7 Harsh Truths to Face If You Want to Be a Better Marketer

Whether you're a business owner or a team member trying to establish footing in your chosen career, it pays to be a better marketer. And yes, "better" is a bit subjective since it could theoretically apply to anything and everything, but there are specific paths of development that can help you become more efficient and effective. For example:

  • Improving your ability to research.
  • Decreasing the time it takes you to accomplish marketing tasks.
  • Increasing your ability to find and interpret marketing metrics.
  • Improving your communicative abilities.

I could continue, but you get the general idea. Before you can start improving yourself along these general lines, it's important that you first recognize these harsh truths:

1. There aren't any sure strategies. In many industries, there's a relatively consistent formula for success. In roofing, for example, if you use the same materials, the same people, and the same approach for two different houses, you'll probably get two nearly identical sets of results. Marketing doesn't work like that. Each company demands a unique approach--even if they're in the same industry. The fact of the matter is there are no surefire strategies for success. The sooner you learn this, the sooner you can stop looking for a magic formula and start focusing on building customized solutions and testing them.

2. The numbers are always misleading. Data is good. In marketing, data can be your best friend. Unfortunately, it can also be deceiving. It's a good idea to back up your analyses with hard facts and numbers, but it's important to avoid over-relying on those numbers to tell you the whole story. For example, Facebook likes might seem to tell you how popular your brand is--but it doesn't take into account the sentiments of each of those users. Similarly, increased web traffic might be an indication that your marketing campaign is working, but are you sure you've filtered out all the potentially influential third-party variables?

3. You're going to have bad streaks. You've come up with a great strategy, you've put it to good use, and the first few months look pretty good--but then comes a sharp turn, and suddenly you can't gain any traction. You experiment with different angles, you put more effort in, but you still can't seem to pull yourself (or your client) out of the slump. Rest easy--these bad streaks happen, even to the best marketers, and are sometimes out of our control. Once you recognize that, you can calmly accept them when they happen and start addressing the situation more logically and procedurally.

4. Sometimes, "all the right things" won't be enough. There are thousands of articles available online telling you the "best practices" for marketing campaigns like SEO, content, and social media--I've even written some of them. These are helpful, and can guide you especially during your early days as a marketer, but sometimes, all the right things still aren't enough to get you results. Even with theoretically perfect "viral"-optimized content, there's no guarantee that your content will circulate. Timing and luck are crucial factors, and the sooner you admit that, the sooner you can stop questioning the "whys" of when hypothetically perfect constructs go awry.

5. The competition really is out to get you. You might like to think of your competitors as swimmers in different lanes of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, but the reality is, they're much more aggressively competitive. Even if they aren't directly targeting you in their strategies, they're naturally competing for the same search engine visibility, the same audience share, and the same final results. That makes them dangerous. Once you realize this, you can start being more aggressive in your own competitive research and strategy.

6. You won't be able to keep up with everything. Things change at blinding rates in the marketing world--new tech, new trends, and new angles are always emerging--and when you're first getting started with a marketing career, you'll be tempted to try and track all of them. However, it's highly unlikely you'll be able to keep that pace for long, and even if you do, all your adjustments may be overwritten when the new tech plummets or the new trend fizzles out. Stay aware and hedge your bets, but don't invest too much in something new until it becomes a bit more established.

7. There's no substitute for experience. Unfortunately, all the advice pieces in the world can't substitute for good, old-fashioned experience. You can read the "things I wish I knew" and "harsh truths" articles all you want, but until you experience the twists and turns for yourself, you'll still be lacking in some regards. Remain patient as you accumulate your own experience, and never neglect the importance of self-reflection along the way.

Once you've accepted these harsh marketing truths as reality, you'll be able to develop your abilities in more diverse, more effective ways. Otherwise, you stand the risk of developing along impractical lines, or stagnating your overall progress. Some marketers are never able to overcome this, so don't let yourself be one of them. Learn these lessons early on, and never forget them.