It’s not everything—it’s this one thing

Everything is overwhelming. Writing the copy for your new website. Your social media marketing. Your latent guilt over not yet joining TikTok, and your growing worry that everyone else is moving faster than you are.

Everything is overwhelming.

Writing the copy for your new website. Your social media marketing. Your latent guilt over not yet joining TikTok, and your growing worry that everyone else is moving faster than you are.

You’ve got that upcoming tradeshow, or that looming advertising deadline. You need to write that funding application, and there are eighteen different marketing courses you’re considering signing up for.

You’re aware of everything you feel like you should be doing, but you’re never sure what you actually need to do. Or what will actually help.

Here’s the bad news: marketing will never get less complicated or less busy.

There will never be a time when you have fewer decisions to make, and there will never be a magic bullet—in the form of a tool, a platform, an app, or an agency—that can completely remove the burden of making those decisions.

Hell, if you’re counting on there soon being an AI tool that will suddenly make all your marketing decisions for you, just wait until you’re faced with the decision over which AI tool to use.

But all of these problems only feel like they’re unique. They only feel like they’re stacking, when in reality they’re just different flavours of the same problem:

You don’t know who you’re marketing to.

You don’t know what they want, why they might find you uniquely valuable, and what they need to hear from you to realize you’re their best option.

If you did, writing your website copy would be so much simpler. Knowing whether you should be on TikTok would be easier to answer, and what to post if you were would come so much more naturally.

It’s not that you don’t know what to do—it’s that you don’t know what to say, and to whom to say it. When to say it, and where.

And here’s the even worse news: if you don’t get clear on your marketing position, you might never find the right answers. You’ll have to try everything, randomly, perhaps eventually stumbling on the right answer accidentally. But you’ll change course too early, on to the next thing, before it starts to pay off anyway.

But here’s the real rub: you already knew this.

Before you started reading this newsletter today, you already knew that you hadn’t yet clearly identified your best customers or clients. You already knew that if you had a clear vision of who you were talking to, and why they valued what you do for them, that making your marketing would be simpler—or at least more fun.

You know you need a strategy, a simpler framework for making marketing decisions.

You know you can’t try to please everyone, and you need to focus.

You know that what got you where you are today won’t get you where you want to be tomorrow.

You know that the status quo can’t last, and that you’ve got to change.

So why haven’t you done it yet?

Why haven’t you identified your best customers, and what they value most?

Why haven’t you structured your business around what you’re best at, and what you love doing most, so that you can get better and better and consistently raise your value?

Why haven’t you identified where your best customers go for information about your type of products or services, and what you can say to them there, at their moment of greatest need, so that they’ll want to work with you above all their other options?

Because that was never the real problem either.

The real problem is not that you don’t understand what your customers want.

It’s that you don’t understand what you want.

You don’t have a clear picture in your mind, or written down in front of you, of the company you want to build.

You’ve been so fixated on doing what you think you’re supposed to do, what everyone else is doing, what everyone is telling you to do, that you haven’t taken the time to figure out what you want to do.

Remember, strategy is simply the structure to work efficiently to get what you want.

So if you don’t know what you want, you’re getting more and more efficient at the wrong things. You’re wrapping a structure around a goal that isn’t even yours.

I believe that most things that are true in life are also true in business.

Because you’re a person, a human being, not a robot or an automation or an app. You’re a thinking, breathing, living, loving, suffering person—and what motivates you in life will motivate you in business.

And what makes you miserable and regretful in life will make you miserable and regretful in business.

And so I believe that our number one mission should be avoiding the most common mistakes people make. Fools, as the saying goes, learn from their own mistakes. Wise people learn from the mistakes of others.

Suffering is only a virtue if it serves a purpose, and becoming the millionth person to confirm a universal truth is not helpful to anyone.

So here’s the thing: The number one regret of the dying—the number one, above anything else—is this:

“I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Read that again, and then tell me there should be any priority higher than not doing that.

Ask yourself: Am I building the business I truly want to run, or am I following a path someone else designed for me?

Are you working toward building the business of your dreams, or the business of someone else’s dreams?

Are you finding it so difficult to narrow your focus, identify your best customers, and get better at what you love doing most, because you’re building a business that’s for someone else, instead of for yourself?

Every piece of business content you see is trying to sell you on a vision of the world, a perspective.

The “hustle harder” crowd on LinkedIn are trying to sell you on the idea that success is the result of breakneck pace, probably to then sell you a piece of software to manage all the unnecessary tasks, burdens, and timelines you’ve created for yourself.

If you don’t want to be constantly busy, constantly hustling at an unsustainably frenetic pace, you need to build a business that doesn’t require you to.

The “look at how much money I have now that I’ve sold my business” folks on Instagram are trying to sell you on the idea that they’re happy. Because if you believe it, they might be able to, too. When the truth is that, as Dan Andrews points out in Before the Exit, “a full 50% of those who exit their businesses are dissatisfied with the way the transaction went down. And not only are they a little miffed, they’re ‘miserable.’”

If you don’t want to take on all the stress, responsibility, and constraints of venture capital money and expectations, you need to design a business that can grow from profit, instead of futilely attempting to grow into it.

The “you need to post on social media five times a day” crowd in the trade magazines are trying to sell you social media management software or services, but you probably already knew that.

So if you don’t want to spend all day on Twitter, LinkedIn, or TikTok (or spend all your money paying someone else to), attempting to please a faceless algorithm so you can address your customers, don’t buy a marketing plan that makes you.

And, I’ll admit, I’m trying to sell you on the idea that if you don’t actually want what you’re working toward, you’ll never get there.

I’m trying to sell you on the concept that if something isn’t sustainable, it will eventually falter and fail.

And I’m trying to sell you on the fact that you’ll never stick with something for the long-term if you don’t like doing it. You’ll at least never be able to do your best.

And getting what you want requires your very best. Which requires knowing what it is you actually want.

So ask yourself these questions:

What do I like doing?

Which of my daily tasks makes me feel smart, competent, and credible?

What do I find easy that other people find hard?

What do I find fun that other people find boring?

What compliments do I get from my customers or clients that most surprise me?

When I feel most confident and skilled, what am I doing?

Those are the things you do without thinking, that you do naturally, that no one else in the world can do as well as you can—because you like it more.

And that’s, at the end of the day, what you want to do.

Once you know what it is you want, or at least what you want more than what you’re doing now, the next step is to build a strategy to get there.

Which means creating a structure to work efficiently, every single day, to get closer to it.

Your marketing challenges aren’t complicated. They’re painfully simple.

All you need to do is figure out what you want to do.

Figure out who wants that from you.

And figure out what to say to them to make them realize you’re the very best provider of what it is they value most.

It’s every bit as simple as it sounds, and every bit as difficult.

So if you’d like help to do just that, get in touch, because, like I said above, I’m trying to sell you something, too.

But what I’m selling might just be something you actually need:

The strategy to get you what you want.