There's an old paradox called the Ship of Theseus.
In short, it asks: If a ship departs from its home port and, every few weeks or months, the crew replaces a part of the ship — a few planks today, the main mast next week — until one day none of the original pieces remain, is it still the same ship?
Isn't that a lot like marketing today? You have to change things on the fly. Like pirates or sailors far from home, you're careening your ship up against a sandbar or a beach, scraping off the hull, replacing or upgrading a few pieces, and then setting sail again.
Who has time to stop? To head back home to safety, to regroup and rebuild?
The best crews were the ones who could keep going, who didn't need to find safe harbour — they made the best of what they had, and they made it farther than the ships who had to keep returning home.
Maybe the secret to marketing isn't getting enough budget to finally head home and build that year-long plan. Maybe it's not hiring an advertising agency to make you a new campaign every year that never seems to do much more than last year's campaign. If anything at all.
Maybe what you need is a solid crew aboard your ship, with the tools, skills, processes, and leadership they need to make changes on the fly. To fix things when they need to be fixed, and to stay ahead of the competition by sailing in the right direction, every single day, getting a little bit better, all the time.
You probably don't need as many outside partners. You probably don't need a year-long plan, with every contingency planned for. You just need a team that's up to the task, whatever that task may be.
In future posts, we'll talk more about why you should do more of your marketing in-house. A brief thought for now: We all know it's much, much cheaper to get a customer to buy from you again than to convince a brand new customer to purchase for the first time. So how many people on your marketing team have been there long enough to see a customer make a second purchase? Has anyone at your ad agency worked with you long enough to understand what makes a customer buy a second time?
That's not to say advertising agencies aren't important — they are. But you shouldn't rely on them to tell you about your own customers. You should know all there is to know about your customers, their habits, and what makes them buy. Your advertising agency can turn those insights into great ads. But are you currently equipping them for that?
I didn't intend to start a company like this — I've had this domain for a long time, thinking I might start a blog or write a book. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this is what marketing teams need. Better tools. Better training. Better leadership. So they can do more, move faster, and stay ahead of the other ships at sea, looking for the same new lands or buried treasure.
The Ship of Theseus has been repeated and revised over the years. It's been called Abe Lincoln's Axe (if you replace the handle one year, and a few decades later the head, is it still the same axe?), and Grandfather's Ax.
And, my favorite: