Today I want to talk about the curse of a promise.
Whenever I hear a supplier promise me something, I get a bit nervous and the reason I get a bit nervous is because promise is one of those words that is used by people who are trying to convince themselves.
That’s what I believe.
“I promise I’ll do it”
“I promise that’s what I mean”
It almost seems like when people tell you they’re not lying.
“No no I’m not lying, 100%, I’m definitely telling the truth honestly”
A lot of the time that’s to mask a real outcome, event or activity.
In marketing sadly there are plenty of people in my view who don’t know what they’re doing, like in any industry, and they’re just trying to put food on their table. And they give the rest of the industry a bad name.
It’s the same in any industry, there’s always Cowboys.
Ultimately it comes down to the fact that there’s too many BS merchants.
Now before you all jump on me, what do I mean by BS?
Well I don’t mean the people actually. I don’t think anyone is setting out to defraud anyone. On the contrary, people are trying to put food on the table in the best way they know how. And they may know something about marketing, they may know a fair amount about marketing, they may not be as expert as some others and therefore you’re you’re paying for them to learn whether they’re right or wrong.
That’s where the promise comes from.
“Yeah yeah I promise I’ve got this, I’ve got this, I know what I’m talking about”
Makes me nervous.
So I don’t mean the people, if I don’t mean the people when I’m talking about BS merchants, what do I mean?
Well I mean the method.
They’re very reliant on stats, they’re very potentially inexperienced, sub five years, how much experience could they have had compared to someone who’s had 40 years of experience?
Ultimately they’re relying on science.
I’ve talked in other episodes about the reliance on science (read more here).
You need to focus on working someone who, or an agency whether it’s me or anybody else, in my view, and of course I would say this, but this is what I believe after 22 years in this industry, you need to focus on somebody who demonstrates they have chosen heart over science, they have chosen intuition over data. Because that comes from experience and knowledge, and it’s irreplaceable, you can’t teach it.
The problem with that reliance on science is it’s only as good as the data. And things are always changing.
So people will promise that they’re on to something, they know something, when actually they don’t have enough data to support that. Which is why they have to promise it in the first place.
If they did have enough data to support it, and if they had enough experience and they knew it was the almost probable outcome, then they wouldn’t need to promise. Because their own confidence would reassure them that they knew what they were doing and that as a result based on everything they know that that’s what is the likely outcome.
For me, you only need to be promising when you’re not sure. So if someone’s promising you to get to the top of Google, I don’t think they’re sure they can get you there. I think the reality is they’ve got a system and they’ve got numbers and they’re gonna game some algorithm, part of what Google does and they’ll get you an increased ranking.
If they were 100% sure they can get you to the top of Google, why would they need to promise?
It doesn’t make sense because from a marketing perspective, all they need to do is demonstrate the results. They don’t need to promise it, it’s a sure thing.
So the minute you hear the word promise, your radar should be going off.
In marketing, science only works until it doesn’t. And in fact that’s in real life, science only works until it doesn’t. Now I’m not here poo pooing science, don’t get me wrong, but any experimental scientist, I’m sure would confirm, that you go on the data that you’ve accrued over time. You can predict but there’s nothing, no 100% certainty. It’s not possible to be 100% certain.
A scientist once told me that we’ve had you know tons of evidence that gravity is real, and it’s absolutely perfect to extrapolate their evidence and confirm that gravity has been, is and will continue – but no scientists will guarantee a hundred percent. I promise you gravity will stay the same forever – it’s not possible.
In marketing, science only works until it doesn’t and then people come up with another story to explain it.
I’ve seen really poor marketeers get lucky and I’ve seen great marketeers fall through a lack of luck. And when the luck runs out and it will because you can’t rely on and just luck – intuition from experience wins the day.
You have to go with proven experience over time, not just the stats based luckier one-hit wonders.
You have to do your research and make sure that you’re working with people who have built long careers on the back of being more right than wrong. Because they don’t need to promise, because they’re sure of what they’re doing, they’re not going to guarantee anything – in the same way lots of industries don’t guarantee.
Because we accept that even if we’ve been right every time up until now, the odds of us being right every time after now isn’t realistic.
So the minute you hear the word promise, your radar should go off, you should jump back a bit and start to realise that it’s probably not as certain as they’d like you to think.