There has been a lot of content written on becoming the best marketer, or a master marketer.
I have an issue with that. What does it really mean to be a marketing master? What does mastery entail?
There’s a popular idea that mastery on any topic can be achieved in 10,000 hours. This idea came from Malcolm Gladwell and his popular book “Outliers.”
According to this theory, if you work deliberately for 40 hours a week at your marketing job, you will obtain mastery in about 4 years and 292 days.
But there are a couple of issues with Gladwell’s theory.
In professions, the amount practiced accounted for just a 1% difference in performance. That’s a minuscule improvement in the overall scheme of things.
The reason is, deliberate practice is only a predictor of success in fields that have stable structures. For example, the rules of chess never change. The rules of marketing do.
Which is what leads us to the next issue with the 10,000-hour theory. For marketers, think about the number of different activities that make up your day.
My day includes some of the following:
Check HiP’s social media accounts for engagement
Follow/unfollow accounts on HiP’s Twitter
Write email copy for production
Schedule weekly social sharing
Research blog topics
Write blog posts
Share blog posts on various channels
Transcribe video audio into text
And this isn’t even that unusual. Marketers ping-pong between all sorts of diverse tasks as they work. That’s because the term “marketer” is so broad.
How can you achieve mastery when your attention is pulled from designing emails for your CRM system to analyzing your blog post metrics to writing your next post for Medium?
That text from your mom can wait. You don’t need to talk to everyone all the time. And nothing is more harmful to the quality of your work than the incessant pinging of messenger apps.
One of the most critical aspects of a “deliberate practice” is being 100% tuned in to an activity. We might even see a downturn in skill in future generations because it is very difficult to completely turn yourself off.
Even if all your private chats are off and muted, and your cell phone is off and away, you still have coworkers and managers expecting to be able to reach you via Slack or email.
If you’re looking to get in true deliberate practice, you’ll need to make space to think quietly. No email, no social media, just you and the task at hand.
To get this, you may have to come into work early or stay late. There’s a reason that dedicated yogis say that the best time to meditate is before the sun comes up. Because as the sun sleeps, so does everyone who may pull you away from the task at hand.
Find Flow State
Flow state is the optimal blend of engagement in a task. Coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (I bet you can’t say that three times fast), flow state refers to the point where the mind or body is being stretched to its limits in an effort to achieve something worthwhile.
Okay, so how does one achieve this elusive state, where time flies without effort, and you lose yourself to the task at hand?
There are three parts that comprise flow state:
There are defined rules or skill requirements that must be learned to complete the task
There are clear goals and feedback
You can control the outcome
Not everything you do as a marketer will fall under the category of flow state.
For example, something you’re learning to do for the first time will likely not allow you to reach flow state. But once you’ve done it several (50+) times, you’ll have the skills you need to do it, an understanding of the goals of the activity, and the knowledge that you control the outcome.
A good example of this might be writing a blog post. When you first start writing blog posts on a topic, your efforts will be slow and clumsy. You need to research not only to learn the concepts but to learn where you find credible information for a topic.
The process of writing will be slower because you must dig through a whole bunch of new language and lingo. There is an overabundance of challenge and unfamiliarity with the rules, so it’s hard to reach flow state.
Now fast forward to your 50th blog post on a topic. You know the lingo, you know where to get the sources. The main challenges are finding a topic and writing it well. You know how to do this by now, so you can find flow state in the writing process, as it is a sufficient blend of challenge and skill.
Choose a Focus or Two
Marketers are often cast as a one-man band, the superhero with all the skills. While that may seem fine and good, you cannot achieve mastery if you are scattered, trying to be everything.
It may be difficult (due to some marketers being the sole marketing person at their company), but it’s important for marketers to identify niches of expertise for themselves.
This sort of starts to happen naturally. You find yourself drawn into one sphere of marketing or another. For me, I focus on social media marketing and writing. These two areas are very broad, and I am nowhere near mastery in either.
And while I dabble in other areas, these are the two skillsets where I have the most knowledge and expertise. I wouldn’t have them if I was trying to make our videos, make our graphics, etc.
Keep Up with Change
In those areas you identified, be agile. Not like, following the herd agile, but testing the beta version before it reaches the public.
Read the blogs, observe social media trends, get focused on what is happening in the areas you know best. This is how you stay relevant in digital marketing, where if you aren’t keeping up with what’s next, you can guarantee you’re falling behind.
Try new social media platforms and tools, even when everything in you screams, “I don’t like this newfangled contraption!” I get it. But that mindset is a trap and will make you obsolete before your time.
Being set in your ways is fine if you are a chess player, where the rules never change, but it is not so for marketers. This stubbornness is the reason that so many marketers are creating products and content that no one wants and wasting time on tactics that no longer work.
Become an Expert in Learning Where Your Customers Go
Figure out where your customers and potential customers are. Do they frequent a community on Facebook? Are they on Twitter, using a specific hashtag to connect with others?
Do they all hang onto every word of an influencer? Or do they hang out in the depths of Quora?
Be ruthless in learning where your customers are and how to find them. If you have this skill, you won’t have to worry about switching jobs and struggling to identify a new audience.
Since its inception, marketing has been a fluid profession, where what’s hot and what’s not depends entirely on societal and technological advancements. This makes marketing mastery very hard to achieve.
Basically, a true marketing master is someone with great work habits, the ability to separate themselves from distraction and someone willing to constantly change what they “know” to keep their marketing skills current.
Be fluid, be focused, and your marketing will stay successful and relevant for years to come and you’ll be that much closer to being a marketing master.
Do these tips help? Is there anything you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments section.
Acadia Otlowski is the editor and copywriter at HiP. She handles writing subject lines and email copy as well as contributing weekly to the blog. Acadia is a journalism major turned marketing enthusiast with a heavy background in research and writing. Outside of work, she is an avid reader and storyteller, as well as a fire performer.