Never stop learning

Mike Cornwell explains why being curious makes the difference between being a good and a brilliant marketer.

Never stop learning

Always be curious. It's a maxim attributed to Einstein, Walt Whitman and many other great thinkers, and no wonder. It's a fundamental trait that keeps humankind motivated, pushing boundaries, inventing, progressing and advancing the species.

It's the trait that belongs to every scholar, entrepreneur, genius and schoolchild. Most people lose their innate curiosity growing up, but some don't. And it's not a stretch to suggest that the marketing community is populated almost exclusively by those who don't.

Think about it. Why else, if not for that appetite to keep learning, are we, as marketers, consuming (and producing) unprecedented levels of information about our specialism? We're gleaning and sharing facts, stats and latest opinion like never before. Why else are exhibition halls, show floors, conference rooms and seminar theatres packed with marketers wanting the latest on technology, methodology, case studies and best practice?

It's because we must, and can. And it's what makes our profession ever-more exciting.

We're living in times of constant change. The technology that we all now take for granted was, a mere 15 years ago, still the domain of sci-fi and fantasy.

We're living in times of constant change. The technology that we all now take for granted was, a mere 15 years ago, still the domain of sci-fi and fantasy. Who'd have thought back then that your mobile device would be the indispensable multi-tasker it has become and used far less for talking than anything else?

But it's not just the technology, or even the knowledge that it can give us. What's truly exciting is the potential of what we can do with it.

Recently we've been to several industry events - Internet World, the ISBA Conference, Google's ThinkPerformance, TFM&A, the IDM B2B conference and several awards ceremonies. Audience members scribble notes, tap iPads, tweet on smartphones and fire questions at speakers every time there's a fascinating stat or piece of information that's new to them. Who knew that 83% of 18- to 24-year-olds prefer reading from the printed page rather than a screen? Three out of five important business decisions are taken at home; as many as 95% of the people researching your products are completely unknown to you; and most businesses use only 5% of the data they've collated.

And that's the key. The best marketers understand that it's not just about what you have, it's what you do with it. To make the most of the tools, techniques and information at you and your customer's fingertips, you need to know how to use them - then allow that curiosity and imagination to work out how to do it better.

One of the most popular features in our IDM members' bulletin is "10 Things I wish I'd known". Essentially, it's career tips from seasoned marketers with a few battle scars and a fair share of professional success. Time and again we find advice like "Never be afraid of what you don't know"; "Keep asking questions"; "Surround yourself with good people" and "Never stop learning".

It's a never-ending pursuit of excellence that makes the best marketers successful and our profession so exhilarating. So, keep being curious, learning and striving to be a better marketer. It's what makes the difference between being good and being brilliant - and marketing innovation depends upon it.

Mike Cornwell F IDM is chief executive of the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing.