The world of marketing has changed, and changed, and changed again during the fifteen years that I’ve been in it.
But a few things have stayed the same, and one of them is the mindset characteristics of great marketers.
World-class marketers have several things in common - including the fact that they all share these eight thought patterns. I would actually go so far as to say that the reason these people are at the top of their game is because of these factors.
Here are some key traits and habits you can learn from those who've achieved significant success.
1. They aren’t afraid to try new or crazy stuff
A surefire way to be ho-hum is to do whatever everyone else is doing - because if you do what everyone else is doing, then you’ll likely achieve what everyone else is achieving. Which, by definition, is average.
I'm not a fan of ho-hum.
When I founded WordStream, some people might have thought that I was a nutcase. I had ideas, sure, but were they good ideas or bad ideas? I don’t know, because I don’t assess ideas qualitatively. I assess them quantitatively. And some of those ideas ended up working really well.
Ideas - the new, the crazy, the shocking, the unorthodox, the off-the-wall, the anything - are marketing fodder. You just have to go forth and try them.
How do you come up with these ideas?
The fact is, they just happen. But you also have to be open to them.
Here’s where I’ve come up with some of my ideas:
- In the middle of a 14-hour workday, when my brain is totally fried
- While playing with my kids in the backyard
- In my Uber, on the way to the office
- While sleeping
What matters is your brain’s willingness to accept the zany and try it out - which brings us to the next thing that great marketers do.
2. They cultivate a testing mindset
Want to know how to waste a whole lot of time and money? Do marketing without testing the results of your efforts.
I can think of nothing more foolish and wasteful than marketing without testing. There’s a reason that entire careers are focused on data and testing in marketing. There’s a reason why WordStream employs data analysts, and I hire data scientists.
When you come up with your marketing idea, immediately put it into motion, then measure the results.
I repeat: Measure the results.
I cringe when I hear the reasons why marketers aren’t testing.
Or see how infrequently marketers are testing.
Or how shoddy some of their testing is.
If testing sounds intimidating, let me try to make it a bit more palatable. You don’t need a data scientist with advanced degrees, a multi-armed bandit testing platform, or anything complicated.
All you need to do is look at your numbers - whether that’s Google Analytics or some other platform.
For example, some of the simplest “testing” that I’ve done is just to look at the success rate of a drip campaign.
If it has an especially high read or response rate, I’m happy. I’m generally looking for outliers, stuff that's 2-3x better than average.
3. They use the skills they have and borrow the skills they don’t
The universe of marketing incorporates a huge range of roles and processes - from your social media manager to your front-end developer and beyond.
One marketer might be spending her days making bid adjustments for an RLSA campaign, another will be researching a blue ocean strategy, while someone else will be writing an article about the best food for your pet hedgehog.
You see how many different things “marketing” can encompass?
My point is this - to be a successful marketer, you can’t successfully do everything that marketing entails. Instead, you have to borrow the brains, skills, and strategies of others.
It’s a matter of knowing your weaknesses, so you can hire or outsource to supplement your own best marketing strengths.
4. They are early adopters
You’ve heard of first-mover advantage (FMA), right?
It’s the concept that if you’re early to a market, concept, resources, or technology, then you have an advantage over your competitors.
A parallel concept of first-mover advantage is the early adopter advantage.
The best marketers are early adopters.
If you were an early adopter on Twitter, then you probably nabbed a great Twitter handle, started building a loyal tribe, and established yourself as more authoritative than the 321 million users who joined after you.
If you were an early adopter of content marketing, then you were able to benefit from the traffic, brand signal building, and SEO power of links early on.
When you see something promising in the marketing world, jump on it. You can bail if you need to, but it's worth, at the least, trying that thing out.
5. They quit - fast
There’s no shame whatsoever in quitting. The minute something stops working, stop doing it.
I say this, of course, with the assumption that you’re testing that tactic, concept, practice, or channel. Make your decision to quit based on data, rather than disgust or impatience.
Disclaimer: Some channels just take time to gain steam. For example, doing SEO link building requires months of work. Building Reddit karma requires time.
In the introduction to this article, I used the term “changed” three times to drive the point that marketing has... well, changed.
If I were utilizing some of the marketing hacks that I was using in 2003 today, you would laugh in my face - and I would deserve it.
Take SEO, for example. Remember link wheels?
Looks cool, and quantum-theorish. But it’s not a thing anymore.
You have to evolve with the changes in marketing.
Throw stuff away when it’s not working. Quit when you need to.
6. They’re 'T-shaped', or 'M-shaped', or whatever letter of the alphabet you choose
A few years ago, it was vogue to talk about the 'T-shaped' marketer.
Some people made an even fatter T-shaped marketer.
Then someone thought they would improve on it with the 'M-shaped' marketer.
Others decided to go all Greek and made a pi-shaped marketer.
Even I jumped on the bandwagon and came up with a unicorn-shaped marketer.
Look, the letter, language, or animal isn’t the point. The point is this - any marketer should be good at several different things.
The reason to diversify is not just to have an additional marketable skill, even though that’s great. It's also important is to improve, and to expand your variety of marketing ideas.
If you do PPC all day, every day, all the time, everywhere, good. You’ll be one heck of a PPC marketer. But if you supplement this skill with knowledge in Facebook marketing, video marketing, SEO, and Instagram, then you'll have a recipe for an even better PPC marketing approach.
7. They shamelessly steal great ideas
You’ve probably heard the phrase “good artists copy, great artists steal.”
Some people claim that Pablo Picasso said it first. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t.
But it’s a good concept, especially when applied to marketing.
Some marketers are great not because they invented something brand new, but because they stole something that was working somewhere else.
The “stealing” I’m talking about is not, of course, nefarious or criminal. The point is that you should learn and replicate killer marketing ideas.
It’s no secret that Facebook swiped Snapchat’s stories feature.
Some people cried foul, but others shrugged with a sense of gratitude for how the world evolves through innovation.
Even the concept behind WordStream’s award-winning Google Ads Grader was inspired by the HubSpot Website Grader. We borrow stuff, we create stuff, we are inspired by stuff.
If you see a really good marketing idea, copy it, steal it, borrow it, extend it - do it.
8. They judge marketing efforts based on results and act accordingly
Marketing becomes really simple when you get this concept. The best marketing tactics are the tactics that work - the tactics that get results.
What are “results"? Typically, results are measured in terms of CTR, conversions, and sometimes revenue. Your KPIs may vary.
Some marketers like to measure input to make their judgment calls. An input-conscious marketer might ask questions like “What was the word count? How long did it take to write it?”
An outcome-conscious marketer is looking at the data to find out - “What article had the most traffic in the last six months?
For example, years ago, we looked at the traffic to more than 1,000 articles on the WordStream blog and discovered that a handful of those articles drove nearly half the traffic to the site.
I dubbed this the 'Unicorn Marketing Power Law,' but you might call it the 80/20 rule, the Pareto Principle, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity.
The principle states that most of your results come from a small number of your efforts.
The results may not be strictly 80/20, but the idea still holds true - most results come from a few efforts.
- 75% of website pageviews come from 14% of the total pages on the site
- 90% of your sales come from 5% of your customers
- 60% of your support staff’s time is taken by the same 3% of customers
When you identify those top-performing channels, tactics, articles, audiences, platforms, etc., then it’s time to make the most of them:
- Boost your high-performing organic Facebook posts
- Cross-promote them via email
- Turn successful non-post content into articles
- Test your results, always
World-class marketers chase down the top performing tactics and then make the most of them. You can do the same. Prioritize your marketing activities based on what's getting the best results.
So there you have it, a non-definitive list of some of the key tactics that the most successful marketers abide by. Of course, there are many other elements and factors that will also come into play, but these principles and practices will help improve your process, and deliver better results.
A version of this post was first published on the Wordstream blog.