What Hairdryers Have to Do with Your Marketing
Have you ever seen the 1980s Mel Brooks’ movie “Spaceballs”? Judging by the title, you can probably guess it wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. But it does have a scene that has always stuck with me because it’s a funny example of non-essentialism.
In it, the hero Lonestar (Bill Pullman) and his sidekick, Barf (John Candy), are trudging through a melt-the-shoes-off-your-feet desert, lugging the bags of damsel-in-distress Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga). When they’re too exhausted to go any further, they drop the trunks and peek inside at the precious cargo the princess demanded they take along. To their surprise, they find a monstrous hairdryer.
Flabbergasted that he’s wasted his energy carrying an unnecessary and useless accessory, Lonestar confronts the princess: “What’s this? I said take only what you need to survive.”
To this she retorts, “It’s my industrial strength hairdryer, and I can’t live without it!”
Instead of opting for the few vital items she needs to stay alive in the desert, the spoiled princess brings everything: an absurdly heavy trunk, a hairdryer that needs electricity to work, a lacy parasol that does little to block the sun, and two additional bags with who knows what in them. It’s true non-essentialism in action.
If you’ve ever been charged with growing a business, you may have felt that you couldn’t live without certain aspects of your marketing. Maybe you were spending your budget on online advertising with a minimal ROI or a social media site that you couldn’t keep up with. Despite this, you kept trying to execute that aspect because you were personally driven to make it work or had been instructed to pursue it. This is an example of how non-essentialist activities can sabotage your business.
Non-essentialism: Pursuing Everything
So what is non-essentialism? According to author Greg McKeown, author of the book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” it’s the idea that you have to pursue EVERYTHING. Yet when your energy is divided among many different activities, he says, what often ends up happening is you make “only a millimeter of progress in a million different directions.” In other words, you expend a great amount of effort and, in return, get only paltry results.
Essentialism: Less but Better
Essentialism, on the other hand, is based on the German principle “weniger aber besser.” Translated as “less but better,” the idea centers around identifying and acting on only the vital few opportunities and discarding the trivial many.
This is crucial to understand because each of us is limited in the amount of time, energy and resources we have. If we take on too much, we risk failing at our tasks, missing our goals and looking incompetent. In short, our marketing suffers, resulting in fewer customers than expected, lagging sales and meager (if any) growth.
If you invest your time in only the truly essential opportunities, though, you’ll succeed in making notable progress in the areas that matter most. Essentialists understand that they can’t fit everything in. Instead, they willingly make trade-offs that lead to a more focused approach. This lets them put maximum energy into those activities that will truly make a different in their businesses.
Becoming an Essentialist
To transition from being a non-essential marketer to an essential one, start by asking yourself these questions:
• Am I investing in the right activities?
• If I could do only one thing, what would it be?
• What am I truly best at?
• Where can I offer the highest level of contribution?
To help you answer question 1, for example, you may want to analyze your marketing strategies and tactics to see which ones are bringing in the most customers or revenue. Once you’ve identified those with the best results, amp up your activity in those areas and reduce or cut your spending in those that aren’t returning a significant return on your investment.
Let’s say you’ve been spending a sizable amount on Facebook advertising, but with scanty returns because most of your customers come from referrals. In this case, you may want to consider diverting funds from your online advertising to a strong referral program.
The Basics of Effective Marketing
In my experience, effective marketing comes down to this:
• Know what your goals are for your business, so you know what you’re trying to accomplish.
• Find out where your customers hang out, and connect with them there.
• Continually track your marketing to discover what’s working and what’s not.
• Cut your underperforming marketing tactics and devote more time, money and resources to those that are producing
Do this and you’ll begin to market like an essentialist. Sure, you’ll be making progress in only a few select areas, but it will be progress on a grand scale that will boost your business to a higher level.
In the words of author and entrepreneur Richard Koch, “Most of what happens in the universe—our actions, and all other forces, resources, and ideas—has little value and yields little result; on the other hand, a few things work fantastically well and have tremendous impact.”
And that’s something Princess Vespa would agree you can’t live without.