As a marketer, I’m sure you’ve heard it at some point or another: people ages 18-34 are the “key demographic.”
They’re the movers-and-shakers. The ones in-the-know. The ones with money to spend. They’re the ones you want to know and love your brand, let alone buy from it.
Well, friends, today is my 30th birthday, my golden birthday, in fact...and, while my lovely brand teammates are going to roll their eyes and hate me for saying this, that means my remaining days of relevance are limited.
Marketing By Nature
Ok, yes, that was a bit of an exaggeration, but after three decades in this skin, I’ve learned that kind of drama is just a part of my brand.
I’ve also learned many other unexpected lessons that have proven to be useful in both my personal life and my life as a marketer and content professional.
You see, I’ve only been in this industry professionally for about nine years, but, in that time, I’ve discovered many parallels between being a good marketer and, honestly, just being a good person.
In a nutshell, both come down to:
Being able to understand and communicate with other people well
Accepting your authentic self
If you can master these areas, you’ll likely not only be a happier person but a happier marketer -- but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’ve spent the past four years of my work life (and frankly some pretty formidable years of my twenties) helping my teammates at IMPACT, contributors, and sponsors, learn how to better hone their voices and share their stories.
I’ve always encouraged them to share lessons big and small from their experiences, but I haven’t always had the chance to practice what I preach.
So, indulge me for a few minutes.
Taking a page out of Taylor Swift’s book (minus those chapters about Kanye and John Mayer), here are 30 lessons I learned about marketing and life before turning 30. Some of these may seem obvious or insignificant, but that doesn’t make them any less true or worth repeating.
1. Pretty Doesn’t Mean Perfect.
Whether you’re talking fashion or marketing creative, style does not top function. A design needs to always solve a problem and achieve the goal you set for it.
Just like an ugly hat can still keep your head warm, an ugly website or graphic can still deliver results. Just look at Craig’s List or Reddit. They may not be the most impressive or sophisticated designs, but no one can argue with their effectiveness.
2. Don’t Do It Just Because It’s Trendy.
This is another lesson about personal style I’ve learned over the years, but it rings undeniably true for marketers as well.
Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
Every person and business is different circumstances, needs, and goals to consider. So, before you start a new strategy, tool, (or that pair of skinny jeans, for that matter), consider what you’re trying to achieve and your audience.
If the trend won’t move you towards achieving what you want (or make you look your best), skip it.
3. People Don’t Always Know What They Want.
Despite what they may think, people don’t always know what they truly want. They’ll claim one thing, then do another, and that’s no different when it comes to buying behavior.
Time and time again, we’ve surveyed people to ask them their preferences, only to see their behavior not echo it. There are so many unconscious things that motivate us as people, especially in the heat of a moment.
That being said, trust actions and user testing. Action speaks louder than words.
4. But You Still Need to Listen.
There are times to use hard data and cater to people’s unconscious behavior and there are times to take their word.
Simply put, don’t manipulate people.
In many instances, it’s better to give people what they know they want, so they know you are listening and care about what they think. People just want to be heard. Showing they were builds trust and, in turn, a better relationship.
That being said…
5. Don’t Take Trust for Granted.
Once you’ve earned someone’s trust, don’t abuse it. Without trust, no one will want to work, buy, or likely even be around you.
It’s that simple.
6. Nothing Lasts Forever.
This is something I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with as I lost some loved ones in recent years, but professionally, it’s just a fact.
IMPACT Partner, keynote speaker, author, and all-around amazing guy, Marcus Sheridan preaches that when it comes to content and marketing, the principles behind why we do things will never change, but the how (tools, practices, etc.) always will.
That being said, no content you create is likely ever truly evergreen. It will always need to be updated with new data, examples, etc to showcase how things are done right now. Same goes for your website.
7. Stand for Something.
Modern buyers gravitate towards brands that stand for a cause and share the same values and concerns they do. It helps guide their choices and makes them feel a little bit better about their purchase, knowing they supported a good cause.
Strong values and knowing what you believe obviously also guide you in your personal life. They can help you find the right job or friends and maybe even help them find you.
8. Diversity & Inclusion Are Strengths.
What do I stand for? More than anything, diversity, inclusion, and representation. In most areas of my life, I have always been a minority, an outlier even… but I’ve always tried to remember that this isn’t a bad thing.
Diversity and inclusion whether it is in gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or otherwise, are always a good idea.
They bring more perspectives and ideas to the table and better enable you to reach a wider audience. They make people feel welcome.
Many may not want this (as I experience first hand) or even shy away from addressing it, but as marketers and human beings, our goal is to connect with other people. The best way to do that is by making them feel like they belong.
9. Loyalty Is Priceless.
Finding people who will stand by you or your brand through anything are rare. When you do, treasure them and treat them right.
10. It’s OK to Show Your Flaws.
We live in a society where everything and everyone is so airbrushed, finding things that aren’t is a breath of fresh air.
If the plastic bag of plastic bags in my work locker doesn’t tell you, I’m big on resourcefulness. Why waste money and time when you have something you can reuse?
The same can be said about content. Thinking about trying video or Pinterest? Don’t start from scratch. Take some of your best performing existing content and reimage it for the medium and audience.
13. Don’t Just Be a Yes (Wo)Man.
As William Wrigley Jr. once said, if two men agree, one of them is unnecessary.
In other words, differing opinions and points of view are important. Don’t be afraid to disagree if you have practical reasons to. Speak up!
14. Be Honest.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. Lying or knowingly misspeaking about what you believe or want will never result in a good outcome long term.
15. Technology Isn’t Foolproof.
My entire job, like many of yours I’m sure, lies behind a computer screen. And while technology can make life significantly easier and more convenient, it isn’t foolproof.
When the internet is down, it’s like all the cages were left open at the zoo around here! Plan accordingly.
16. Meeting People In Person Still Matters.
Similarly, meeting people virtually is easier than ever thanks to technology, but it still can’t top gathering in person.
The experience of shaking someone’s hand, giving them a hug, or being able to share space with them is a whole different type of bonding. So, go to events. If you work remotely, visit your office. This real-life face time is unmatched.
17. There’s a Time to Be Clever And There’s a Time to Be Clear.
I’m a writer; wordplay is my jam -- but you need to know when it is appropriate.
When it comes to communication, never sacrifice the clarity of your message just to sound clever. It doesn’t matter how great what you’re saying is if no one can understand it.
18. The Law of Diminishing Returns Is Real.
A few years ago, we increased our content output expecting increased traffic, but we didn’t see it. Our audience, in fact, told us they couldn’t keep up and numbers plateaued and even dropped.
The fact is there are limits to everything. You can only eat so many cookies. You can only walk so many miles. Markets get saturated. People reach critical mass with how much content they’re able to consume and you need to keep your eye on this.
19. Quality Always Tops Quantity.
Would you rather be in a room with 10 strangers or in a room with two of your best friends? How about publishing 10 terrible articles that get lost in cyberspace or two that you’re proud of and Google ranks on the first page?
In almost every situation, quality is more important than quantity.
20. Free Doesn’t Mean Good.
Don’t get me wrong -- I’m the queen of freebies, but don’t underestimate your audience and think they’ll fill out a form or take anything you give them just because it’s free.
People still want and demand quality, and you should too.
21. Emotion Doesn't Make You Weak.
I was never an emotional person until a little over three years ago. I had never even cried at a movie, but my world came crashing down when my cousin passed away unexpectedly and the pain seeped into every aspect of my life.
I cried more than I’ve ever cried in my life and in front of colleagues I’d never want to see my weakness -- but that’s the thing. Over time, I’ve begun to learn it’s not a weakness.
Emotion is human.
Being able to show, capture, understand, and express real emotion in way that can touch others is a powerful skill as a marketer and a person. In both cases, it makes people feel closer to you; it helps bond them to you and it shows them you understand them on a deeper level.
22. It's OK to Get Personal.
Again, people want to be around and do business with other people. When you get personal and are vulnerable about your experiences, you are more endearing.
23. Forgive Yourself for “Failing.”
Whether it was a relationship or a campaign gone bust, sometimes things don’t go as planned. Actually, things almost never go as planned. Dust yourself off and try again. You only failed if you didn’t learn anything from it.
Just like you wouldn’t propose after a first date when someone is just getting to know you, don’t go in for the hard sell after a first meeting.
In neither of these situations is the person likely looking to seal the deal, so slow it down.
25. Create Good Memories.
People love to talk about “the good times.” As a brand, you should be creating good memories like these for your buyers and as a person, do it for your soul.
26. You Can’t Make Everyone Happy.
There’s always going to be a critic or someone who disagrees with what you do or say so don’t set out to try to make everyone happy. Focus on those who actually matter -- your audience; your loved ones.
27. Be Yourself.
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but it also means that you’re just one of many. Embrace what makes you or your brand unique and different or you’ll get lost in the crowd.
Plus, people can always sense when you’re trying to be something you’re not and nothing is a bigger turn-off.
28. Take Risks.
Risks can be scary, but only because they can be life-changing. So, take the leap. I’m not saying be reckless, but if an opportunity or idea won’t destroy everything you’ve worked for, give it a shot.
If it doesn’t work out, remember #23.
29. Discomfort Is Good.
If a situation makes you uncomfortable, it’s likely just because it’s something you’ve never experienced before. It’s an opportunity to grow and discover. Embrace it.
30. You Never Stop Learning.
Like many of you, when I was growing up, 30 seemed ancient.
When I hit that age, I would be an old woman. I would have seen everything, experienced everything, and learned everything. I would have everything figure out -- but that, obviously, was absurd.
Whether it comes to work or life, there is always something new to be uncovered and improved.
Both digital marketing and life are always changing and I certainly do not know nearly everything about either of them. But I do know that as I keep learning and evolving in both arenas, I will be excited and honored to share my lessons with all of you.
Here’s to officially being thirty, wordy, and thriving.