Apr 162011
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Here’s the deal: marketing is hard.

If you think marketing is easy, you’re probably not a marketer. Or a human. Yes, you’re probably some kind of replicant who (that?) has been lucky enough to have the Google algorithm programmed into memory. Or you are, in fact, the Google algorithm, crawling this page right now. [In which case: hey, make yourself comfortable. Can I get you Fresca or something?]

But for those of us who ply the marketing trade, it’s a pretty tough job. Among our long list of responsibilities:

  • we’re supposed to spend $1 of the company’s money and get $25 (or more) back.
  • we have to keep the Sales team supplied with good leads, and be neither a father of Sales’ success nor an absentee dad when they fail.
  • we must stay focused and execute in a constantly changing landscape of internal (e.g., budget, people, products, processes, policies) and external (e.g., media, agencies, buyer behavior, competition, government regulations) variables.

In the marketer’s pursuit of success, this all just comes with the territory. But, in business, “success” is a weird thing. It’s not always a (linear) result of hard work. In fact, it’s sometimes awarded to those who seem, at least on the surface, unworthy. And a jealous rival can always spin an objectively kick-ass outcome into a “gap versus expectations.”  Business success is always worth pursuing, but it is rarely captured on our preferred timing or terms. But with the right tools and attitude, success in the form of personal fulfillment is always within reach.

One of my trusted mentors, Lenora Edwards, encourages her clients (consultants, entrepreneurs, and executives) to define a Ten Commandments list. These are ten (or however many are needed) experiences that are essential to making any project, job, or client relationship fulfilling. “Achieving great results” is a mainstay on my list. Even though it can be squishy and elusive, I have to be chasing a meaningful, measurable outcome. But for me the process is even higher on my Ten Commandments list than the outcome.

Oh gosh. I know that sounds trite. But the oft-maligned and misunderstood notion of getting there has always been vital to enjoyment of my work. The results will either happen or they won’t. Or, as noted above, they will happen AND they won’t. I can’t control the outcome but I can strongly influence it if I’m not too caught up in how it looks. Adopting an “enjoy the journey” approach isn’t just pie-eyed happy talk for me – it’s a survival skill.

So, here are my three keys to marketing happiness. Get ready to smile. Wait, wait… …ok, go!

1. Seek the truth.  Also known as “optimization.” I’m spending the company’s money, time, and energy. If I’m not getting a return, I shouldn’t be spending. So I hold myself and my clients accountable for how we execute our decisions. That might require an occasional uncomfortable conversation with IT, Finance, Sales, or a C-level Executive. But the pursuit of the truth is fun, and honorable. And as long as I remember to breathe, those uncomfortable conversations are learning opportunities. And the truth will set us free.

2. Take reasoned risks. Also known as: “managing a marketing program portfolio.” Marketing is about placing smart bets. The bets should be smart. But they also must be placed. This link contains a keyword search for “average tenure of a CMO.” Click it and check out the organic results. The average tenure is around two years, right? Personally, I prefer embracing this reality to wresting with it. Either way, I get my uniform dirty, but the former is more fun than the latter. I try to never be reckless, but also never afraid. And I always keep in mind that — no matter how high the stakes — it’s a game and that games should be enjoyed. Otherwise, why play?

3. Predict the future. Also known as: “forecasting profitable revenue growth.” This is the hardest part of the job but also — when I have the right mindset — the most fun. And if I am diligent about truth-seeking and reasoned-risk-taking, I learn enough to make future-predicting easier over time.

So, what do you think? Is my list missing any “bliss-enabling imperatives?”  Tell me yours in the comments.

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  8 Responses to “The 3 Keys to Marketing Happiness”

  1. Tom, once again you’ve nailed it. This is why it was alway so enjoyable working with you on every level. You totally owned the outcomes, good or bad, tried with every campaign to tie to inputs to results with precise numbers, showed returns in real hard dollar values, etc. And you’re exactly right — the funds need to be spent, but as effectively as humanly (or algorithmically) possible. Finally it is in fact all about the process, learning together and enjoying the challenge, remembering (almost all the time) that the enemy is not inside, but outside the building.

    Strangely, these are very close to the same three keys to Finance happiness for a CFO: seek the truth, take reasoned risks, and predict the future. Hmmm…

    Great insight & thanks for sharing.

    • Andy, I sincerely appreciate the comments. You know, when I write down the things I’ve learned in business, I’m reminded how much I’m a product of my environment. And how much of that environment is the people I work with every day. We had a great team there at Speakeasy, even when, and perhaps *especially when* we were yelling at each other. (I’m exaggerating for effect of course. But we did have some healthy, spirited debates, as you know.)

      Regarding the three keys to happiness: hey, if they work in Marketing and Finance, maybe they’ll work on Wall Street and in Washington??? You know, we might be on to something here…. :-)

  2. Tom – I would add that an imperative is rolling up your sleeves and trying things. Just have to try things sometimes and if there is a low cost to a new approach – try it. Marketers need to be unafraid to break their crayons and colour outside the box at times.

  3. Good Post – I would add “If it can’t be measured then don’t do it.” With the tools available to marketers these days everything should be measured and then efforts refocussed.

    • Thank you Duncan. I tend to view measurement discipline as the tip of the “Seek the Truth” spear, but it could easily stand alone as it’s own “key to happiness.” Marketing and Sales are one of the last places in the enterprise where fact-free conversations are tolerated and sometimes given serious weight in decision-making. But the impact of those conversations is large on the rest of the company. So let’s bring more facts to the discussion and make better decisions!

  4. OK, late to the conversation obviously but just finding your blog now. Excellent “rules” – they resonate and provoke; I don’t normally think about marketing in terms of finding happiness. I’m struck by the thread that runs through them, which — risking being touchy/feely here — is balance and reconciliation: listen and act; journey and destination; minimize risk and try new things. Cool.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sue. Touchy/feely comments are permitted and encouraged, especially on a post that dares to suggest marketing and happiness can co-exist. As a fellow marketer, you probably know better than most how UN-happiness (or mistrust, or outright fear) can occupy the space between buyers and sellers. If this system (or any system) is to be reformed, idealistic insiders will have to lead La Revolucion. I’ve got prayer beads in one hand, a Molotov cocktail in the other, and a tablet running Google Analytics and Powerpoint in my backpack. Let’s do this thing. :-)