You can positively unenjoy it

How the right strategy can make your marketing a lot more fun to work on

“You can make people feel guilty enough to do something,” advertising legend Howard Gossage once wrote, “but you can’t make them enjoy it.

As a matter of fact, you can make them positively unenjoy it.”


Many business owners positively unenjoy doing their own marketing.

Marketing tasks get sent to the bottom of the to-do list or reserved for the end of the week, where they sit and wait to be tackled, but often aren’t.

Guilt creeps up and a growing sense of compulsion builds, making them enjoy it even less.

But the solution is not to add more guilt to an existing surplus. Nor is it to strive for more willpower to do something we don’t like doing.

No, the solution is to find a way to like doing our marketing.

“Intrinsic motivation that comes from inspirational beliefs,” say Stavros and Torres, “is much more powerful than extrinsic forces.”

If we’re intrinsically motivated to do our marketing because we like it, we’ll do a lot more of it. And we’ll like it a lot more if it’s clearly working for us—or if it’s at least more obvious whether it’s working or not.

Which means we don’t have a motivation problem—we have a strategy problem.

Perhaps we’ve recently found ourselves following a “do-it-all strategy,” as Roger Martin calls it, “failing to make choices, and making everything a priority.”

Which creates an endless pile of tasks and to-dos.

Or we might be using the “dreams-that-never-come-true strategy,” where we “develop high-level aspirations and mission statements that never get translated into…concrete choices.”

Which means spending our time planning to take action instead of knowing what to do next.

Or we may be using the popular “program-of-the-month strategy…in which all competitors are chasing the same customers, geographies, and segments in the same way.”

Which means spending more on marketing as it becomes less effective.

These strategies are hard to love because they don’t work very well or very long.

Instead, good strategy—the kind we’ll like—has at least these two features, according to Martin:

  1. “An activity system that looks different from any competitor’s system. It means you are attempting to deliver value in a distinctive way.”

  2. “Customers who absolutely adore you, and noncustomers who can’t see why anybody would buy from you. This means you have been choiceful.”

When we’re following the trends, the competition, or a template, we’re not being choiceful. We’re not being distinctive. We’re not differentiated. And so our marketing will always be a struggle to just get something done, rather than to do something we truly believe in.

So to build a choiceful strategy you believe in, first find out what your customers really come to you for—why they buy from you instead of a competitor, an alternative in a different industry, or nothing at all.

Next, make sure you understand who your best customers are, and what they have in common—and the problem in their life or business that prompted them to make a purchase in the first place.

Then, determine the set of activities your business does better than anyone else for those specific customers, based on your unique abilities, experiences, and interests.

Finally, develop a market position that expresses what you do, how you do it, and who you do it for—one that’s truly focused on what you do best, and nothing more.

Your marketing work then becomes creating tactics to reinforce that unique position in the minds of your target audience. It becomes a creative exercise to pick the right way to express your position out of endless options, instead of struggling with what to write in the next social media post.

When our marketing is strategic, and our position is clear, “good selling,” as David Maister says, only “requires giving the client a taste of what it feels like to work together.”

Your priorities will become clearer. What to say will become obvious. Who to target will become second nature. And you’ll be a lot more likely to work on it, because you’ll know it’s working.

Because marketing is easier when we have a strategy we believe in.

It’s more effective when we focus on our position.

And it’s so much more fun when we can see it clearly working, instead of just seeing how much it costs.

As Justin McElroy once wrote, “Learning to appreciate things you don’t initially enjoy is the power to fill the world with stuff you like.”

And developing a choiceful strategy is the power to turn our marketing into work we love.


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Further Reading:
The most important question in strategy.
The irresistible pressure to expand.

If you’re wondering whether you have a strategy problem or a motivation problem, I’d love to chat it out: joelkelly@hey.com