Does your marketing team *really* command the message?

The U.S. Marines have a doctrine that “Every Marine is a Rifleman.” It’s a focus that emphasizes the infantry combat ability that every Marine must have. Regardless of their military specialization –whether infantry, supply, operations, or even cook– every Marine receives training and is proficient with a rifle. This ensures that they can unequivocally rely on each other to jump in and help out on the front-line. With that kind of pressure I assume new Marines do not take rifle training lightly. 

I believe marketing teams should consider adopting a similarly shared doctrine. I’m not suggesting that marketing in a startup or venture-backed software company is anywhere near the same level as what military personnel do, but the discipline of ensuring mastery of a critical baseline skill is worth adopting. Perhaps something like, “every marketer must master the message.” 

It may sound silly, but I’m certain that if you polled your marketing team not everyone would be on the same page with messaging. You will find people inconsistent with the core value proposition and differentiators, imprecise with target personas, and uncomfortable delivering a sales presentation to a prospect. As ventures grow and teams get bigger, people naturally focus in on particular disciplines. This degree of specialty is critical of course, but marketers should share mastery of a consistent and deeply understood messaging foundation for maximum leverage.

Why is public speaking so scary?

To help accelerate learning, I like to have all team members deliver customer presentations in front of their Marketing peers and to sign up for delivering presentations at trade shows. I realize public speaking and presenting can be uncomfortable –especially for people who are not accustomed to being on the front-line– but mastering the message is such a critical skill I believe it's worth it. At my new company we don’t do a lot of trade shows, however at two recent shows we did take the opportunity to train several team members who are not normally in front of customers. Both expressed natural apprehension, but they understood the value of the mission and enthusiastically signed up.

After their respective experiences, both shared surprising excitement and a sense of customer clarity. Since then they have been referencing prospects and people they met while making and substantiating recommendations with their new field evidence. I believe they have more clarity on the people we are trying to reach, the challenges they face, and the messages that resonated most clearly. It makes it more personal.

This may seem like a modest charge, but I bet there are marketing people in your company that would struggle with pitching a prospect or reciting your top value drivers on the spot. Think about the talented individuals running your website, or doing design work, or leading digital marketing. How much better would they be at their core mission if they did?

Not everyone needs to be a perfect presenter, but every marketer must master the message.