The value of discipline, practice and creativity for marketers

 

With the Christmas cake reduced to a few hard crumbs and just Toffees and Coffee Creams left in the box, my thoughts of course turn to diet and exercise. Christmas is one of the few times in the year when you can freely indulge, guilt-free in all manner of delicious treats. But the cold, dark January mornings come as quite the shock and do nothing for my motivation. While it’s certainly far easier to stay in bed, there’s no nicer way to set you up for the day than with a few yogic stretches.

The art of yoga is built on discipline, practice and creativity. So, as I move through my morning stretches, I can’t help but make comparisons with my job as a B2B digital marketer. Each day for me follows a similar pattern and it’s being disciplined, continually practicing, and being creative which helps me achieve my goals.

Discipline

Social media, whether for personal or business, is in my opinion one of the biggest black holes for marketers. That’s not to say I’m anti-social media – completely the opposite in fact –  but I do believe you need to apply a bit of common sense and discipline.

Why? Because it saps our focus and prompts procrastination. I’m currently reading Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed. This is a book about ‘how success happens’. In Part 1 Syed investigates the connection between failure and success – it’s fascinating, you should read it. There’s one chapter which quite neatly sums up why I believe social media – if you let it – can be a black hole, and that has to do with focus.

The author explores two case studies, one from aviation and one from healthcare and discusses how the two industries differ in their attitudes towards failure. What I find interesting here, which can be applied to digital marketing, is not how healthcare covers up its failings while aviation learns from it, but how one particular “failure signature” was evident in both case studies.  As Syed explains, attention is a scarce resource. In both cases the surgeon and the pilot lost track of time.

“They lost track of time not because they didn’t have enough focus, but because they had too much focus.” In yoga, focus is a good thing. In fact, it is essential and is what helps strengthen the body and the mind.  I also find intense focus is useful for activities such as writing where you need to retreat into yourself for a while. But too much focus can be damaging when that focus is to the exclusion of everything else around you.

Be honest with yourself. How many times have you logged onto Twitter or Facebook ‘just because’, with no clear objective in mind, and found yourself wandering from article to article or just aimlessly scrolling through your feeds? It’s very easy to become so focused that you lose sense of time, to conveniently forget that job you’ve been pushing to the bottom of the pile.

So, what’s this got to do with discipline, isn’t that the same as focus? When it comes to executing marketing activities – and particularly social media – be disciplined with your time. Allocate time slots each day for attending to certain activities and stick to that allocation. It’s ok to be hyper-focused, if you have a clear objective in mind. Be clear about what it is you are aiming to achieve and define the steps you need to take in order to achieve that goal.

Many of us dislike admin – I don’t I’m a bit odd like that – but sadly if you’re running a marketing programme admin is your friend. In my role, I manage a team of 100 people to deliver activities to plan. At any one time, there can by upwards of 15 projects on the go varying in scale from content production and social media activity up to website redesigns and event planning. Effective and disciplined tracking will help you keep projects moving and will serve as a reminder when you lose focus. I’ve not yet found a tool that does this better than a basic spreadsheet, but please leave a comment if you have any suggestions.

Practice

In yoga it is the very act of doing an exercise over and over which not only finetunes your technique but also conditions your muscles and strengthens limbs. In a class situation, there’s always someone else doing it better and easier than you but yoga teaches us that it’s about the individual – it’s your practice. In marketing, there are a whole heap of articles being written daily about how to do it – much of it just regurgitating the writing of others. It’s easy to conclude that everyone else has it nailed. Nope, not true. Many are still battling with how to execute and measure digital, let alone get ahead of the curve so stop comparing yourself to others and concentrate on your own practice.

As you’ll find out for yourself if you read Syed’s book, you will only fail if you fail to learn. Failure is another opportunity to learn and to adjust your approach. You’ll only achieve this if you set goals, measure success and failure, and then practice.

Make some time this month to take a step out of the day-to- day to look for opportunities to measure and learn. Here are two that I revisit regularly:

– Take a look through the content you published last year. For example, look at number of sessions, time on page, bounce rate, social shares, and referral traffic to find those which your audience enjoyed most. Are there any similar characteristics that set them apart? Was it very timely or topical, what was the format, how did you publicise it? Perhaps someone within your organisation shared it with their network or maybe an influencer got hold of it? Use this information to create new content or build on content you’ve already produced.

– What is the best time of day to post on social media? A quick Google will give you plenty of published research like this infographic from Kissmetrics. Use these as a guide then run analysis on your own channels using the platform’s own analytics, or a tool such as Followerwonk for Twitter. You can then cross reference this with published data and make an assessment of the best time of day for your audience. You should then test this by posting at different times of the day and comparing data.

Measurement is a continual battle in marketing and I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers – like so many marketers do. You only need read recent news articles pointing out the failings in Facebook’s analytics to see how difficult it is to measure effectively and consistently. Over the years, I’ve tried various methods, including an overly complex benchmarking framework. Measurement, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant, gives us the opportunity to ask ‘why’? Asking why, makes us go looking for an answer – or any number of possible answers – which in turn leads us to practice techniques and therefore to learn.

Creativity

You very rarely plateau in yoga like you can in other exercises and that’s because once you’ve built up a repertoire of moves you can create your own series of moves or ‘Flows’. It’s only recently that I’ve come to think of myself as creative. I’m highly organised, methodical, like planning, and am a stickler for the detail. Creativity is for the ‘creatives’ right?

Being creative doesn’t just mean being able to draw or design websites. In my job being creative means being able to tell a story in 1000 words or 140 characters. It means understanding people, not just my audience but the other people I work with in order to find how they can use their skills to help me reach out to our marketplace. It means finding creative ways of using budget and resources when available to cover the times when it’s harder to find.

If there’s one thing I suggest you do in January, it’s tap into your creative side. Believe me, we all have one you just have to find out how to access it. My creativity happens inconveniently just as I’m about to fall asleep when my mind wanders on its own and I’m relaxed. Learning how to relax through meditation – not the incense burning kind – but through the use of breathing can be useful when you need to access your creative side at other times of the day.

Less is more

I recently read an article in The Drum where the author suggested that 2016 was the year where everyone became a little disheartened by the marketing industry. This was in part attributed to challenges such as ad blocking, transparency and measurement. I believe one of the biggest challenges digital marketers face is the volume of opportunities open to them versus the resources they have available and the expectations of the business they market.

Our ‘always on’, ‘fear of missing out’ culture has us believing we should be active across all social media channels, running frequent ads and churning out content weekly, if not daily, to compete for that all important slice of attention. 2017 will be the year when we all realise that less is more so apply a bit of discipline, continually practice and tap into your creative side to find what works for your business and industry.

Related Posts