Be a Truth Seeker

By William Flanagan
Modified July 13, 2021, Posted in ,

“Truth and trust are twins.”

Pitjantjatjara people of central Australia

“What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”


“God doesn’t create data for mankind. Every piece of data that we see is a tiny fraction of the phenomena of the theory it’s trying to summarize. It doesn’t tell the whole story. People who create the data include in it the information that is salient to what THEY are trying to accomplish.”

Clayton Christensen

We live in a post-truth world. There is no longer a common standard for the truth that everyone agrees on. Facts and alt-facts.

The marketing space is not immune to this.

In marketing, there are three main drivers.

The three main drivers of truth telling in marketing

One: Data

Data is overfitted to match the point someone is trying to make.

Data is everywhere. And, the most cost common mistake that we as marketeers make is that we overfit our data. This means that marketers, with data backing them up, create completely wrong cases.

Of course, as a marketeer, we must use data. But we need to be sure that we don’t bake our own cake. We need to be aware that there is a slippery slope that can lead to less than truthful data application.

We should ensure that the data that we are using produces and tells truth — not propaganda.

Two: Modification

Historical data can, and usually is, modified. You should be skeptical.

Let me tell you a little story. A man brings a gun to a barn with a big wall. He pulls out the gun. 100 shots are randomly fired. After he is done, he circles the bullet holes that clumped together. Then, he says, “that is the target,” and, “see how good of a shot I am?”.

What is the moral of this story? Does creating the target after the shots were fired make this person a great marksman? No, of course not.

Real data is clumpy. Unscrupulous marketers make it seem as if they are the experts using the clumps. Or, that outliers always perform better than the average.

A marketer must be honest.

With an endless amount of data we have access to, this can be difficult. It can feel overwhelming, contradictory, pulling us in all different directions. But, it is our job to find and state the real truth. And usually, that means that we have to find it ourselves.

The Wrong Question

A marketeer must understand reality. He must understand his current situation. The current marketplace. Where the tribe is at. Right now. Because the right question is ‘what is the right action for us, right now?

Of course, that does not mean that we should not learn what came before us. What others have understood about the market, about marketing, about customers and tribes.

You can and should learn from others. But you should not trust blindly. Not every fact stated is the truth. Be skeptical and know that data interpretation is biased. You need to be aware of your own bias and those of others.

If you don’t know your bias and adjust for it, how can you know that the data is telling you something real?

Truth changes with time and so does the information. Find the right marketing strategy or tactic that works best right now.

How can we keep it real?

Every marketing activity must be built on a transaction. Even if it is free.

Your goal is never to sell something. Your goal should be to solve a problem through a transaction. Your goal is to help people make progress. And, a transaction, an exchange, is the action that makes that happen.

So, what is the transaction?

A transaction is an event that matters.

Progress is made only when an exchange happens. Download a magnet? Transaction. Agree to a meeting? Transaction. Signed agreement. Transaction. The points that matter are the transactions.

That said, there are things you need to keep in mind before, during, and after the transaction. To keep it real.

It is impossible for us to be objective about our own ideas.

Remember, everybody is the hero in their own story. Everyone thinks their ideas are good, great, brilliant even. Better than anyone else’s ideas.

But great ideas do not mean much if they do not help your perfect buyer make progress. If they do not solve a problem as defined by your customer. The idea alone does not move society forward.

It is easy to become so obsessed with one’s own idea, so convinced of its inherent greatness, that you fail to listen to what your customers actually want and need.

Do not lose sight of the most important thing.

Revenue is your oxygen. It proves the innovation has value.

You must be customer-centric. You must solve their problem. Answer their needs. Cater to their emotional concerns.

They must be willing to buy your solution. Your perfect buyer needs to believe that your solution is the answer. This is what you need to keep in your sight at all times.

I know I am repeating myself here. But I cannot emphasize it enough. If you don’t put solving customer problems first, you miss the context for your idea.

And, context is the foundation that gives value to your ideas. Without it, your idea is just a nice thought.

Do not allow yourself to miss opportunities to generate revenue. In order not to miss those opportunities, you need to keep in mind one simple question: “What is the transaction?”.

10+ years of marketing agency experience. 10+ years (4 exits) of VC-funded startup experience. Dad. Musician. Coffee-lover. E-bike aficionado.