New Year, New You

Taking on a purely marketing role in 2018 was a big change for me, but it taught me to ask one particular question over and over and over: what is the goal and why?

If the goal was to get more Twitter followers for the company, I wanted to know why. Because we want to impress other companies, or because we actually want to market our message? Getting Twitter followers is easy. You can pay for 10,000 of them in less than 24 hours. Done. Getting Twitter followers that actually read and help spread your messaging is an entirely different mission. Convincing people to care about what you have to say takes time. It also takes a shit ton of creative work. Is that where we want to focus our marketing efforts? If so, why? What is it that we want to achieve? Is Twitter the best medium to make that happen? Vanity and strategy are two different things. The former generally leads to public indifference, the latter to real results.

I found that the more I asked why, the more I made people upset. Why were they upset? Because no one was really sure of the answer. You’d be surprised (or maybe not) by how much of today’s business strategy is simply imitation. Imitation may be the best form of flattery, but it’s no way to achieve success if you don’t understand why you’re doing it. It can also become dangerous if you don’t understand the potential outcomes and consequences of each action. To use Twitter again as an example, the larger the social media presence you acquire, the more attention and scrutiny you attract. If you’re not ready to handle direct questions from consumers and critics about your business practices and intentions, you may shoot yourself in the foot before you’ve even made any headway.

On a personal level, New Year’s Eve is traditionally when we as humans start thinking about the drastic changes we’d like to make in our lives. We want to lose weight, get in shape, find a new job, or meet a new romantic interest. January 1st is a chance to make a fresh start. It’s an excuse to make a transition, but before I make my own personal list of New Year’s resolutions, I’m going to ask myself honestly: why do I want to do this? For example, if my 2019 resolution is to get six-pack abs, what is it that I hope to achieve from having a chiseled stomach? How will that improve my life? What are the consequences? The point is to decipher between the ego-driven nonsense and the impactful solutions, just like I did as a marketer.

Are there consequences to acquiring and maintaining a six-pack, you ask? Indeed, there are. I can’t eat carbohydrates, for one. I can’t drink alcohol as much because I’ll need to be cutting sugar and doing more cardio. Not being able to eat bread and drink wine every night will impact my social structure and my domestic life, taking me away from personal contacts and my local community. In order to justify those changes and have any chance at success, I’ll need to be driven by more than just vanity. I’ll need to see real benefits that validate and support my commitment to rock hard abs, outweighing any of the drawbacks. Otherwise, not only will I likely fail in my resolve, I’ll also be miserable.

Marketing is no different. Any decision to focus one’s efforts on a specific channel needs to have more than narcissism going for it. The most miserable people I met in 2018 were the ones who couldn’t decipher between pride and the actual well-being of their business. When they failed in their egotistical resolve, it made them even more desolate. For example, if your goal is to land a story in a major publication for your company, you’d better have some real substance behind that ambition. I remember a friend of mine who’s a journalist for CNBC telling me this past summer: “Why is it that tech companies think it’s my job to do their marketing for them?” She said this in response to the onslaught of emails she had received from local start-ups looking to pitch a story. The problem was that 100% of the stories they had to pitch were really just personal accomplishments and notices of intention. They had yet to solve a real problem or “change the world.” Rather, they merely wanted to announce their objective to do so because they thought it would make them look good. “Call me when you’ve actually done something,” she added with a huff.

When it comes to setting goals and resolutions, I’ve found that separating the ego from the objective is paramount. The only professional satisfaction I found in 2018 came from the achievement of actual results rather than the idea of them.

-David Driscoll