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The Smartass Marketer’s Handbook: How to Market the Smarter Way [Book Review]

carro-fordWhat is a Smartass Marketer? According to author Carro Susan Ford, this is an affectionate term reserved for marketers who aren’t afraid to say what they think and it’s something that we should all strive to become. As reported in our recent 2015 Content Marketing Tactics and Technology Planner, leading marketers are most concerned with a limited budget and a lack of resources. If you are looking to overcome these challenges and take your marketing practices to a new, smarter level, take a look at Ford’s new book, The Smartass Marketer’s Handbook. I recommend this book for any marketer who is looking to enhance their marketing toolkit.

Ford admits that she almost called her book “Simple Marketing,” and the 167-page handbook does hold very true to this alternative title. By breaking down the individual components of a successful marketing kit, Ford guides you through steps that are easy to follow, understand and implement.

She touches on the many different components of a smart marketing toolkit and is definitely not afraid to speak her mind, in the smartass way. To get a glimpse into her book, here are some of my favorite quotes and key takeaways:

1. “You’re not just marketing to customers. You’re marketing for them.”

When coming up with a marketing plan or strategy, Ford encourages her readers to “put your customers on your marketing team” by asking them about their opinions, preferences and thoughts. She explains that customer/buyer surveys are crucial in developing the right marketing strategy for a target market and even encourages smartass marketers to create a customer plan and not a marketing plan.

This same methodology applies to creating content. Marketers should tap into customer service teams to crowdsource content from within their own organizations. The best content can often come from those who interact with customers on a daily basis.

 2. “Branding is stupid.”

Ford explains that the biggest mistake many B2B companies can make with branding is nursing the illusion that you can control it. She says that your customer and your market, not you as the marketer, define a brand. Create an experience that your customer enjoys (with helpful content), and their perception of your brand will reflect that.

3. “Content Marketing is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Ford devotes a lot of time to explain the many advantages of content marketing, including the importance of building relationships with the customer and the benefit of a marketing tactic that fits into customer buying processes. It also helps B2B marketers deliver tailored content to customers throughout this entire buying process.

She also tells content marketers that it is okay to “lead with fear.” She dissuades marketers from only focusing on positive aspects of the industry. Customers are going through challenges, so we should address these pain points in our content, she says.


Ford explains that marketing is more powerful when it is accompanied by technology (for a complete list of content marketing technologies, see our ultimate list). Some of the ways Ford suggests using technology include:

  • Email blasts
  • Blogging
  • Google Alerts to track keywords, competition and your own press mentions
  • eNewsletters
  • Video Testimonials

She specifically emphasized the importance of B2B blogging. She says that although some companies are giving up on the blog, this is actually the time to invest in a blog and get the most out of it. A few ways to do this include starting a guest blogging program and repurposing blog posts into other forms of content. To learn more about content repurposing, see Curata’s Content Marketing Pyramid framework.

These are just a few of the most interesting takeaways I found while reading this book. For complete, in depth-instructions on how to become the smartest smartass marketer, be sure to purchase Ford’s handbook on Amazon.

I also had the pleasure of talking with Carro about her book and the future of content marketing. See her answers below:

  1. What inspired you to write this book?

It goes back about four or five years ago, when I started writing a B2B marketing blog. I was a consultant at the time and had been for years, so I thought I would drink my own Kool-Aid. It gave me a reason to reach out to prospects and show what I knew. I loved doing that blog and always had in the back of my mind that I would turn it into a book someday. Why not?! And because I did a little bit at a time – about a post a week – I didn’t face the pressure to write an entire book all at once.

There’s a “snark” side to marketing that we all know, but no one talks about much. In the book, I wanted to write about this and how to get stuff done in the face of the realities of B2B marketing, because that’s something I really, really know. If you added it up, I’ve seen the ugly in dozens of marketing departments, along with lots of great stuff, too.

  1. What were some challenges you encountered while writing this book?

The challenges weren’t so much in writing it, since I did that over a couple of years. And I had an excellent book coach, who knew how to take the blog content and turn it into a book, format it for printing, order the ISBN and all that stuff that goes along with self-publishing. Because the content was mostly done, it was easier than you might think. I did have to put in some nights and weekends for a few months completing my assignments from the book coach. And I had to write two more chapters, but it was all good.

  1. Where do you see the future of smartass marketing?

I hope it gets more smartass and badass! I think we’ll see that as more millennials come on, and we older marketers get wiser, tougher and comfortable with digital tools and environments.

As people change their expectations of work and a career, marketers may be willing to take more risks and speak their minds. Most of us don’t expect to spend ten years at one company, much less 25. We aren’t that surprised when we get laid off, and we recover more quickly. I’ve been riffed three times over my career, and it’s nothing to be afraid of anymore. It’s freeing in a way, to not be fearful, and that gives you the courage to say what you think.

  1. Out of the marketing tools listed in your book, which one is your favorite one based on its effectiveness?

The answer has to be something that involves writing. Probably white papers, because they can be repurposed in so many ways. Plus if you do a good one, you provide your target audience with much needed information during that big research stage of the buying process. And that’s the kind of stuff that gets spread around. Long format content like this benefits marketers and customers.

White papers are a natural for digital marketing. They aren’t old-fashioned tools at all, unless you look at them with an old-fashioned mindset. With apologies to Gandhi, “Write the change you want to see in the world.” Own a topic with an excellent white paper about it. Define an issue in your terms. Be the thought leader who actually has something to say.

  1. Where do you see the future of content marketing/what role has it played in your career?

Content marketing and digital marketing are made for each other. Content marketing is made for digital delivery. You can track it, send it, find it, change it, publish it. So I see a long, exciting future for content marketing.

I think I was doing content marketing before it had a name. I’ve always been a writer. It’s been the common thread across my career. Good marketing writers are hard to find. They’re not the ones with the biggest vocabularies, but the ones who know how to speak in the language of their audience. They know they have to self-edit. They take feedback as a positive thing, knowing what to keep and what to politely ignore.

I love being in content marketing today. There’s never been a better set of tools and playing field for reaching customers and measuring results and just having fun with it.

  1. What is the most important lesson you have learned while writing this book?

Depending on what kind of day I’m having, I’d pick one of these:

  • Have confidence in what you know.
  • Lots of little steps go into a big journey. Break projects down into small chunks. You’ll do a better job, too, because each chunk gets closer attention.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Perfect is the enemy of the good. Being a writer, it was tempting to edit and revise every time my coach bounced the draft back to me, but you can’t. You have to move on. That applies to marketing, too. Do your best and don’t get slowed down by trying to cover every detail and possibility. Do good marketing, not perfect marketing.

To further sharpen your marketing skills, take a look at the tactics and maneuvers of 500+ marketers in our eBook, 2015 Content Marketing Tactics & Technology Planner.


Pawan Deshpande

Pawan Deshpande is the founder and CEO of Curata, a Boston-based company offering content marketing software used by thousands of marketers around the world. He spearheaded the first-ever panel at SxSW on Content Marketing in 2011, and was a 2014 Finalist for MarketingProfs B2B Marketer of the Year. Pawan was an engineer at Microsoft and Google where he was awarded patents in social networking and machine learning. He previously attended MIT where his graduate thesis won top departmental and international awards.

Pawan is also a blogger for The Huffington Post, the Content Marketing Institute,, Forbes, Marketing Profs, and other technology and marketing publications.

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