Marketer, Heal Thyself: Six Personal Resolutions

5 min read

Scott WoolgarIt’s mid-January, and finally the smoke from the holidays — and my annual fit of enthusiasm for radical self-improvement — has cleared. You know what I’m talking about. Faster, thinner, smarter this year. No, this year.

Truth is, the older I get, the less I like to make big plans for fixing everything that should be in the first quarter of every new year. A lot of stuff that was on fire New Year’s Day doesn’t seem quite as important by the middle of the January. And there’s less chance of having to deal with the letdown of my wild-eyed commitments I have no capacity to fulfill.

And that got me thinking about a list that I could work on every year, or even every day. I won’t bore you with the personal list of non-resolutions I came up with (having more to do with playing Telecasters than is strictly healthy) but I would like to share what I came up with for my role as marketer, and more specifically, marketing manager.

If I wanted to be more consultant-y, I’d probably call it my Permanent Marketing Manifesto. But really I just call it “the stuff I need to work on.” I pledge to:

1. Be more honest about my limits. Like most high-energy marketing guys, I get geeked on just about everything. If I don’t watch it, I’ll raise my hand for thirteen new assignments at every meeting, bringing the weekly total to something like three hundred thousand more commitments than I can possibly handle.

So, my first non-resolution is to be more honest with myself and others about the number of hours in the day — and not take on every single thing that sounds cool or useful. Around here, that means taking myself out of the writing pool more often, delegating responsibly, and not frittering away my time on the least important activities. Yes, I’m talking to you, jQuery tutorial videos. There are smarter people than me for that job.

2. Only measure what I need to manage. Net return, profit margin, return on capital, mobile visitors, cost per impression — there a hundreds of ways to look at business, engagement, transaction, and trend data, and even more ways to get upside down with the data-to-action ratio. Starting today, I resolve to collect only those metrics that are important, and — this is the tricky part — I know I can and will manage. Do I really need to know what city came in ninth place in the overall traffic stats? Or what browser they were using? If I don’t, then I’m not going to measure it. Am I really going to apply effort to improving the non-bounce traffic on If I am (and I am), then that’s what I’m going to concentrate on. For our clients, I’m going to spend less time looking at all the numbers, and more time presenting clear analysis and recommendations for improvement.

3. Get my story straight(er). No matter how smart we get about driving traffic to websites, or how much we spend on television or radio spots, it’s all for nothing if our readers roll their eyes when they get to our site. That’s why we say it all comes down to what you actually say to people about what you do.

It’s easier to tell longer stories than better stories. Easier for you — harder on that audience you’re trying to engage.

So I resolve to look for ways to improve the story we tell about ourselves and our business, and resist the temptation to add pages and chapters to it. A corollary here: I’ll look for more opportunities to talk about our clients and problems we’ve solved for them. Because it really isn’t about us — as interested as I am in us — it’s about what we can do for the next guy.

4. Try to be better company. This year, I resolve to improve my relationships across the board. More specifically, I want to be a better hang: be more fun, ask more questions, be more generous with my time and stingier with my opinions. This last one may be a long-long-term goal, but I’m going to try.

5. Get smarter (without getting smart-aleckier). In any technical field, you can spend a lot of time getting smarter — in my case, I’m always trying to get smarter about marketing techniques, search engines, pay-per-click campaigns, and building web communities that thrive. I love that stuff, really. Throw in a career-long interest in user experience, usability, and user-centered design, and I’m basically a walking encyclopedia of stuff I want to talk about. I’m probably not going to downgrade my commitment to getting smarter, but I do resolve to weed the trendy buzzwords out of my conversation, and I’ll try — honestly — to wait until I’m asked to launch into my great-content-solves-all-problems diatribe.

6. Admit I have a chronic marketing ADD condition. Know how many marketing consultants it takes to launch a pay-per-click campaign? Hey, did you try the egg salad? Is that a new app for you iPhone? My kids use Twitter more than email.

You get the point. I hereby resolve to work harder at staying on task; on working on one thing long enough to execute, measure, and succeed; of not letting my attention be fractured by the million shiny things on the Web. Or on my desk. Or out the window there. More specifically, I won’t stock up on business books, read the first chapter, then send out long emails about how our business model is changing, effective Monday.

It won’t be easy, but it will save the people around me a lot of time and trouble (while giving me more time to focus on my Telecaster list).

That’s it. Six resolutions, for this year, next year, and always. Wait, no. Seven. I also resolve to go out on a limb at least once a quarter: Take on some godforsaken project, some labor of love, a totally unreal expectation, or charity case. Because if you’re not doing some good, having fun and taking risks as a marketer, how can you possibly expect anyone else to do the same?