Even marketers need their 10,000 hours of practice to be great


Bob Lefsetz gets it. And I’m not just talking about the music industry but business overall. He gets what it takes to be great in your industry of choice.

A few years ago, Bob rallied against a music industry that seems focused on young “prodigies”… overnight success stories who might have the talent, but haven’t put in the time or practice to really become great. His argument is based on Malcolm Gladwell‘s “Outliers” as he writes:

Innate talent, pure desire, they’re not enough. Sure, Mozart started writing music when he was six, but he didn’t compose a masterwork until he was twenty one, after he’d put in 10,000 hours of practice. How can you have accumulated 10,000 hours worth of practice if you’re not even close to twenty one? Turns out that’s the rule. You’ve got to have 10,000 hours

He goes on to write that it is NOT about age. It is about determination:

I’m not saying you’ve got to be old to make it, maybe you just have to be doggedly focused. Not only on making it, but rehearsing, getting it right. The music industry has lobbied against this. It has not encouraged its stars to practice.

And it is in that last sentence that Lefsetz makes a comment that Brand Managers should pay attention to. Those that are great in their industries, be it sports, music or science are not great based on talent alone.

They are great because of the time they have put in time to being great.

Why does that matter to marketers? Why does it matter to our own careers? Well think about your competition, the Brand Manager or CMO running your biggest rival. Chances are the two of you have a pretty similar education background. And more likely than not, you both have similar resources at work. So how can you get an edge…how can you be the better marketer?

If you believe Gladwell and Lefsetz have it right, you will get that edge through practice and focus. You will get that edge by throwing yourself at the task of being a better marketer. Lefsetz hints at how you can do this when he talks about Millenials and their use of technology:

Maybe the conventional wisdom is right, today’s kids do have a short attention span. Then again, they play videogames for hours, they surf online for days on end. That’s why your teenager is a computer expert, why he can run your machine at what appears to be light speed. Because it’s second-nature to him.

To make the comparison back, this means you need to make marketing second-nature by practicing, by putting in your 10,000 hours. You won’t get there in your day-to-day job activities. You need to go above and beyond. So with that in mind, here are a few ways Brand Managers can find their 10,000 hours of practice:

  1. Start writingSeth Godin wrote that “Blogging makes you a better marketer because it teaches you humility in your writing.” With tools like LinkedIn Pulse or Medium at your fingertips, it has never been easier.
  2. Dive into every new digital platform you canTen years ago, just about any platform a marketer would “buy” is one they used personally every day (TV, magazines, etc). But fast-forward today and new options emerge every day. Its your job as a marketer to play with everything?—?and become a better marketer in the process.
  3. Volunteer your marketing brain powerI’d argue that spending 2 hours helping a non-profit with their marketing will teach you more than staying at work an extra two hours. And you get the added benefit of doing some good in the process. That is a philosophy at the heart of The Brandery’s mentorship program.
  4. Read everything and anythingKnowledge is power and the best form of practice. Make RSS your best friend and read what the best minds in business think on their blogs. Get involved in the conversations through comments, Twitter or Quora.
  5. Meet new peopleTake advantage of breakfast, lunch and coffee breaks to meet new people in your industry. Go to industry conferences and actually make use of them to network. Shake hands, have drinks and keep on practicing.

These are just a few of the ways I’m trying to get my 10,000 hours of practice at being the best at marketing that I can be. What would you add to the list? How are you practicing to be a better marketing leader?

Source: Dave Knox

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