The 3 Hardest Things To Get Right In Marketing


While I was at university, I had to select certain modules for my business management degree. Wherever possible, I chose those that related to marketing, principally because I was lazy and they seemed easier than the alternatives from accountancy, law and economics. Now, in one sense, I wasn’t wrong. Most marketing is easy. But it’s also not a coincidence that most marketing achieves precisely nothing. And the best part is that as long as you look like you’re working hard, you’ll probably never get found out. When done well, however, it’s a very different story. I’ve worked in just about every function of business, and I am convinced that truly great marketing is the single hardest thing for any organisation to achieve.

Here are three particularly gruelling challenges within a discipline otherwise so lacking in, well, discipline.

The first relates to the question of having a truly distinct market position. This is beyond tough, which is why 95% of companies never even get close to answering it. What you do is have used to all sorts of people, so how are you supposed to turn customers away when you know full well that you can help them? It goes against every fibre of your entrepreneurial being.

The second challenge relates to your messaging. So even once you’ve narrowed your audience, how do you decide what to say? These are real human beings, and they care about all sorts of things. What’s more, you can help them in 17 different ways. So how on earth do you narrow your content themes so you’re just talking about two or three consistent themes?

The final issue relates to your channels. Creating awesome stuff and throwing out everywhere makes tons of sense operationally. After all, you’ve spent hours creating this world-class content, so why wouldn’t you schedule it on eight different platforms? Trouble is that almost all of the value will be derived from just one channel. So if you don’t identify what that channel is, you’re going to end up working really hard with very little to show for it.

You may have noticed something. All of these challenges relate to one thing. The single greatest obstacle in marketing and in business, for that matter: focus. Deciding what to prioritise and having the discipline to ignore all the very exciting and entirely viable distractions. Or Steve Jobs once put it, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.” 

See you next time,


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