More so than almost any other field, athletics and art are two career paths in which very few participants emerge as financially successful, despite a widespread base of interest and collective knowledge. There are many golfers, but very few can make a living from it and there can only be one Tiger Woods. There are many film makers, musicians, and sculptors, but almost none make it out of the garage and into the free market to an extent where art can be a full time means of income. One can choose to be an artist or an athlete for the pure joy or challenge of it, but the competition will always be so intense that anyone who isn’t extremely gifted and/or talented won’t be able to make it into the big leagues.
Online marketing and communications is different though in that everyone who wants to be successful ultimately can be if they so choose. With the right know how anyone regardless of age, gender, culture, economic status, or education background can leverage search, social, and web design to make a profit from a product, service, or idea. The sky really is the limit.
Accepting this to be true, the question I’d like to pose is are you approaching marketing as an athlete or an artist?
Success in athletics comes down to skill mastery and strict discipline. LeBron James is going to spend years of his life working on the free throw. His income, number of championships, and eventually his legacy will partially hinge on how well he can shoot the free throw in times when it matters most. To succeed he’ll need to practice for hours on end going over the same basic principles. The job is never over. Slack off and you’re at risk of falling behind.
As a marketing professional we have different versions of the free throw. A big one that comes to mind is publishing content. Every day we have to go back to the basics. Open the document, put words to the page, and publish. If inbound marketing truly is a priority, this needs to be a regular habit. There are numerous ways to improve, such as reading the right books and learning from those who’ve done it for years, but only through repetition can a person improve. There are no shortcuts. It’s getting up and doing the same thing again and again.
Artists are different. They’re rewarded for creativity, ingenuity, and breaking the norms. By the athlete’s standards we would assume that by practicing for 4 hours a day over the span of 5 years than any person can become a great songwriter. Ask any musician and you’ll learn that nothing can be further from the truth. Songwriters make a name for themselves by pushing the boundaries of what’s currently accepted. They craft songs that speak for the moment and they see things in ways that others don’t. Art is as much about passion as it is about having the courage to think outside the box.
There are times when a digital marketer needs to act like an artist and be willing to take risks and communicate in ways that others aren’t. Online marketing isn’t a stagnant endeavor and new opportunities and even new frontiers emerge every year. While others are focusing on search and social network marketing, have you considered what your options are for online video and mobile app development? How current is your toolbox and when is the last time you tried something new? Are you creative or do you simply follow your competition when it comes time to decide what to do next?
If online marketing is a priority in your business you’ll need to learn how to work like an athlete and think like an artist.
Discipline and creativity
Repetition and inspiration
Application and vision