Do less, better

One of the primary benefits of strategy

The ancient philosopher Seneca once wrote, in an essay called On the Shortness of Life, that “certain tasks are not so much great as prolific in producing many other tasks.”

The essay’s general point is that we have plenty of time in our days—in our lives—but we spend too much of it doing things that simply don’t need to be done.

While likely true in much of life, it’s especially true in marketing.

When we don’t know precisely what we’re doing, and why, we end up doing too much out of fear of not doing the right things. We become reactionary, doing a little bit of everything, or what we see others doing.

And we’re never sure it’s safe to stop doing anything, because it might be the one thing that’s working.

Our marketing then becomes a source of dread rather than enthusiasm, and, instead of feeling motivated, we feel compelled.

But management expert Peter Drucker once said, “Don’t make a hundred decisions when one will do.”

In marketing, that one decision is to have a strategy.

Instead of trying everything, a strategy lets us to focus on things that reinforce our market position.

A strategy makes it easier to delegate, because employees have clear direction on why the company does what it does and who it does it for.

And instead of spending money everywhere, a strategy helps us focus where we’re getting results, because we know what to measure and what’s important.

As Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, put it frankly, “The point is to realize that much of what we’re doing is at best a waste of energy.”

But if we stopped trying to do everything, and focused on the fundamental principles, “and pretty much ignored or stopped doing everything else, our lives would be simpler and our results vastly improved.”

So if you want to spend less time on marketing, while making it more effective, it’s time to create a clear, documented strategy.

Start by defining your ideal customers. Pay attention to what you do best and like most, and what you can maintain for the long term. And create a market position that’s clear, credible, and reinforceable in everything you do.

As Marcus Aurelius reminded himself 2000 years ago, “if you seek tranquility, do less.” Or, “more accurately,” he says, “do what’s essential.”


“It brings a double benefit: to do less, better.”