The contractions started shortly after midnight.
“Is this happening?”
This wasn’t the plan. Two weeks earlier, we had scheduled a C section to deliver our breech baby on Monday morning – still eight hours away. We drove to the hospital and found ourselves in a small room, my wife in bed with straps around her belly, nurses dutifully monitoring her health and the baby’s.
Labor progressed slowly, and we got the green light to proceed with the 8 a.m. C section. Going back to the plan felt comforting, but little else did. In the surreal surroundings of the operating room, an alien environment that felt more like a spaceship, our doctor gently lifted our baby up and out of my wife’s abdomen.
“It’s a girl,” I blurted out as I laid eyes on my daughter for the first time. Her tiny cries filled the room as emotions swelled in my throat. As I held my daughter in that room nine months ago, I knew our lives had changed in incredible ways.
I went back to my day job as a marketer after six glorious weeks of paternity leave, and I started to realize how becoming a dad had changed my approach.
Here are five things I’ve learned about marketing after becoming a father:
1. Humility helps
I had a lot of ideas in my head about what it would feel like to be a dad, and what our days (and nights) might look like as new parents. Some of those ideas were right, some were wrong. But most of all – they were very much incomplete.
I didn’t realize what the weight of being responsible for such a tiny human would feel like. I didn’t expect making so many impulse purchases because I had no time to think any harder about them. The reality is, it’s difficult to understand something like parenthood if you haven’t experienced it yourself. That’s also true for other life experiences and perspectives held by your customers.
In marketing, you can (and should) do as much background research as possible, build personas and make smart assumptions. But I learned that on top of that, you should approach any question about what your audience wants with a degree of humility. And wherever possible, you should put people on your team who share your customer’s life experiences. If that’s not feasible, talk to your audience as much as you can. Find ways to solicit feedback from them in real-time and regularly, and keep a record of those learnings for your team to use as a touchstone for future decisions.
2. No one thinks your baby is as cute as you do
Since my baby was born, I’ve taken more than 4,500 photos of her. I had taken 500 before we even left the hospital. Why?? I’m obsessed, obviously. And that’s normal. But generally speaking, your audience is not obsessed. They simply don’t care about your product as much as you do, and they likely care about it for different reasons than your own.
There’s a temptation in marketing (and life) to be biased toward your own perspective. For example, have you ever designed an entire content strategy only to realize it speaks to you personally – not your audience? Guilty. It makes sense after all – it’s tough to pitch an idea that doesn’t excite you. But for the best results, remember you aren’t the audience. By approaching every idea with your audience’s needs and desires top of mind, you can avoid looking like the new parent oversharing every detail of their kid’s life while viewers quickly scroll by.
3. Time is valuable. Decision-making should be easy.
I did not anticipate the amount of complexity raising a child would bring into my life. (See point No. 1.) On any given day, there are dozens of extra decisions to make: what the kiddo should eat, what to dress them in, why are they crying, should they take a nap, should they wake up, should the fan be on, is that crying normal, am I going crazy… you get the idea.
Similarly, there are countless reasons why your target customer is busy. That’s why you should make the decision to buy a product easier for your customers by showing them just how much other people love it. (Admittedly, my favorite purchases since becoming a parent have been those where I was able to think the least because someone else had already tried the product and recommended it.)
Find influencers in your niche to drive discovery and interest in your product and use real customer ratings and reviews to reinforce the message. Adding other indicators of social proof can help take stress out of the decision, such as “X people have purchased in the last week.” Or “X% of people” added this upgrade. Use a test and learn approach to find what works best for your buyer’s journey.
4. Teamwork makes the dream work
When you care about something and want to see it succeed, it can feel like you’re the only one who can make that happen. At work, I tend to want to dig into both the big things and the little things, burning the candle at both ends. But becoming a dad helped (in some ways, forced) me to realize when I needed to rely on a teammate to achieve the goal. At home, I saw my wife is simply better at some aspects of parenting, and I’ve learned to let her focus on those things while I contribute other things to the family. Applying the same approach to projects at work has helped our team accomplish more, faster.
In marketing, good ideas rarely come from one person alone. Surround yourself with a team of smart people, then trust them to do their part.
5. There is no one right way
Like parenting advice, there is no shortage of marketing advice on the internet – including this blog. Many will speak in absolutes, claiming to have uncovered the “best” way to do something. The idea that there is one right way to market a product – or raise a child – can feel incredibly intimidating.
I recommend a different mindset. Draw from research, best practices, and others’ experiences as you approach your plan, but keep in mind every situation will be different.
Know that bad days will happen. Some tactics won’t work, and you’ll have to change your approach in some areas and double down on others.
Do Your Best
Whether in parenting or marketing, it can feel like perfection is the only acceptable goal. But things don’t always go according to plan. With a lot of help from those around me, I’ve learned the most important thing is to show up, try, learn something and repeat the process the next day. I’ve been a dad for nine months and a marketer for seven years – clearly there is much more to learn, and I look forward to coming back to this article years from now to see what’s changed.
For now, my advice boils down to this: be thoughtful about the needs of the people you’re trying to serve and listen when they speak to you. Try your best, and good things will follow.
Cameron Davis-Bean leads campaign development and execution for integrated marketing programs.Category: Integrated Marketing