I’ve been lucky to work with the co-founder of an Internet marketing consultancy that hit the Inc. 500 this year. Five years ago, he ran a zero-dollar company with two buddies. Now, the company does tens of millions of dollars in revenue.
He took some time to share his personal keys to success—on one condition: His name can’t be in this piece. That might sound strange, but if you meet him, you’ll notice that he’s super-humble and down to earth.
So, despite the air of secrecy, let’s take a look at his eight keys to business success.
1. Minimize Meetings
Meetings are kind of like men’s dress socks. Everyone who sees them agrees that they look great, but men who have worn them know that they’re fairly useless. How so?
- They can’t handle sweat.
- They get holes super-quick.
- Many alternatives are much more functional.
2. Be Relentlessly Optimistic
Once, I launched a marketing campaign that got some pushback, and my teammates fielded some nasty phone calls for me. I pulled the plug and sat there glumly. Our team leader looked at me with an encouraging smile, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “We’ll survive.” Then he turned around, rolled up his sleeves, and got right back to work.
When the going gets tough—and it always does—the entire team looks to the leader. If the leader admits defeat, then the team tends to mirror that attitude. If the leader can still see an opportunity and pursues it, then the team tends to follow suit.
3. Offer Sales Training
The co-founder of an Inc. 500 company definitely believes in this key because he’s now helping build a company that makes Web-based sales training applications.
Why get sales training?
- It teaches you to overcome objections, whether from fellow teammates, managers, clients, or project stakeholders. You get the tools to push through red tape and get things done.
- It teaches you to negotiate everything from contract details and project scope to action plans and budget.
- It teaches you the world of sales, which helps you collaborate with salespeople. At some sales-driven organizations, marketing wins if it sets salespeople up for success.
4. Be Willing to Fail
“Should we make the logo bigger?”
“Should we change the call to action?”
“Should we adjust our offer?”
Sometimes, the only way to figure out what works is to give it a go. Yes, that means we might fail. Live with it.
Fear of failure tends to produce analysis paralysis, which hampers progress. A fast-growing organization can’t afford to spend five meetings debating the size of the logo. My colleague is always one of the first to interrupt a debate like that and say, “Just go and test three variations. The data will speak for itself.”
Overcoming fear of failure enables an organization to do more and discover the magic formula sooner.
4. Learn Quickly
In the world of Internet marketing, everything can get turned upside down when Google updates its search-engine algorithm. (If I recall correctly, Google updated its algorithm more than 500 times last year.)
So, when Google’s update drops your client’s website from rank #1 to rank #20, what do you do?
Learn how to get the site back to #1. Quickly.
Textbooks can’t keep up with Google’s changes. So what do you do? The best Internet marketers are extremely resourceful and know where they can find reliable advice. They also own a bunch of websites, so they can test out different tactics and then only apply the tactics that work to their clients’ websites. They learn by blazing trails as they go.
5. Balance Multiple Plates
If you work on a team balancing multiple projects, your day might start like this.
8:00am: Discuss budget for Project A with CFO
9:00am: Do an analyst call for Project B
10:00am: Update client on progress for Project C
11:00am: Lunch appointment to pitch prospect on Project D
2:00pm: Gather requirements for Project A
You get the point.
The best marketers can keep details straight when switching from one project to the next. I use a system involving a stack of index cards to stay focused. This system is inspired by agile programming, a way of work that my engineering teammates love. Here’s what I do every morning.
- I write a single task on each card, being careful to break up larger tasks into smaller tasks spread out across multiple cards.
- I estimate the amount of time each task will demand. I write that onto the card. (To produce more accurate estimates, I clock myself throughout the day from task to task, and I write notes when I complete a task and reset the clock when I switch tasks. Having done this for three years, I now know that I need between 2 to 3 hours to write copy for a single webpage. I know I need between 4 to 5 hours to write a quality post for MarketingProfs.)
- I gather leftover cards and today’s cards, lay them out on a table, and ask myself this question, “What can I do today that only I can do to best move this business forward?”
- I stack the cards with the most impactful card at the top, the second most impactful card second from the top, and so on.
- I know I only have so many hours a day, so I set aside cards I won’t have time to tackle into a separate pile.
- I buckle down and work through my stack. I fold completed cards down the middle and stack them up on my desk.
Competition motivates me, and this system works for me because I feel like I’m racing against the clock to finish my stack. It’s fun!
6. Be Willing to Invest in Your Health
There’s a widespread notion that getting fit means doing more. Do more exercise. Drink more water. Cook more healthy meals.
But a large part of getting fit might mean stopping more. Stop drinking nine coffees. Stop smoking. Stop eating unbalanced meals.
You’ll sleep better. You’ll perform better. You’ll take fewer sick days, which means you have more time to get things done. And when you need to burn the midnight oil, you’ll recover faster.
My uber-teammate works out during lunch, occasionally bikes to work, and plays basketball most mornings. He has found fun exercises that work with his schedule. And that’s how he’s able to stick to his routine—because it’s a routine of scheduled fun.
7. Know Your Business
At the end of the day, marketing needs to bring in cold hard cash. That’s what most businesspeople care about—keeping their business afloat by ensuring that more money is coming in than money is going out.
To align marketing with business objectives, marketers need to understand the world of business. Part of that is understanding what the following terms mean.
- Net profit
- Gross profit
- Bottom line
- Customer lifetime value
- Net present value
Use this understanding to help you build a stronger business case the next time you’re searching for budget. You know you’ve nailed it when businesspeople look at your presentation and understand that it’s a “no-brainer” to invest in your marketing.
Business acumen will also help you answer this all-important question for prioritizing your day’s task list: What can I do today that only I can do to best move this business forward?
8. Be a Creative Thinker
Every marketer has heard the term “thinking outside the box.” Then why don’t all marketers carry a notebook wherever they go?
Those folks who embrace creativity know that ideas come wherever, whenever. When inspiration strikes, jot it down. Or record it on your smartphone.
Sometimes, the most creative people are just the ones who are the most diligent at recording their ideas. My super-successful teammate carries a Moleskine notebook everywhere. I use Evernote on my iPhone. Every marketing plan I’ve ever written is stored inside Evernote. So is every marketing idea I’ve had in the past three years. And every notable click-through percentage and conversion rate is stored next to the piece of copy that pulled such performance. With Evernote, I can search through all these ideas wherever, whenever.
What else would you add to this list?
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Successful Woman)