Essentialism for Marketers

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Marketing has become so broad and complex it can be overwhelming. You might feel like you’re struggling to stay on top of everything. The frustrating paradox is that the more you try to pursue, the less effective you become in any one particular area.
As a casual minimalist, I knew I had to read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less when a co-worker recommended it. The book takes the principles of minimalism and applies them to how we should prioritize, spend time, and make decisions. The central idea is that by being ruthlessly selective with what you choose to pursue, you can be more productive. It’s “less is more” applied with systematic discipline.

It’s impossible to have a long list of “priorities”

Early in the book the author explains how the word “priority” has changed meaning recently. For over 500 years the word was singular. It meant “the very first or prior thing.” By definition, there could be only one priority at any given time. But since the 1900’s we’ve gradually bent the word so that we can talk about having many priorities simultaneously. The result is that no one thing ends up being “the priority.” The label becomes increasingly meaningless with each item we add to our list.
As marketers, I think this is an especially important concept. When we try to do everything that falls under the umbrella of marketing (blogging, SEO, PPC, video, viral contests, co-marketing with partners, affiliate marketing, social media marketing, guest posting, influencer marketing, etc., etc.) we end up hurting more than we’re helping because of opportunity costs. By treating every opportunity as if it’s equally important, we prevent ourselves from focusing on the marketing work that makes the biggest difference.
We’ve got to say “no” to some things so that we have the resources to invest in what works best.

What should you be saying “yes” to?

In Essentialism, Greg McKeown gives a useful tool for gaining clarity on what to pursue and what to let go of. It’s called “the 90% rule.” It’s very simple. First, you rate an item’s importance and relevance on a scale of 0-100. Your list of possible marketing activities might look something like this:

Social media marketing: 55
Blogging: 75
Email marketing: 95
Video content: 80
Influencer marketing: 60

And then you only pursue something if it’s rated 90 or more. In this example, the list of six priorities becomes one thing: Email marketing.
It doesn’t matter if it’s 80 or even 89, if it’s not rated in the vital 90-100 range, it’s dropped. It’s extreme, but that’s the point. By trimming off every ounce of fat, you’re able to invest more in those few vital activities — ensuring they get the time and attention it takes to do them well and do them quickly.
Will such a drastic change in priority help you become a more effective marketer? Maybe the 90% rule is bit over-simplified, but I think it’s a useful exercise to pause, take a look at everything you’re trying to do, and ask:

“Could I be more effective if I were attempting to do less?”

I think, for many of us, the answer is “yes.”

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