it.) And if this option isn’t given at your company, push for it. In my experience, the training staff, engineers, and product managers will jump at the chance to show off their baby.


Just like a bestselling novel, B2B business success requires taking the bull by the horns and getting out of your comfort zone.


So there you have it—five marketing lessons I’ve learned from writing The Reluctant Coroner. If you’re interested in reading it, you can find it on Amazon.