Sean Sperte

Marketers are liars, not makers

24 December 2012

When Seth Godin talks, I usually listen. I’ve read his books and follow (albeit loosely) his blog. So when a bunch of my peers began linking to a post of his yesterday, along with negative commentary, I was immediately interested.

His post is titled “How to make a website: a tactical guide for marketers”, and if ever there was a list of bad starts of blogs posts, that one has to rank up there. I’ll explain why in a bit.

The post outlines various techniques Godin uses to make a website – including copy/pasting elements from other sites in Keynote. Obviously, this isn’t a website, so the last step in Godin’s tactical guide is “Hand the Keynote doc to your developers and go away…”

His expertise in marketing notwithstanding, this advice for how to ‘make a website’ is terrible. I appreciate Godin’s attempt at demystifying the process, and I recognize that giving practical advice for how marketers can work with their teams has great potential benefit. However, he would have done better to avoid the use of the words ‘make’ or ‘build’ altogether, and instead outlined how marketers can learn to make purposeful, high-level design decisions.

Godin argues that most of the web is built by amateurs. And in what could be considered a followup post, goes on to say the “best professionals love it when a passionate amateur shows up” – and, of course, uses a couple of comparisons, like farmers and automotive mechanics.

The problem with Godin’s perspective (and comparisons) is he thinks marketers are builders. He says “professional farmers don’t begrudge the backyard gardener his tomato harvest. That’s silly.” And, he’s right, because the backyard gardener is just that: a gardener. If, however, that gardener was a marketer who didn’t know anything about the science of growing vegetables, but who was growing them (in spite of himself) and selling them on the open market, and competing for market- and mind-share with reputable farmers…

Well, let’s just say I disagree that marketers ‘make websites’. They may be part of the process, but to suggest they can just throw together a slide deck and hand it off to a developer, and say they’re ‘building the web’ … that is silly. Marketers are liars, not makers.