If it’s to be done well, marketing isn’t really something that can be done halfway. It requires a certain amount of commitment in order to be both successful and worth the investment you’ve put in. But if you’re just starting off on a marketing journey, or if you’ve been burned in the past by poor performance or bad luck, that commitment can be a bit more difficult to give. What if it doesn’t work? What if marketing investment ends up as wasted money?
The problem is that the difference between flirting with marketing and committing to it as a crucial part of your business can easily be the difference between your fears becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy and marketing remaking your business for the better. It may not sound encouraging right now, but the more committed to your marketing’s success you are, the more likely it is to happen.
Here’s what you need to know.
Marketing never runs perfectly.
I’ve worked in the marketing field for almost a decade, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned above all else, it’s that in marketing everything can change at a moment’s notice. Things go wrong. The coolest campaign idea you’ve ever had turns out to be a dud. It happens to the best of us, and honestly it happens more than you’d like it to happen.
The first time, it’s pretty scary. Especially if you’re a high achiever and you’re used to winning, every loss stings a lot more. But it’s important to keep things in context, and within the context of marketing, success can look a little different than it does in other fields. Obviously in, say, a manufacturing setting, every error is massively costly. A single defective part can lead to disaster, whether it’s a costly recall or something even worse.
But when you’re working in marketing, you need to think a bit more like a baseball player. Ty Cobb, one of the greats of the early days of the game, has the highest career batting average in major league history. He batted .366, which basically means that he got a hit 36% of the time. In most venues, a 36% success rate is awful! Heck, even in marketing that would probably get you fired. But in the context of professional baseball, it’s legendary.
Marketing is not going to go smoothly—at least, it’s not going to feel like it if this is all new to you. Being prepared for a few speed bumps will make the whole process a lot easier. And it will help you stay committed even if your first few forays aren’t rousing successes. No matter what, you’ll probably do better than Ty Cobb did.
The more you learn about marketing, the easier it gets.
“Practice makes perfect.” It is, of course, a cliché, but it’s one of those clichés that exists for a reason. The more experience you get in practically any setting, the better you get at what you do. You learn. You work out kinks. You make mistakes and you see where you went wrong and figure out how to avoid making the same mistake again. Simply doing a thing makes it easier as you go forward.
And of course, that applies to marketing just as it would anywhere else. You learn more about your brand by interacting with it—finding out what tone of voice does or doesn’t resonate for you, seeing what kinds of marketing activations fit your goals and which ones fail to get you closer to where you want to be. You learn more about your audience, not just from seeing what advertisements lead to success, but also by interacting with them through conversations both in person and online. You figure out what you’re naturally great at and what needs work, and you learn the new skills to fill out your marketing toolbox.
Now, will all that practice actually make “perfect”? Of course not—we just got done talking about the chaos and volatility that are naturally a part of marketing. Experts make mistakes. Things that should work fail. You never reach perfect. But the more you stay committed to the work, the more likely it is that gains will occur. If you cut and run at the first sign of trouble, you will obviously suffer for it.
Buy-in from top to bottom breeds marketing wins.
Marketing is not magic. From the outside, sometimes the end product might look like it. But every success in marketing is the fruit of a lot of labor on the part of a bunch of people. Creatives design and implement the work. Strategists build the plan that links each and every part of the marketing landscape together. Digital marketers build incredible systems that get your ads in front of precisely the people who need to see them. And, of course, there’s one other thing you need to succeed. Marketing works best when it has a firm and adamant executive sponsor, someone who has the power to make important decisions and also understands how critical marketing is to the success of a business.
That support is necessary precisely because of what we were just talking about—marketing is hard! And at every speed bump, it’s easy to think “this isn’t worth it, I want off this ride” and cut the budget. For every marketer, knowing you have someone with clout to call in to say “no—this is important, it’s worth our money, and it has to be a part of our strategy” is a great reassurance whenever something doesn’t go precisely as planned.
Staying the course is so much easier if someone with the ear of the captain knows it’s the right thing to do. And staying the course is, in the larger sense, always the right move in marketing. Your current tactics and strategies might not be right. But pushing forward—learning from what doesn’t work, building on what does, and getting as many at-bats in front of your audience as you possibly can—is the only way to win.
Commitment is the key to long-term marketing success.
We’ll be the first to tell you that successful marketing is not easy. There’s no point in trying to sugarcoat that fact because no matter what, it’s a truth you will learn eventually if you spend any time at all getting your hands dirty in the marketing trenches. And like any struggle, you cannot come out on top by giving up.
So, before you embark on any marketing journey, whether you’re a neophyte or you’ve been down this road before, one of the most important questions to ask is: are you committed? Not to winning, but simply to getting back up if you get knocked down? When things get tough, the answer can’t be to shutter marketing operations and concede defeat. Without perseverance, your marketing will never win.
Thomas fills a few roles at E3—writer, editor, and resident European soccer expert—but his chief responsibility is content creation. When he's not crafting thoughtful content for the Element Three blog, he's captaining our kickball team, watching the Mets, or talking up Indianapolis to anyone who will listen.
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