Why Marketers and Owners Don’t Always See Eye To Eye

How many marketers have rolled their eyes because a firm owner “just didn’t get it?”

How many owners have wished marketers would stop for a second to appreciate that they know what they’re talking about?

Today, I’m going to share why this division exists. Plus, I’ll explain how the late 80s hair-metal group, Extreme can help you come to grips with this situation.

Shadow Boxers

I know what you are thinking. How can the love ballad, “More Than Words,” help here?


It can’t. No, we’ll have to dig deep into Extreme’s discography, deeper than anyone would ever care to go, to find our answer.

Hey, nobody can deny that More Than Words is a catchy tune. If back in the day, you bought the cassette single…nobody could blame you.

And if you decided to buy their album…well, maybe you thought you’d find some other catchy, toe-tapping, gems. Who can judge you for that?

But, if like me, you didn’t do any of that and made the conscious choice to buy their follow-up album…

…there is no way to justify that. And you better find a way to rationalize that $15 investment. It has taken 24 years, but I’ve done it.

It, in fact, provides the answer to this age-old dilemma.

3 Sides To Every Story


The concept behind Extreme’s “III Sides” album is there are three sides to every story:

  1. Yours
  2. His/Hers
  3. The Truth

Now, let’s apply this concept to marketers and owners.


As a marketer, you’re hired by an owner (or member of his/her leadership). Your job is to grow their business.

You’ve gone through four years of school. You’ve attended classes, read books, and sat through presentations about marketing. You may have even taken tests and been certified. Marketing is what you do. You live and breathe it.

But when you tell Owners how to market their business, what do they say? No.

“We will do it my way.”

Huh?!? What?!?

Let’s get this straight. They are a technical professional. They have a technical degree. They took technical classes. All day long, they work on management and technical related things.

They have NO marketing training. Zero. Zilch.

They think the choice between the shotgun and rifle approach is made based on the animal you are hunting. They think a vertical is a measurement of height.

And when you talk about marketing, they look at you like you are from Mars.

It’s shocking and disturbing that they’ve been in business this long without an ounce of marketing.

You give them the answers they need. But they don’t listen to you, which seeing that they hired you for marketing is incredibly ironic…

…monumentally stupid…

…and wasting everyone’s time.

You see other marketers, like that lady from the construction company. Her firm made her Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). They gave her a “seat at the table.” They listen.

Why are you wasting your time with your owner?

The audacity of these owners is only matched by their naivety.


As an owner, the first thing you do isn’t hire a marketer. No. You start small (maybe one or two people). Over a few years, you bring in clients, do great work, and build your business into a multi-million-dollar operation.

Only then would you consider hiring a marketer to assist you in further building that business. And you’re not hiring Seth Godin or David Ogilvy. No, you are hiring a kid a few years out of college.

So, this kid comes in and tells you that you’re doing everything wrong.


You’ve built a multi-million-dollar business.

What have they done?

What qualifies them to say their way is right and yours is wrong? A piece of paper and a few classes?

You’ve learned from real world experience. If what you do is wrong, you wouldn’t have been able to build a business big enough to hire them. Right?!?

Now the marketers want a “seat at the table.” But they are not professionals licensed by the state. In some states, giving them a “seat at the table” would make your firm INELIGIBLE to perform professional services. Why would you kill, or even jeopardize, the business you built just to make some kid feel important?!?!

The audacity of these marketers is only matched by their naivety.

The Truth

The truth is the third side. The truth is sometimes hard to hear, particularly because it doesn’t align exactly with the marketer’s or owner’s perspectives.

It is true. Those marketers haven’t built a multi-million-dollar business before. If they had, they wouldn’t be working for owners. They have to recognize, appreciate, and accept that fact. For any owner to blindly follow their direction would be foolhardy.

Marketers also have to recognize and appreciate that owners are not going to give just anyone a significant ownership stake in your business. Further, marketers have to understand whether that would even be viable in their firm’s situation.

On the other hand, owners have to recognize what they don’t know. Yes, it’s OK to ask your marketer to backup their advice. It’s OK not to blindly follow some kid’s advice.

But it is not OK to assume. It’s not OK to assume you know anything you don’t have solid written data to back up.

Yes, nobody knows your business better than you. But that’s like saying nobody knows your body better than you. It’s logical to feel that way. But if a blood test says you’ve got cancer…

…you’ve got to accept that data doesn’t lie.

Yes, your grandmother smoked three packs a day and lived till 107. But that’s not proof that cigarettes are healthy. It doesn’t justify ignoring your doctor’s data.

Owners like to think their business is unique. But the reality is that while every business is unique, just like every body is unique,

When your doctor, or marketer, shows you proof, you must accept it for what it is…


Why Owner’s and Marketers Don’t Always See Eye To Eye

You have to remember that there are three sides to every story. And while your side is right, it’s never the whole story. You have to look at every issue from all three sides.


  1. So how do we solve this? Maturity and willingness to learn is what I’d guess.

    I’ve gotten a lot of advice from marketers where my knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss it out of hand, only to later implement it and watch it work. But once in a while, my knee-jerk reaction was right, because I do know my target customer better than anybody else.

    I’ve hired a new marketing expert. She’s going to start sending me analytics and recommendations next week. I’m looking forward to it.

  2. At my firm, there are instances of very successful owner/marketer relationships… and not so successful ones. We have five owners and the general smoothness of separate office operations is very much dictated by this relationship.

    Since your article discusses why the not so successful ones might exist, in my experience the successful ones are marked by an open respect of each other’s expertise. The owner believes in hiring smart people and letting them do what they were hired to do. The marketer believes there is a lot to learn about the firm and the industry from the owner and wants to supplement that with marketing concepts, graphic design, and great content.

  3. Clare Krueger says

    Matt, were you listening in to the meeting in our boardroom this morning? Ok so your email came before the meeting but the content and timing was eerie. This is the exact situation we’re currently facing in our business and I can’t wait to share your email with our new marketer. It might help us explain things to the owner about why we seem to be clashing in ideas and help us reach a better place.

  4. Beth George says

    Matt this is spot-on. My career has run the gamut from a newbie working with an owner who considered marketers glorified word processors, to decades later owning my own consultancy. I’ve learned, and teach those I mentor, that understanding the perspective of the owner/technical leadership of any firm is critical to successfully market said firm. As in any other relationship the keys are active listening, asking insightful questions, and confirming that what you heard is what they meant. That can gain you much needed respect, no matter where you are in your journey. Get over yourself as “the expert” and apply some servant-leadership techniques. Let them realize that you really do know what you’re talking about, and they will learn to trust your judgement. And, sorry, but having a degree in marketing doesn’t make you a marketer any more than having a degree in engineering makes you an engineer. Earn (and learn) your spot.

  5. Amber Elizabeth says

    Speaking as one of those “marketing kids,” I agree that there are three sides, and the truth doesn’t come to light near as often as it should. A lot of the comments here are still only talking about the owner/technical viewpoint and how young marketers need to listen to them, but aren’t looking at the other side at all (missing the entire point of your words). Those who have studied marketing need to be able to listen and learn from those who have built their business and know the technical side of things. And those who have built their businesses need to take a look at the data that marketers bring to them, and understand that new or different marketing approaches may be necessary to help their business. Working together and being mindful of how each side of the business is trying to help each other will have a positive outcome.

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