Marketing Life Lessons

There are some lessons learned in life that apply strongly to marketing (and vice versa).  Here are five for your consideration.

Lesson 1:  What you don’t know can hurt you. As a marketer, you need to have better and more current information about marketing than your CEO and sales VP.  And if you are a marketing services provider, you had better know more than your client, at least about the subject in which you specialize. Shallow expertise will make you appear weak and un-confident and this will be exploited by your colleagues and/or clients. There is much good information about B2C and B2B marketing readily available and the more you absorb, the better you will get at discerning the wheat from the chaff.  And the combination of education plus practical experience will make you an unstoppable marketer.

Lesson 2: Action is almost always better than inaction. Sometimes it is hard to decide what to do and sometimes research is needed. But more often than not, there are things you can do to keep the awareness growing and the leads coming in. By all means fine-tune and optimize your marketing programs but don’t be frozen into a state of inaction.  In marketing, there is seldom a neutral state – you are either stagnating or moving forward. A good marketer keeps moving forward.

Lesson 3: Consistency is more important than brilliance. Most of the time, it is not one brilliant marketing strategy or program that wins the day, but rather a series of smaller steps taken in a consistent fashion. One great way to do this is to make sure that you have a differentiated and compelling message and communicate it relentlessly through multiple media. During the dot.com bubble, small start-up companies were using their entire yearly marketing budget to run million dollar Super Bowl. A large number of those companies went out of business. “Hail Mary” passes may occasionally work in football, but seldom in marketing.

Lesson 4: A fool with a plan can beat a genius with no plan.  I heard this comment from a speech by T. Boone Pickens and it resonates well for today’s marketer because there is no such thing as a perfect marketing plan.  As a smart general named Helmut Von Moltke said, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”  Likewise, it is seldom that a marketing plan turns out exactly as expected, but you still need to produce one and update it often.

Lesson 5: You learn more from your mistakes than successes. As a marketer, you will make mistakes. These may be minor or they may cost your company a great deal of money (I have made a couple of these during my career).  But regardless of the scope of a particular mistake, it can either seriously set you back or it can be a catalyst to growth and success. The objective is not to stop making mistakes, because the only way to do this is to stop doing anything. Rather, the objective is to learn from your mistakes and not make the same ones again.  This is exactly the reason you hire an experienced person (or outsource provider) to strategize and execute your marketing programs – it reduces your risk and makes the likelihood of success far greater.

  • John Bryant

    Excellent post! It is so easy to become frustrated with failures. But it’s important to keep moving forward and learn from our mistakes. Great lesson!

  • Mike Vigil

    “Perfect is the enemy of good.” I definitely wasted a lot of time in my career looking for that perfect “rifle shot” that would make everything work the first go. The truth of the matter is, while I was dithering about the perfect strategy, someone else was getting up every day, bashing out the little tasks, making mistakes and correcting as they go along. There’s no doubt as to which of these people is more productive at the end of the year. Posts like this inspire me to be more like the guy in the latter example. Cheers and Happy Holidays!