Just because I might be wrong, that doesn’t mean you’re right.
Have you ever met people who ignore the truth because they feel like they’re right? They know they’re right.
Yeah, me too.
This kind of person believes they’re the lone voice of reason in a sea of insanity. They argue that since X has never been proven with 100% certainty, it could still be wrong. So, based on their personal experience, their view is the right one and they object to or ignore every piece of evidence to the contrary.
The classic example? Those who still argue the earth is flat. When presented with pictures of the earth from space, they claim the pictures are digitally manipulated. When presented with earthly observations such as the curvature of the horizon, they argue that you can’t see it so it doesn’t exist. “You haven’t been to space,” they say. “You haven’t seen the round earth, have you?”
I haven’t. But I’m comfortable saying it’s round.
More subtle (and ultimately damaging) versions of flat-earth thinking abound. I see a fair amount of it in marketing. Some people hold beliefs about how marketing and communications should be done that go against every best practice and principle.
To be clear, these are not modern practices that evolved from old-school thinking. Like the flat-earth concept itself, these are practices that have always been wrong but refuse to go away.
Some companies still work campaigns for an end-of-quarter discount. Under pressure to meet quotas, sales teams give better terms to customers who wait until the last minute. Some businesses stubbornly cling to this strategy despite overwhelming evidence that this is a bad long-term strategy. Some studies found this approach results in a 51% decrease in a sales win rate.
Some B2B executives still refuse to develop thought leadership programs for fear that they’re “giving away company secrets.” Some marketing leaders stubbornly cling to the idea that buying email lists should be a core part of their outbound marketing strategy. Some in public relations still cling to AVE (ad value equivalency) to measure the value of media mentions.
And the list goes on.
One of the reasons flat-earth marketing practices still exist is because we can’t prove them 100% wrong. No marketing strategy anywhere could be proven 100%. Our conclusions as marketers only make outcomes more probable, never certain.
Flat-earth marketers aren’t going away. They’ll always have an anecdote about how buying that email list saved the company or how a former CEO once wrote a white paper that some competitor copied and ruined their product launch.
It’s like when Mary tells Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber that his chances with her are “one in a million.” He responds, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
You can’t prove there isn’t a chance. You know that buying an email list is bad 999 times out of a thousand. But in the flat-earth marketer’s context, that one time makes them right.
You’ll never convince them otherwise. The only thing you can do is to not concede your context. You can’t set aside the possibility that a competitor will steal your secrets if you launch a thought leadership program. But, in that context, no reasonable company should do much of anything publicly as the competition (and anyone else for that matter) could steal it.
In the context reasonable marketers choose to work in, most every other reasonable company is choosing to do thought leadership.
So, how do I know we should stop flat-earth marketing practices? Because in the context I choose to live in, knowing that makes everything else reasonable. I also know that being able to prove something in the moment is not a criterion for knowing something.
That one in a thousand chance that I’m wrong, doesn’t mean you’re right.
It’s your story. Tell it well.