Doctors and Lawyers have it incredibly easy. They can explain to complete strangers in one word what they do for a living. They can go home to loved ones and have them truly understand (even at a basic level) what they do for work. Being a Marketing Automation Consultant is different.
Often I have these conversations with people:
Stranger: What do you do for a living?
Me: I’m a Marketing Automation Consultant
Stranger: Oh! ….Cool… What’s that?
I have spent the past few years trying to explain to people (especially my grandparents generation) what it is I do for a living, and why it’s in any way interesting. (If any of you reading this have good one-liners, please tweet me). It’s really hard to get people to relate to something they don’t understand. Start throwing around words like ‘Pardot’, ‘Nurtures’, and ‘Connectors’ and you’ve lost people pretty much immediately.
Recently, I came home from a really tough day at work. Sometimes, in the Marketing Automation world, things don’t quite work as you’d like them to, and there is also a lot of strategy and planning that goes into making an automation tool work the way you want it to. This gets amplified when you’re working with a client, as there may be decisions being made in the background that you are not privy to. This makes for very interesting and sometimes very challenging work.
I’d gone round to my grandparents for dinner, and they try to take a genuine interest in what I do for work, so when I looked perturbed they started asking questions. After about five minutes of trying to explain the specific problem (to be met with blank faces), I looked around the room trying to find inspiration – looking for anything that they could relate to that would make the story more relevant to their lives.
This is what I came up with…
Imagine you wake up one morning and your child turns round to you and says ‘today I want to eat an avocado’ (yes my millennial brain went straight to the avocado in the room). It seems pretty straightforward. You get up, go to the kitchen and present the avocado to the child for eating.
Except, there are several things standing in your way before this is possible:
- You need a knife / tool to cut open the avocado
- The avocado must be ripe enough in order to cut into it and enjoy it
Immediately, you must find the tool with which to open the avocado. Unfortunately, the kitchen you’re in only has a blunt knife, so before you can use the knife, it must be sharpened. You sharpen the knife, and are finally able to attempt to cut into the avocado.
You try to cut into the avocado, only to find out that it’s not quite ripe yet. Your child must wait to eat the avocado. As you can imagine, the child is not happy about this; they wanted the avocado now!
You wait a couple of hours, and finally the avocado is ripe enough to cut into. Unfortunately, in the time it took for the avocado to get ripe, someone else has walked off with your avocado knife.
(By this point they were both laughing, but were engaged with the story and understood the frustration thus far)
You spend an hour trying to get your avocado knife back, and you eventually succeed. You cut open the avocado, and present it to your child. The child looks up at you and says ‘Oh no, I don’t want the avocado like this, I want it cut up into smaller pieces, or mashed… which do you think would be better?’ (You have a really eloquent child, go with it).
So you consider the options. Slicing and mashing will take a similar amount of time, and really it’s going to come down to the personal preferences of your child. You go back to the child and give them this news. They decide on mashed avocado. You mash up the avocado, and again present it to the child. Your child looks at the avocado and says ‘This is great, but could I have some toast with it’. (Congratulations, you’ve raised an avocado-toast-eating child).
You pop some toast into the toaster, put the smashed avocado on the toast and give it back to the child. The child says ‘Oh no, I actually wanted granary toast’. You scrape the avocado off the first piece of toast, and put it on a piece of granary toast, and give it back to the child. Finally the child is happy, and you exit the room.
10 seconds later you hear ‘I don’t like avocado anymore can I please have some cheese on toast instead’.
In reality, what was happening was to do with asset creation and delivery, Automation Rules and Engagement Studio. There were also a lot of very complex business processes that had to happen at very specific points in a journey. For reference, this was a shortened version of the description I first gave of the problem before reverting to the avocado saga, and needless to say it put them to sleep.
I’ve since been trying to find more creative ways of explaining what I do, so if you have a similar story, please tweet me!