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Modern Marketing: Finding Joy in the Challenge

“You love marketing so much. Why?”

People ask me this all the time, their faces often contorted with disbelief that I could enjoy such a thing. My answer, though, usually elicits smiles and nods of agreement: “Because it’s hard.”

Once we accept that marketing isn’t supposed to be easy, we also may discover that it can be personally worthwhile—fulfilling. Things that are easy rarely engage us, stretch us or reward us. Marketing can be a medium for activating our creativity, extending our capabilities and building meaningful art and businesses.

I didn’t initially gravitate toward marketing. I thought it was fluff for right-brainers at ad agencies. I thought marketers were hucksters.

But after starting my own business, I realized marketing is an essential business skill, and like all business skills, I’d better learn it or go broke. So I decided to master it as you do any important endeavor: I studied; I tested; I failed; I tried again; I got better.

I’ve done marketing via television, radio, print, social media, mobile, direct and online. In the last two years alone, I’ve mapped and executed eight consecutive marketing campaigns that generated more than $1 million in sales online in less than seven days each. I have put books on best-seller lists, boosted products to No. 1 on Amazon, captured hundreds of thousands of leads, crossed eight figures in my own business and taught more than 1 million people about core marketing concepts. Three ideas have made the journey personally fulfilling and professionally successful for me—and they can do the same for you.

1. If marketing feels mundane, you’re doing it wrong.

Too many people think of marketing as posting. It has become a daily checklist: Slap something on Facebook; tweet a tidbit; pin a photo. But checklists are boring, posting is myopic and you need higher-level thinking to be an effective marketer. Here’s how to start thinking on that loftier plane….

Imagine the Marketing Fairy just descended into your office and says, “Good news: I’ve decided to give you, for free, a 60-second spot during the Super Bowl. I’d also like to give you three weeks of exposure to 300 million people online.”

Now that opportunity might challenge you to start thinking in the right direction. Marketing should feel exciting: This is your opportunity to get in front of millions. What do you want to communicate? What actions should people take? How will you draw the masses to your website, engage them, capture their information? What kind of business do you want to build as you share your story with the world?

If these questions seem hard, then we’re starting on the right foot—because if following up to the questions is hard, you’ll dedicate time and ambitious thought to doing it well.

In my experience, the No. 1 failure point of most businesses is that they do not take marketing seriously. Marketing is a crucial priority. At one level, it should activate your vision and make you dream big; at another, it should terrify you enough that you focus on it daily. Daily thought—fueled by ambition and fear—will help you raise your marketing efforts above the mundane to become engaging, sophisticated and meaningful.

2. Marketing is the ultimate act of creative expression.

In researching my book The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive, I found that “creative expression” is one of the most deeply held human desires. The acts of sharing who you are and creating meaningful art or work makes us feel more alive.

Marketing is the public face of your creative expression. Just like your clothes, your marketing reveals who you are to the world. It forces you to ask important business questions, such as:

• What do we stand for?

• How do we add value?

• What’s our style?

• What makes us awesome?

• How will we stand out?

• How will we change the world?

Answering these questions shouldn’t elicit mundane feelings. It should activate a deep drive within you to shout from rooftops about who you are and why you and your business matter. If you feel that, you’re a marketer. If you don’t, your business is doomed.

3. Marketing is campaigning, not promoting.

Here’s the test: Are you just posting and prospecting once in a while, or are you running for president? This test reveals an important distinction: There’s a big difference between promoting and campaigning.

A promotion is a singular touch-point with your audience designed to lead to a specific outcome (click this button, call this number, buy my stuff). A campaign is a series of promotions designed to capture people’s hearts and minds and lead to a specific outcome. A promotion is a postcard mailed to people. A campaign is a series of postcards, telephone calls, online posts and ads to win people over. A promotion starts and finishes on one day on the calendar. A campaign lasts several weeks. One is short and often ineffective; the other is enduring and lucrative.

Try this: draw 12 boxes on a whiteboard, each representing one month of the year, and then fill each box with a key marketing message you want to communicate that month. Next, dream up a series of messages to communicate each week; together, each message would contribute to a month’s overall communication plan. Now you have 12 campaigns!

4. Marketing is leadership.

I can spot the moment someone falls in love with marketing—it’s when he or she realizes marketing is leadership.

Leadership is sharing messages about what’s important and mobilizing people to act. Marketing gives you the vehicle to do the same thing. What should people pay attention to and why? What should they act on and why? By answering these questions through your marketing, you have a shot at making a real difference.

Marketing also gives you the outlet to set the tone and pace in your market. Think about it: The one and only way your competitors decide if you are a real player or leader in your space is by observing your marketing. If you share your story and build your campaigns with passion, vision and creativity, everyone starts following you.

Your customers are also watching. They buy your message or they don’t, and they join your movement or they pass, based solely on whether you are leading with relevant, creative and meaningful marketing. Effective leadership goals—motivating others to buy your message, to join your movement—should be atop every business owner’s daily agenda.

Why do I love marketing so much? Because it’s hard, demands my best efforts, and allows me to share messages that might make a difference and captivate the world. Who wouldn’t get excited about that?

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