The word “practice” can bring up negative imagery.
Did you play sports as a child? If so, you had to repeat the same motions over and over when you just wanted to play basketball, baseball, football, or something else.
Same with a musical instrument. Musicians spend hours upon hours going over the name notes (don’t hate me, I am not sure the right terminology) when they likely want to play a show.
Practice takes time, energy, and many people give up on their dreams of athletics, music, and more because they won’t practice.
Now let’s take this to the professional world. Practice is essential for high-level work and especially crucial with marketing.
The intention of this article is to expand your idea of practice and give some tips to enjoy the process.
Why is Practice Important?
There is a debate on Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule.” Basically, Gladwell asserts, it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become world class. This could be athletics, music, a profession, all the way down to a single game, for example, chess.
If interested, there are many articles and studies against and for Gladwell’s “rule.” Yet, as a former anthropologist, my training is in the combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis. There is plenty of data out there which you can explore, for this article, let’s look more at the human factor.
You have performed repetitive tasks in your life before. The range of items is vast, it could be cooking a specific dish, analyzing a balance sheet, driving, or even swaddling a baby (BTW I am the master of the swaddle).
If you are good at any of the repetitive items, how did you become skilled? It was likely in practice for an obvious reason.
During practice, you have the opportunity to experiment. Think about cooking, when you are making a dish for yourself, you are essentially practicing to prepare that dish for family, friends, or others. Before serving many people, you can try new combinations because you are only cooking for yourself. There was a time I loved to cook and would try various combinations, some of them were . . . awful.
Yet, it was only practice. Mistakes are inevitable, and ideally not repeated for more important occasions. Don’t experiment with new recipes for Thanksgiving.
Let’s break it down to the most basic level. Practice is where you can be creative and try new techniques with few negative repercussions.
How Does Practice Relate to Marketing?
In my business, Elisha Consulting, our slogan is “Marketing at the Intersection of Creativity and Analytics.” Daily, we look at analytics to improve UX, SEO, when to release content, copy, and website traffic. Yet, marketing is fundamentally a field which demands creativity.
Great marketing is visceral, and at times, it’s impossible to know if a campaign will resonate. Think logically, the best campaigns are generally unique which means there are not many previous data points to indicate if a distinct campaign will work.
The creative component of marketing requires practice. Writing, design, web development, and campaign strategy are enhanced when practice occurs before launch.
- Want to try a new design style, practice it first.
- Have an idea for a website layout, practice the code first.
- Think you are a good writer and ready to release content on behalf of a company/client, practice on your own blog first.
This holds especially true for contractors, freelancers, and agencies. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I “figure out” while working on projects, yet it’s because I practice that I can see patterns in problems and find solutions.
- Practicing in a coding bootcamp helps with newsletter designs.
- Blogging on your own gives ideas for a company campaign.
- Designing posters improves corporate-style collateral.
If you are a marketer, you know the value of practice but it might not be a weekly routine. I speak from experience. The idea of practice hit me hard when I recently watched Abstract: The Art of Design on Netflix. Highly recommended for anyone in a creative field.
Christopher Niemann is highlighted in the first episode. He is one of the great illustrators of our time. Let’s put it this way, he has done over 20 New Yorker covers. For illustrators, just one cover is a career achievement.
In the episode, Niemann says something in passing which made me pause. To paraphrase, he mentioned he doesn’t experiment with client work. Instead, he experiments on his own time and once he has a new technique he uses it with clients.
The idea is beautiful in its simplicity. Specifically, for marketing contractors, freelancers, and agencies, it is paramount for you to develop skills on your own before charging customers. Yes, I know the phrase, “say yes and figure it out.” I do that frequently, but not when it comes to large-scale items.
Practice on your own before you commit to high-end projects which cost companies large sums of money. Your reputation as a marketer is of the utmost importance and it only takes a few times under-delivering to ruin years of work.
Now we know, practice is important, especially for marketers. Below are some tips to make practice enjoyable.
Practice is Where Fun Happens
I am not sure if practicing accounting can be fun, but with marketing, it is a joy. Practice is when you can break free of branding guides, take creative control, write for the sake a writing, and do things which only you will witness.
The beauty of marketing is that you can always be in practice mode. Recently, a friend asked how many hours I work a week. As a true MBA grad, I dodged the question, and replied, “it depends on what you call work.”
- At a museum, I am examining design elements. Fun story, I designed an entire campaign for a client based off of inspiration from a museum while in Paris.
- I have lost count of how many times my wife and I watched a movie, and I leaned over to say “I love . . . that typeface.”
- Reading books is a time to see new writing techniques and how the author leads to a conclusion.
As a marketer, your mindset should be of continual practice. I know the mindset can be a little abstract, so how about some actionable steps for marketers.
Create something daily.
I am more of a marketing generalist as my business works with SMBs and requires I have multiple skills. If you are a specialist, focus on your craft. Yet, the point is to create daily. Each day I write, code, or design something. Many of the creations are only seen by me. Some become blogs and others become templates for future projects.
The key is to do something daily and don’t constrain yourself. My design style is minimalistic, yet when I practice I go to extremes. One thing I designed a few weeks ago looked like CD cover art for a punk band. It was fun and I learned some new techniques.
Don’t beat yourself up if your daily creations are bad, they will be bad as you are practicing. I tried something new in Illustrator yesterday . . . it is an abomination and will never see the light of day. It has been hidden deep in an “idea” folder on my computer.
Visit real places.
I get stuck in ruts where I am behind a monitor 10-12 hours a day. But life does not happen behind a monitor. It happens in real places.
Go to a museum, art gallery, park, or hip restaurant. Real example, I was at a restaurant and admired the menu design. Yes, the menu design. It was beautiful. The colors flowed, each burger had it’s own typeface to describe it, the lettering was raised on a matte finish, it was simply beautiful. Instantly, I had ideas flowing through my head of using a similar style.
Find places which stimulate your creativity.
Enroll in a course.
It could be online or in-person, yet there is a lot of value in continuing education. Also, with all the different platforms there is no excuse to say courses are expensive or hard to find.
My team and I have launched many websites, and you know what. I am currently in an online coding bootcamp. Why? I want to learn and try new lines of code.
The options are endless when it comes to marketing classes and will improve your overall abilities. Let’s be honest, there might not be another field which moves as fast as marketing. Most generalists are expected to know social media strategy, how to write content, web development, SEO, design, and the list continues. Enroll in a course and you will confidently say you can do everything needed to be a marketing expert.
Why Are You Still Reading, Go Practice!
Wait, don’t leave yet, I need to throw in a call to action (CTA) or I will be thrown out of the marketing club . . . I may have said too much.
- Practice is essential for all professions.
- Marketers, especially, need to practice to improve creative techniques.
- Re-think practice as something fun and create daily, go to real places, and continue to learn.