Stop Working In a Digital Silo

Why “This Isn’t My Job” Just Doesn’t Cut It Any More

Marketing people in marketing departments often work in silos. It must be by chance or choice. Perhaps, it’s an industry trend, nurtured by inexperience, ego, or a I-dont-give-a-shit attitude. Or, it could be nature. As humans, maybe we’re just programmed to be that way. I don’t have a degree and can’t speak for nature or nurture. Only from experience.

I used to think that being part of a marketing department was an exclusive membership. That marketing people were an elite force of sales people who could make sales magic by a combination of customer psychology, gut instinct, and analytics. Therefore, as a marketing person, your words and ideas governed above all others within the company, with the exception of the person who signed your cheques, of course. Boy, was I wrong, I admit it.

Yet, that attitude hasn’t changed, but it should, and it must. When you think that way you create a silo that is difficult to get into and out of. Forget those silos. You’re no better than anyone else in the company. Everyone is working toward the same goal, which is to help the company succeed. So why would you ignore those other people? Not every room in your home is the same, but it makes up the complete organism. The same goes for companies. Every department contributes to the whole business organism.

In order to truly understand a company, to market its products, you need to go beyond product specs and brand vision. Sometimes you need to get down and dirty.

On a recent stint with a retailer, I was required to do some dirty work. It’s a small company, and everyone was expected to contribute. It was an all hands on deck situation. I could have complained. I’ll be honest, I did complain. I could have refused the task, saying that it wasn’t my job, but I didn’t. The part of me that kept quiet and did the work was the work of my parents. They always said, “Don’t turn down any job, and never turn down the opportunity to make money if someone is offering it.”

So, I did what was asked of me, knowing my parents would be proud. But there was that part of me that wanted to help out my fellow workers. I’ve held many jobs. Many of them were in retail, and I know how tough and how thankless and underpaying those jobs are. I did my share for the greater good.

I spent a week unloading trucks filled with product, unpacking and assembling sofas, chairs, beds, shelving units. I moved those products from one floor to another. I mopped floors and took out the trash. I even cleaned the bathrooms. Man, do I have an appreciation for cleaners. None of it was glamourous. It sure as hell wasn’t classified as digital marketing, but it was important work and it was most certainly humbling

By week’s end my body was beyond sore, but I came away from that experience with a greater understanding of the products, the people who sold the products, the brand, and what it took to run a business. I gained an better understanding of the company. If I had kept to my silo I would have never been able to appreciate any of that. I would have never learned and become a better person. A better person makes for a better marketer, right?

That’s better than any product spec sheet and brand vision. I’m not saying that all digital marketers should subject themselves to the same experience…actually, I am saying that. To understand what drives a business, you need to see and understand how all the different parts of the machine make it work. Even it means you’re getting a bit of grease on you, and aching muscles to boot.

Silos are for storing stuff, like grain. Be humble, and see what lies beyond it. Talk to everyone in your company. Learn from them. You’ll gain insights you would have never been able to before. Go forth. We’re all in this together.