Fatherly advice for marketers on Father's Day

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Family togetherness - the best Father's Day gift!

Today is Father’s Day in the United States, so as I did on Mother’s Day with advice from moms, I gathered fatherly advice from my coworkers, and my friends and colleagues in other organizations to see if I could relate the words of wisdom to marketers.

For some, the dads have chosen to impart their wisdom by modeling good behaviors or with honorable gestures. For others, they had a favorite expression or catch-phrase that have provided lasting inspiration. In all cases, these words of fatherly advice came with extra helpings of caring and a sense of responsibility that can help marketers of all stripes, so I share them below in the order which I received them.

In writing this blog post, I’ve taken great inspiration from this group of men that have cheered us on, helped us when we fell and have given us the compass and the rudder to get us where we are today. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

You must believe in yourself before you’ll convince anyone else to.

I'll start it out with this advice from my dad, Joseph Balla. For marketing, this has everything to do with believing in your message and understanding how it relates to the inherent value of your product(s). So in order to communicate it effectively, you must believe the elevator pitch yourself. This is a basic tenet of the art of persuasion and it relates to the idea that people are more inclined to follow someone that seems to know where they are going than those who act or say they are unsure.

 Business begets business

The DMA's Linda Woolley offered those words from her father, Joseph Anzalone, a very successful businessman. When she started a company, and was struggling with whether to take a client that was not exactly in her wheelhouse, she asked him for his advice, and he said, "Well, I don't really know anything about your type of business, but I do know that, 'Business begets business,' so go for it." Application of that to marketing? Sometimes the projects that are outside of our wheelhouse challenge us in new ways, open doors and make contacts for us that we never would have had, which lead us in new directions and grow our businesses.

If you always take the easy way, you'll more likely be bored and frustrated than successful

That advice came from Noreen Seebacher  of the AllAnalytics community, who shared it from her older brother since her father passed away when she was just seven. It resonates for marketers because while the easy way seems predictable, safe and low risk, it will never lead to true innovation or growth. And that means you will miss more opportunities than you find. Embracing a challenge through hard word and effort  -- and ignoring easy options  -- forces you to think outside the box and opens the possibility of creating unprecedented success for your clients.

 If you say anything with enough conviction, anyone will believe you

Susan Ramsey shared that advice from her father, Lee Hilton. Since conviction is rooted in confidence, it speaks to the pivotal role that confidence plays in enabling marketers to reach for - and achieve - success.

Be aware of your surroundings

Bobby Bourne told that to his daughter, Robin Betters, as a way to encourage her to keep her eyes and ears open and be careful. For marketers, she adds, it's pretty simple - stay attuned to your customers and their needs.  Be conscious of how our customers are served by our products so we can stay focused on the benefits (and not just the features/functions), and be ready to adapt when the customers change.

There's no such thing as a free lunch.
Go ahead and cry, you won't have to pee so much.

Lynn Scott shared that first quote from her father, and the second one from her grandfather. She said the best thing she learned from her Dad was not said in words, but in actions. He always bought the best quality and design and then took impeccable care of it. Many of these things have lasted a lifetime; he still sits in the 1960s Eames lounge chair that he and my Mom acquired when they were first married. And it still looks brand new.

Be careful and don't get lost.

That sage advice came from Edward Cohen, Felicia Ramsey's father. She remembers her dad saying that to her before she ventured out when she was as a teenager and driving. She always thought he was being sarcastic since they lived in a tiny town where getting lost is simply not an option. She says she's come to realize he meant it figuratively, as in - don’t get lost when you are doing the things that teenagers do. Don’t lose yourself, and stay true to who you are. From a marketing perspective, “Don’t Get Lost” to her means, don’t follow the newest thing at the expense of the basics. Stay true to what works, while expanding your wings and trying new things into the mix, while not losing the foundation of what you know can be successful.

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

Those words are from Mary Hallow's father, and for marketers it serves as a good reminder to always hold back on making any critical statements of your competitors. If their product is that inferior or if their offers really fall that short, you won't have to say anything at all. The forces of the market will sort it out.

If you make a mess, clean it up. Don't expect anyone else to do it for you.

Harper Beall used to say that to his daughter, Anne-Lindsay Beall. For marketers, it has everything to do with always acting responsibly, and being both authentic and transparent in your interactions with your customers. Own up to your mistakes by fixing them and apologizing for them and don't pass the buck.

If at first you succeed, try not to act surprised!

Lee Mackey shared this gem from her father, Stan Mackey. She belives that with the vast amounts of data we now have at our disposal, the odds of “surprise success” are less and less. It’s all about the data! I also see potential meaning here beyond the data in that with enough planning, nothing should be a surprise.

Work hard and have no tolerance for laziness.

Becky de Tenley shared that advice from her father, which has universal applicability. In marketing, success doesn't happen accidentally and usually requires plenty of hard work.

Get out of the way and let the wisenheimers bump into each other.

UBM DeusM's Dan Allen shared that nugget from his father, Daniel T. Allen. He further added that while growing up, there were several times he had to deal with bullies. Rather than encouraging him to fight back, as some parents might, his father always told him to let the taunts slide and rise above the situation. Laugh it off, etc. He realized later in life that kids become bullies when they live in a dysfunctional home, leading him to wonder if the enterprises with the most internal dysfunction are also the ones who use the dirtiest tactics.

His take for marketers is that you need to be able to sell your product without stooping down to the level of those who build their campaigns around slandering their competitors. Get out of the way and let them clobber each other. 

Think before you speak

Miriam Norris offered that advice from her father, which speaks to the need for marketers to plan well and understand the implications of public statements or campaigns before you release them.

Use Reasonable Care

Jonathan Moran shared that his dad always said that, meaning don’t tear up household items, don’t wreck your car, etc. With 3 boys in the house things were constantly getting broken, so what it translated to though was – make sure you think before you act, be responsible for your decisions, etc.  It really taught Jon to weigh the outcome of every action/decision before the took them. From a marketing perspective it translates to – think about what you are creating and putting out into the market, think strategically and long term – not just short term, etc.

Always be able to laugh at yourself.

Bill Boyd, Brenda Aulinskis' father, said that a million times. For her, it meant many moments of levity and an appreciation for good humor. Just thinking about her dad saying that made her think of the K-Mart "Ship your pants" YouTube commercial - a great example of a company taking a moment to laugh at itself.

Listen to your mother.

Beth Schultz of AllAnalytics.com recalled that recurring phrase from her father. For her, the marketing translation is fairly straightforward: Listen to your customers!

Always reset the mileage, check the oil and squeegie off the windshield…oh, and listen to your mother

While her father said those words when she got her first car, Bess Creech remembers more generally that she learned from watching her father, especially when working at his law firm during breaks from school. She describes her father as hard-working, fair and kind to people. He always wanted to find a solution and help. Since they lived in a small town, many of his clients didn’t have much, so some would pay with what they could – homemade quilts, food from gardens. Someone once gave him a smoker. Watching her father always treat people with dignity and respect was an invaluable lesson.

Stay up, drink and when you go to bed, just sleep twice as fast!

Lori Bieda describes her dad, Henry, as a man "who parties like he's still stuck in 1999." Whenever she was tired or wanting to turn in early, he’d say to forget going to bed, and “stay up, drink, and when you go to bed just sleep twice as fast!” For marketers, I hear advice about life balance in those words. Work is important, but so are your non-work pursuits because they give you the ability to step back from your work for perspective, as well as opportunities to experience memorable moments.

Life requires some maintenance

Kristina Sweet of the Association of National Advertisers said her dad often shared this sentiment with her, especially after she graduated college and was paying bills, getting her oil changed, or remembering to stop and pick up milk.  He felt that as long as she maintained these things along the way rather than letting them pile up then she'd not get overwhelmed and she'd have time to enjoy life.

Let's cross that bridge when we come to it.

This classic was submitted by Jim Hiepler-Hartwig, from his father, Arthur Hartwig. Jim's take on that from marketers is very practical - let’s not worry ourselves with countless solutions to a problem not yet defined until the problem is identified and can be addressed.

Become really good at speaking in front of an audience. In any business, that skill will help you.

Submitted by business strategy author and speaker, David Meerman Scott, he shared that his father, Charles J. Scott, was vice president of sales & marketing for technology companies from the 1960s through the 1980s. When David started his first job, his dad shared that very specific piece of advice, which we now know he took to heart because now David is a noted speaker (and very good at it I might add). David added: "Thanks, Dad! (ps: He is proud)" For marketers, the lesson is clear - work on your communication skills because they are an integral part of the marketing function no matter what we're doing. Even for our data scientists, their skills at using analytics to divine the opportunities in data become invaluable when they can explain their findings in terms their colleagues can understand and apply.

Work Hard and save money while you are young. You can get more sleep and enjoy the air conditioning when you are older.

And how true that is! Beth Heinig's father told that to her, and it certainly has been proven to apply universally with finance's concept of compounding interest in which a dollar saved today is worth more than a dollar saved tomorrow. For marketers, it's all about preparation and timing - the first to market is usually rewarded with momentum that delivers better returns.

Don't come home until the cows come home.
Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

The Association of National Advertiser's Amber Mundinger shared those words from her father. He used to say that first quote a lot when she was in high school and college and was really excited about something, but worried about getting to bed late. Since he grew up in the Midwest, her guess was that cows come back towards the barn in the wee hours of the morning. Her take was that if you are passionate about something that is worth the effort, you should go ahead and see it through and do it to the best of your ability.  Even if it means some late nights to figure out a new project or learn a new tool/trade. Amber also added that he also quotes Mark Twain frequently and that second quote was a regular. In those words, I hear the lesson that personal responsibility is a virtue for marketers - good things happen when you make them happen (or earned them) and not because they were owed to you.

Manage the distance.

The DMA's Stephanie Miller shared that her father is a great man, and in addition to being an organic chemist by training, he’s also a great gardener.   Once you’ve tasted Leon’s popcorn, for example, you never go back to Orville.  Similar for his tomatoes – she said they ate them right off the vine and she can’t for the life of her find a rival in even the best farmer’s market during the height of season! His advice,"manage the distance," applied to how far apart the seeds go in the rows, how high the plants should be nurtured to grow up a stick and how many days after a solid rain should you hoe (hand plow) the weeds between the rows. Stephanie's take for marketing is that the concept of distance is a perfect yardstick:  Manage the data and outbound communications flow to the lifestage, behavior and customer profile in order to create a truly relevant and timely experience – and grow a fruitful relationship.

If you're going to do something, do it right.

Joanne Butzier says that her dad gave her tons of advice, so coming up with just one was not easy!  To her, this saying appplies to marketers when we make sure our marketing strategy meets our needs and hits all the points, so it will be successful for all parties involved.

Sure, you can take the car, but bring it back with the gas tank full.

Those are words that Scott Batchelor always heard from hs father. For marketers, he believes it means that it’s OK to think outside the box when you are communicating your message, as long as it ties back to the campaign. So, be creative!! I also hear another lesson in those words in that we need to remember that all marketing happens in teams, and resources are both shared and scarce. Being mindful of our shared resources as we pursue our goals means that we don't deprive our colleagues of being able to reach their own goals. In that way we all maximize our impact on the organization's goals.

Love the smell of fresh rain.

Keith Baker from the DMA offered that thought as more of a memory than overt advice. He recalled his father telling him that he loved the smell of fresh rain, which taught him a lot about people. He describes his dad as a rugby player who was always in the garage making things, a business man, a people person, the life of the party – in short he was – and is – a man’s man. But he had this other side that loved the smell of fresh rain, adored his kids and his wife and photographed flowers. It teaches me every day that there’s a deeper person behind the persona. It’s important to know your customer's demographics, even their psychographics, but there’s even more that you don’t see, and that’s what people really care about.

Choose your own path, and never be afraid to color outside the lines.

Tom Morse shared that he lost his father while he was still in elementary school, so while there weren't many memories of him, he did remember him saying those words. They often talked about baseball and how Tom should pitch to get hitters out.  His advice was to pitch to my strengths and never try imitating how another pitcher would approach a situation.  Regardless of how the situation turned out, it was important to know that you made your best effort.  As a marketer, his dad’s advice reminds Tom that while imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, it seldom succeeds in the marketplace of ideas.  Whether it’s branding an organization, or your own personal brand, establishing a unique, true identity is essential to success.

Don't stay mad or hold a grudge

Diana DiMaiuta's dad would have just turned 80 years old, but he passed away in April of 2008.  She added that his name was Michael (Mike) Calvello, and how much she misses him. One of the things she remembers him saying was that he didn’t like staying mad or holding a grudge against someone.  He wasn’t like that - he was a very forgiving man. For marketers, it means that we should remember the humanity of the people we deal with - everyone has their own story and we all have a "bad hair day" every once in a while - even our customers. If we always approach by remembering those positive thoughts, we'll most likely leave a positive impression and that's a formula for success in all areas of marketing.

Work to the best of your ability, not someone else's.

Barb Anthony's dad, Bill Ludwig, would tell her those words. Her take on that for marketers is that Marketing success is not about being perfect – it’s about paying attention, learning from mistakes and constantly seeking to improve. It’s not about measuring your success (however you define it) against someone or something else.  It’s about setting your own goals and working to the best of your ability to reach those goals.

Whatever your do - be good at it.

Liz Miller of the CMO Council recalls that when she was little, she asked her dad if he wanted her to be a Veterinarian or a Ballet Dancer. Her father told her, "I don't care what you want to be when you grow up, I just want you to want to be the best at it. So, kiddo, if you want to go be a hooker, I want you to be the best hooker you can be." Liz added wonderful context to that quote by sharing that her mother's reaction … HORRIFIED. Her father's reaction … HYSTERICAL with laughter. Her own reaction at the time … wondering why her father wanted her to go into fishing, as she could only assume that a "hooker" was the one who caught the fish, but didn't have to club it or gut it on a fishing boat. Nevertheless, the message was received, and it has been a daily goal for her as a marketer. She might not always make it…or even get close, but she sure will try always to be the best marketer she can be.

If that's the worst that happened, it's a good day on the farm.

Voice actor and announcer Kris Hiepler-Hartwig shared that advice of her father, Glenn Hiepler. She further added that her dad always lived by the philosophy that things could be worse; if you have another day on earth where you can get up in the morning and do what you are called to do...then it’s a good day, no matter what happens. For marketers, this means that even in what seems like a bad situation, doing the best you can is the best you can do. Control the controllable and hope for the best with what's out of your control.

There are two prerequisites for success: an inquisitive mind and the willingness to sacrifice.
There's two ways of doing things: The right way and the wrong way.
Procrastination is the thief of time.

These three nuggets from his father were shared by Bill Mariott and they add up to one clear message from marketers - work hard, work well and don't put it off. We all should be willing to apply our experience and make connections that otherwise could not be made. Inquisitiveness is driven by our own experiences, and asking the right questions is what leads to the best answers. As for procrastination, it always seems that things take longer than we expect, like writing a crowdsourced advice-driven Father's Day blog post for instance. (kidding!)

 Good friends are incredibly hard to come by.

The DMA's Laura Gigliotti shared this gem from her dad, John Gigliotti. He always told her that good friends- the ones who you can actually count on no matter what- are incredibly hard to come by. And if she has only 1-2 of these true friends over the course of her entire lifetime, she should consider herself lucky. For Laura, the application to marketing is that it doesn't matter how many people you're targeting with your messages or campaigns- if you're not reaching the RIGHT people, what's the good?
The size of your audience/network is not what counts- it's the quality of the people you're reaching that matters most. Just like it's the quality of your friends that matters most, not the number.

And for those of you that have stuck with me to this point of this post, I'm incredibly grateful for your persistence and loyalty. I was fortunate to have known my father well into my adulthood and my children got a chance to know their nagypapa. He was a larger-than-life man who did some extraordinary things in his lifetime, but it was the way he lived his life that made the biggest impact on me.

Thank you to everyone who shared their favorite fatherly advice here, and as always thank you for following. Have a happy Father's Day!

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About Author

John Balla

Principal Marketing Strategist

Hi, I'm John Balla - a Digital Marketing Principal here at SAS focused on Content Strategy. I co-founded the SAS Customer Intelligence blog and served as Editor for five years. I like to find and share content and experiences that open doors, answer questions and maybe even challenge assumptions so better questions can be asked. Outside of work I stay busy with my wife and I keeping up with my 2 awesome college-age kids, volunteering for the Boy Scouts, keeping my garden green, striving for green living, expressing myself with puns, and making my own café con leche every morning. I’ve lived and worked on 3 contents and can communicate fluently in Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian and passable English. Prior to SAS, my experience in marketing ranges from Fortune 100 companies to co-founding two start ups. I studied economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and got an MBA from Georgetown. Follow me on Twitter. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

8 Comments

  1. wow, John, what a wonderful and beautiful and inspiring collection of not just fatherly ,but darn good advice. Thank you! I really now wonder what you will on Veteran's Day, Arbor Day and Labor Day...

    • John Balla

      Funny you should mention that, Stephanie. I think every holiday - no matter how "minor" or obscure, could be fair game for a blog post. I think Groundhog Day, for instance, might be the perfect day to honor predictive analytics with a nice blog post. Don't you?? :) JB

  2. Diana Dimaiuta

    As always John, you make us proud that you're part of our TSI family. You write thought provoking, interesting and heart warming blogs. I intend to learn a lot from you so that I can someday soon write my own blog.

    • John Balla

      Oh, Diana! That is so thoughtful of you. Thank you for following and being such a wonderful supporter! Getting into blogging has been quite an interesting journey for me because thanks to blogging I feel more confident as a marketer now, but I am not nearly as confident about my blogging. Even today, every time I'm about to press that "publish" button I'm convinced that will be the time I make an ass of myself. I am grateful for everyone that may think that but won't tell me! :)

  3. Bruce McCleary on

    I get all that advice about working hard and late nights, etc. I did it early on and it became a habit. Now the advice I would give: "Just remember, nobody on their deathbed thinks, 'Gee, I wish I'd spent more time at the office.'"

    • John Balla

      Good point, Bruce! And I agree whole-heartedly. Work-life balance is definitely important, so maybe a modern interpretation of some of that fatherly advice is to be present where you're at. When you're at work, give it your all and show up with your best intentions. When you're not at work, do the same.

      As a father myself, there's no doubt that being an active participant in our family life is the most important role among the many hats I wear!

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