How Becoming a Father Made Me a Better Marketer
Five parallels between effective parenting and marketing.
Becoming a parent will change your life in ways you’ve never imagined.
Not exactly a groundbreaking statement, I know. But it’s the honest truth.
I became a father in April of 2012, on what was the first day of the most exhausting week of my life. Our son experienced meconium aspiration during his birth and his mother and I spent a seven sleepless nights with him in the NICU, while he recovered from chemical pneumonia.
It was a rocky start, but he’s grown into a healthy little boy, full of curiosity and energy. Maybe too much energy. It’s been three years filled with bumps, bruises and even a half-dozen stitches, but also a never-ending stream of memories his mother and I will treasure forever.
Seriously. We’ve had so much fun we’re doing it again.
Most of the knowledge I’ve gained parenting our little blonde wrecking ball – speed-diapering techniques, potty training psychology and the names of the kids in "Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood" – isn’t exactly useful outside of the binky-toting sect.
But in-between fishing remotes from the toilet and explaining the cat is not a toy, I’ve been able to draw a few parallels between parenting and marketing.
Communicate with speed, clarity
Getting to the point quickly and clearly is crucial. Let’s say your kid is about to eat a mysterious substance that he found on the supermarket floor. You don’t really have the time to wax poetic about the potential hazards of such an act. You don’t even have time to use words like ‘repugnant’ or ‘gastroenteritis’ – you shout, “No! Yucky!”
Marketers have to approach potential customers the same way. Not only do you have to be quick (you have, literally, seconds), but you also have to speak in their language. Just because your audience has a larger vocabulary than a toddler doesn’t mean you have to force them to use it. For me, it has reinforced the importance of being succinct and choosing words that resonate with the audience.
Consistency is key...
This is a no-brainer for any marketer. Consistent messaging helps you build your brand, differentiate yourself from your competitors and boost customer recognition. The best businesses make a promise and consistently deliver on it. Meeting expectations – and building familiarity – will create a connection between you and your customers.
Consistent parenting lets a kid know what’s expected of them, and I can tell you that’s been a life-saver in our house. Our kid loves his routine, meaning daily tasks like going to bed, cleaning up and eating meals are rarely a struggle. Consistency reduces anxiety, creates security and builds trust... and isn’t that we want for our kids and our customers?
...but you’ve got to be agile, too
You can lean on routine, but there will be times when you’ll have to go off book. Our son had a blowout diaper once... while wearing a white silk suit... minutes before his baptism. I bolted for the bathroom – changing him like a scene from ‘The Hurt Locker’ – minimizing the collateral damage.
Marketing means dealing with the unexpected as well, often forcing you to think fast and Macgyver your way out of tough situations. Crises arise, budgets run thin and clients can be fickle. I don’t want to compare difficult clients to blowout diapers... but I will. My ability to make changes on the fly is critical for marketing, and a skill I’ve honed as a parent.
Single parents are truly superheroes. I’m not kidding. I couldn’t imagine raising our son without the help of my wife. Whether we’re splitting the household chores, taking turns caring for a sick kid or just sharing in the struggle, my wife makes parenting half the work and twice the fun.
Asking for help from my work team used to be tough for me; I was prone to hoarding projects and completing them with minimal input from others. And I was killing myself. Being part of a parenting team has given me a new appreciation for teamwork; leaning on your partners at the office makes for less work and better results.
Get good at saying, ‘no.’ Like really good.
No is one of the first words kids learn, simply because they hear it constantly. I tell my kid no a dozen times before breakfast. Sometimes it’s for his own personal safety, other times it’s a legit response to a question, but often it’s to squelch inappropriate behavior. Maybe that’s why, as adults, we have such trouble saying no – we heard it so much as kids.
But, the ability to say no is a necessary skill. Whether you’re prioritizing how you spend your free time or guiding a client away from a poor decision, you’ve got to be comfortable giving a negative response. Just make sure you also take the time to justify it; no one likes to hear no, if it’s not followed by the why. This is how your kids – and your clients – will learn from you.