Expertise-based Marketing

If marketing is about creating trust AND changing your tiny corner of the Universe, then we should cultivate expertise. I wouldn’t want a non expert trying to change my corner of the Universe.

The good people of Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island – or at the last the neuroscience researchers who work at the local laboratory – shared some findings last month on experts’ brains.

When learning a new task, brain activities alter over time as mice transition to an expert from a novice. The changes are reflected in neural networks and neural activity. As the animal’s knowledge grows, neural networks become more focused. ((

The brain itself morphs. Like those “This is your brain on meth” commercials from the 90’s but in reverse. For a scientist or a neurologist, there may be other takeaways, but we can’t really evaluate them without scientific training; what’s key is that the physical constitution of the brain changes as you gain expertise in our very small mammalian relatives, at least. 

Or how about this – let’s just pretend that your brain grows as you acquire expertise; it doesn’t really matter if it does or not. It’s just a good metaphor.

What in the heck does that have to do with generating more sales-qualified leads? Or more to the point – growing your business’s revenue at 20% annually over three years? ((For Hinge, this is “high-growth” – that seems like an acceptable definition and a worthy goal, right? 

It’s relevant because however you package it, you are selling expertise. To the extent this is not the case, you’re selling your labor. If you sell labor, you grow  your muscles; expertise, your brain.

Hold that thought for a second and I’ll come back to it.

Now consider the following chapter titles of Loserthink, by Scott Adams (Dilbert creator and author). The book’s goal is to help us think clearly. I’ve ommitted the intro and concluding chapters:

  • Chapter 3: Thinking Like a Psychologist
  • Chapter 4: Thinking Like an Artist
  • Chapter 5: Thinking Like an Historian
  • Chapter 6: Thinking Like an Engineer
  • Chapter 7: Thinking Like a Leader
  • Chapter 8: Thinking Like a Scientist
  • Chapter 9: Thinking Like an Entrepreneur
  • Chapter 10: Thinking Like an Economist
  • Chapter 11: Things Pundits Say That You Should Not Copy

See a pattern here? The book is about thinking clearly by thinking like an expert – or lots of different types of experts. He’s not talking about thinking like a bad artist, an incompetent engineer, or a non-successful entrepreneur; in fact, he cites numerous renowned experts (in their fields, if not in society at large) in each chapter. ((Unfortunately the book isn’t as good as the chapters make it look, because it doesn’t necessarily explain how each type of expert’s thinking differentiates itself from the others. And maybe I need to re-read it, but it also doesn’t settle the question of whether it’s possible to think like an expert without having said expert’s level of expertise. But it’s worth reading.))

He’s talking about thinking like people who’s own brains may have been – possibly – reshaped as a result of cultivating remarkable expertise.

This matters in two ways:

  1. Like everything else, marketing is trending intersectional and multi-disciplinary. Thinking about your company’s marketing like an artist and a psychologist should be non-controversial at this point. But also consider thinking like an engineer, leader, and entrepreneur. Also, marketing and business development (sales) are becoming more and more inextricable, at least from the perspective of the owner a complex solutions firm.
  2. The key to successful marketing is expertise. That is to say, whatever your organization does, the success of its marketing is closely related to the expertise brain-growth you achieve, mostly in the area of solving the most painful or urgent (or both) problems your clients’ experience.

I have seen LinkedIn outreach campaigns, Google Adwords campaigns, and SEO-focused content marketing campaigns die on the vine. No good ideas. There are lots of hacks to ideate – brain games. But growing your expertise is not a game; it’s a long-term struggle and the only fountain that produces good ideas on a continuous basis.

My best,