[Originally published in The Ascent, one of Medium.com’s top business publications.]

Focusing Your Marketing Efforts

There are so many skills you need to have excel at marketing today. However, I can narrow it down to the top three. This is my perspective from being a marketing director. I’ve worked with many global and small clients for ten years that taught me a lot.

The most marketing important skills are: selling, storytelling, and native platform mastery. The first two go together, but deserve their own spot on this list.

These are broad skills of course. It might be more helpful to tell someone to learn SEO and content marketing. However, these three skills should steer your marketing education in a direction where you’ll find the exact skills you need to master in terms of your niche and interests.

I. SELLING

First, let’s get things straight about marketing and being a profitable company. Nothing happens until a sale is made. Period. That requires selling in all its forms. I’m not talking distribution channels or platforms here. I’m talking about words. Copywriting, cold calls, ads, emails, webinars — all those words sell stuff. Images are great, but they’re secondary to the words.

To markt well, you have to take action and know three things: how to build a brand, manage people, and get clients. The latter is the hardest by far.

I’ve seen people who had the perfect website and excellent copywriting, but they were paralyzed when it came to making a sale. It was like pulling teeth to cold call or assertively drum up business. Sure there is always paid advertising to avoid these tasks. But on a shoestring budget, it really requires entrepreneurs to pick up the phone, write an email, or hit the pavement. It’s 100% pure salesmanship that pays the bills.

Wait, don’t you have to have an awesome team and product? Eventually you do. You should have a good team and good products for sure. But you don’t need to be an award-winning agency to get big clients. You just need someone to know, like, and trust you enough to be a client. So selling is the #1 skill set you need to have.

If you can’t sell, you probably shouldn’t be an entrepreneur or in marketing. You’ll always be selling your products to customers, selling your ideas to investors, or selling yourself to win deals. This is one aspect founders should never outsource 100% in the beginning.

Oddly, I’ve seen people over tears because they just could not pull the trigger on making a simple sales call. They would rather do non-essential tasks than to be put in a sales situation. They think sales is slimy or uncool. However, done ethically it’s none of those things. Instead, it’s the lifeblood of your company.

II. STORYTELLING

Marketing and advertising follows a classic sequence: AIDA. That stands forAttention, Interest, Desire, and Action. You get people’s attention by any one of the fives senses, but usually it’s visual. When we see an attractive person or a cool object, boom: they’ve got our attention. Sometimes that’s words, but not always.

Next, more words — usually through story — bring us in. That’s building interest. Where the story really takes a twist, causes conflict, or arouses the audience is in the desire phase. That’s usually words too, but again this could all be a video or picture show up to now. Lastly, an action is either implied to leave a brand impression or directly stated (usually the latter — buy now!).

Now this process is almost always words! That’s the pattern: words, words, words! It doesn’t matter what language or what you’r selling. It’s all about the word, but they have to be put together in the right way. That way is through story.

Neuroscientists will tell you that there is a proven science behind the incredible effect of storytelling. Dr. Paul Zak and his team have discovered that oxytocin is synthesized in the brain by a narrative trigger.

Oxytocin influences our sense of nurturing, giving, and understanding. It pushes down our walls and in certain situations, it leaves us susceptible to persuasion.

In business, you’ll hear terms like “the customer narrative”, “the customer journey”, or “brand stories”. In the effort to understand the customer experience and improve their buying path, story is an effective tool. And if you can get into the ideal customer’s mind and solve their problem, you’ll actually help them complete their journey. Their story will end in triumph.

The company who can leverage storytelling in their marketing will do well. You can have effective marketing and crappy products, but you can’t have crappy marketing and effective products.

I’ve seen mediocre products with outstanding marketing rake in millions. I’ve also seen brilliant products go undiscovered and eventually lead to a company shutting down.

Was it all due to bad marketing? In some cases, yes. It makes me wonder if proper storytelling could have saved them. Why? Because more customers equals more revenue. And money solves nearly everything in a business. With money, you can always hire smarter people and make better products.

If you tell the right story to the right people, you get their attention to sell them. With that, the company and the customer stories end well.

III. NATIVE PLATFORM MASTERY

A marketing platform is any structure or channel that can be used to launch a message. A platform is essentially a marketer’s soapbox or podium. Of course, social media is one platform splintered into dozens of core brands: Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Quora, Twitter, etc). Television, radio, podcasts, webinars, blogs, and magazines are a few other familiar platforms.

Native platform mastery is a broad skill set to possess. It means that you must tell stories that are native to that specific platform. As Gary Vaynerchuk put it in Inc Magazine:

Every platform is like a different meeting, a different room, and you have to be cool . . . it’s important to figure out how to natively tell stories on each platform and which visuals and copy will enhance the likelihood of a given post’s going viral. [emphasis mine]

For example, connecting with people and telling stories on Twitter requires you to quickly broadcast the start of a story. People love to throw out a short headline or alluring comment. Using trending hashtags helps you attract people looking for certain stories. All these things are native to that platform. You have to understand what type of content dominates the platform and how to showcase it to the audience.

It’s a different setup on Quora. Hashtags aren’t used, and videos are used sparingly or not at all. Quora is a learner and thinker’s platform. What’s customary and native is shorter authoritative answers. Writing longer pieces (like this one), is not recommended.

Since there are so many platforms, marketers should just focus on a few that their customer base uses the most. Most the time, that’s Facebook. Once you learn how to bring people into the story leveraging a platform, you can send them to your website or store where the customer journey really begins.

Marketing Trends

Take a look what’s happening in marketing right now. Digital media has barely gotten its feet wet. It has a long future as it integrates with traditional marketing tactics. In the past, businesses might have been skeptical about using their marketing budget for video or mobile marketing campaigns. Today, it’s the standard procedure.

Looking at this graph, you can see a trend. Email, social media, and digital marketing dominate. While digital platforms are increasing, traditional platforms are decreasing. We’ve known this for years, but it explains the explosive growth of digital marketing agencies. What’s the other pattern here? Everything is word-based and the marketing is augmented through native platforms, storytelling, and selling.

What To Look For

Running a marketing campaign can be a complicated endeavor. Finding the right team for the right job can be daunting. The following is an internal checklist to ask your people or a marketing specialist to create the best marketing results for your company:

  • Can you manage a virtual team and deliver value to our customers on time?
  • Can you get our website to page one in Google?
  • Can you write great web content that users love?
  • Can you manage our Facebook ads account and get more people to click on my ad?
  • Can you create an email sequence that delivers values and occasionally promotes our best-selling products?
  • Can you make online data-driven decisions to help our clients acquire more customers?
  • Can you create a digital sales funnel that matches the buyer’s journey?
  • Can you consistently deliver high quality leads to us?

These are a few skills that companies value when they hire a digital marketing agency. It’s hard to get that in a college course. Mainly it comes from experience by testing, experimenting, and practicing it in real life. The key is to be good at Selling, Storytelling, and Native Platforms.

Get More Leads

Hi, I’m Peyton. I’m an entrepreneur and digital marketing expert. I have a team whose specialty is using storytelling and digital platforms to connect companies to their tribe. The result is massive traffic and sales. To receive a free strategy session, go to https://arliepeyton.com/begin. Limited spots!

[This story is published in The Ascent, one of Medium’s top entrepreneurship publications.]

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PEYTON

Hi, I'm Peyton. I help people and businesses accelerate their success through story. I'm based in Portland, Oregon — a magical and mysterious city enveloped by a Douglas Fir rainforest.
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