Here's a CV-style rundown of work I've completed related to marketing a business. Check it out
I’m not going to lie, my brain can and does go in a million directions at once. Some call it multitasking, which I don’t, others call it being scatterjacked, which I do.
I used to not need a productivity trick to get through the day, but increasing demands at work require me to keep track of dozens of loose threads while balancing all the creative projects that make me valuable in the first place.
A plain to-do list never cut it for me. The list would almost always contain superfluous items, end up sprawlingly long, and rend any hope for sanity throughout the day. At night I would try to pet my cat, but all I would see in his sweet little eyes is item after item of incomplete tasks.
So I made a simple change. Some call it scheduling, some call it prioritizing, I call it ‘think before you decide to do something’ or “It’s Raining Deadlines”
Here’s What I Do
The day before, or maybe squeezed in the first fifteen or so minutes, I’ll sit down with a piece of paper. I’ll write the time I wake up on the top, then my first task, which is always ‘wake up.’
I then write the next time (about 20 minutes later) under that and place my second task (get ready for work) next to it. So the beginning of this list always looks like this…
- 6:40am — Wake up
- 7:00am — Get ready for work
Don’t laugh. All this is saying is at 6:40am, you’re working on getting up, and at 7:00am, you’re getting ready. Basically, instead of having to have something done by a certain time, I make sure I start at a very specific time. My deadline on these items? The next item I have to start on my list or deferring to the next day.
I do this with my task list next to me, filling things in with appropriate time to do them. By the time I get to the end of the day, I have created a perfect little picture of a fully productive day. All I have to do is make sure the tasks get done in around the time allotted and I have no worries!
Here’s what this magnificent beast looks like in person:
This is great because I feel like all my time was used well, things get done that I normally would be too scatterjacked to attend to, and when I go home I don’t have to worry about an enormous, abstract list of tasks.
Have you ever wondered why spammers have no grasp of English, like, ever? Not even once? And their scams are always absolutely ridiculous too.
It’s actually quite a clever ruse.
When a spammer sends out an email, they send it to thousands, if not millions, of addresses. This costs next to nothing.
However, in order to get your money, they usually need to interact with you in some way. When you have millions of prospects, you’re going to get a TON of inquiries based on sheer numbers. This costs time and money that a lone spammer usually doesn’t have.
So what’s a lone Nigerian Prince to do? How can he make sure he doesn’t waste time with people who would never fall for it? (Or call him out to proper authorities…)
By pre-qualifying. In other words, creating a gullibility filter.
By making the offer as obvious a scam as possible, they’re ensuring everyone who follows through is totally ignorant and much more likely to take the bait.
Millions of emails sent, and everyone who responds is the perfect patsy (I mean prospect.)
It’s actually pretty genius.
It also serves to illustrate the point every marketer should learn: reach isn’t all that great on its own. You have to reach the right people.
We make hundreds of decisions a day.
Little decisions, sure. Stuff like what to eat, how to dress, whether to tell your friend she has an enormous chunk of mystery vegetable in her teeth, etc.
Most of these decisions happen without you really thinking about it, and that’s ok. You can’t waste energy on tiny details all your life.
But if you’re not careful, these tiny decisions will repeat. Since they happen without you thinking about it, the path of least resistance becomes doing the same thing you did last time. So the decision to eat McDonald’s instead of making your own lunch may become a habit. Eventually it can become so ingrained that the decision defines who you are.
Do you want to be the guy who spends $1,500 a year fueling your body with McNuggets?
Do yourself a favor and take stock of the habits you’re building every so often. Don’t obsess over it, of course, just be mindful.
Aliens? No, don’t be stupid.
The Pharaohs were an interesting lot of people. They had huge visions of legacy and prosperity, and they would stop at nothing to achieve it. And they did a pretty good job.
But what did they actually do to make that happen? They certainly didn’t do it themselves. And the projects were so massive and complex it clearly wasn’t pure brute force against an enslaved population. (Besides, evidence suggests a big slave population in ancient Egypt has been historically exaggerated.)
So who were the linchpins that turned one man’s ego driven vision into reality?
Talented people, of course! People who intuitively understood the rules of engineering and architecture and could draw up some plans for others to follow.
And so it is in business. If you’re going to start an operation, there’s really only one talent you really need, and that’s finding talented people.
If you can effectively discover, hire, nurture, and keep talented individuals, then there isn’t much stopping you from succeeding.
This is true with any project that requires more than one person. It’s true for companies, rock bands, political activists, even social and friend groups. (Who’s going to have a better time, a group of people who are talented at the art of interesting conversation and empathy, or a group of people who sit around and wait for someone else to say something interesting?)
So maybe the first thing a business does shouldn’t be ‘find a customer.’ Maybe it should be ‘find someone good at finding people.’
What everybody needs can’t be bought. And if you really do need something that can be bought, odds are it’s cheap.
(Note: I’m not talking about the developing world where water is like gold. I’m talking about a world where stopping to read this blog post is a valid use of time.)
So if nobody really needs anything anymore, what’s marketing about?
It’s about wants. It’s about fostering and channeling the desires of everyday people, typically through a paywall.
In other words, it’s about creating placebos that help customers feel satisfied, or actualized, or whatever.
Just like how doctors give out sugar pills only to get similar, if not better, results, it works because people expect it to work.
Go to a doctor’s office, sit in the waiting room, get called by a nurse wearing scrubs, now sit in a different room, then wait for the doctor wearing his lab coat (walking at a calm yet quick pace because he’s very busy treating people), all so he can look at your vitals (on a clipboard) and explain what’s amok (usually in the droll monotone of a person who has said something everyday for the past few decades).
After all this, the doctor may give you a sugar pill. And it will probably work.
Sugar pills work because, after all that, you simply expect them to.
If the doctor came in wearing a wife-beater you’d probably think something’s amiss, and then the sugar pill wouldn’t work.
Marketing (the sugar pill of the business world) works when everything about the product or service just jives right.
Popular e-commerce stores all look similar because of the power of placebos. Clickbait headlines (you know, “Ten Shocking Revelations About President Obama You MUST Read”) work because you expect them too.
So go ahead a judge a book by it’s cover. That might be all you read anyway.