Become a necessary luxury

Your goal, as a marketer, is to achieve necessary luxury status.

What do I mean?

Broadly speaking, we can be commodities or luxuries in the sense of both price and rareness. A commodity is commonplace. A commodity is inexpensive. A luxury is not commonplace. A luxury is rare, and almost never cheap.

Broadly speaking, we can be optional or necessary. Necessary things are things we can’t do without. We need them. They’re mandatory for us to get our jobs done. Optional things are nice-to-haves. They’re additions that are welcome, but if we didn’t have them, we’d be okay.

What determines something to be a commodity or a luxury is its functional quality. The better it does at the core tasks asked of it, the higher a price it can command while still being needed.


Think about getting to work. You have to get to work somehow, and for a majority of people, that involves some form of transportation. A car is a commodity. You can buy cars of all makes and models. A Tesla Series S is a luxury that’s optional. You need a car, but you don’t need THAT car, per se. That’s why the Tesla on the chart above is an optional luxury. Its luxury doesn’t improve the core functional quality of being a way to get to work. You get there in more style and with more amenities, but it doesn’t change the core experience.

What about computers? Many people who work in offices need a portable computer of some kind. You can get cheap knockoff laptops or vastly underpowered machines very inexpensively. They’re commodities. If you want great functional quality, a MacBook Pro starts moving you towards the luxury end of the spectrum. However, if you need built-in UNIX compatibility in an easy to use, well-built machine, then you remain more towards the necessary end of the spectrum. These needs transform the MacBook Pro into a necessary luxury.

As a marketer seeking a career in marketing, you begin ineptly. We all do. We begin with very few polished skills, and we don’t perform especially well out of the gate (except for a few savants). We are low performing marketers when we begin our journey. Some of us stay there. Most of us achieve some level of competence, which moves us from optional to necessary.

Your goal, as a marketer, is to advance your skills and capabilities, your functional quality, until you are necessary. As you become necessary, you can command a higher price, until you reach the pinnacle of your career. At the top of your game, you become a high performing marketer, which is a necessary luxury that every company wants, needs, and is willing to pay top dollar for.

Your challenge, as a marketer, is to identify what is necessary and become so proficient at it that you are rare. When you become this, the world is your oyster.

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You are only as good as the capabilities you remember

How many marketing tools, tactics, and strategies do you know?

If you stopped to think about it just now, chances are you’d struggle to remember more than a few. You probably remembered ones you’ve used most recently, or ones that are part of a project you’re working on now.

However, your potential is much greater. You’ve got a lot of knowledge locked away that you haven’t brought forward and you don’t keep loaded in your head.

As a result, whenever you have to brainstorm, chances are your brainstorms are lackluster. You probably come up with the same 5 ideas over and over again.

How do you defeat this cycle of mediocrity?

The answer is to map out your capabilities, your potential. Map out what you can do, what you know how to do, so that when you face new problems, you’ve got as big a picture of your solutions as possible.

For example, this is a hilariously large mind map from a couple years ago about how to market a podcast:


(for a version you can actually read, click here for the PDF)

When faced with a question about marketing a podcast, instead of trying to wrack my brain for what I know, I can refer to a map I’ve made of what I know how to do. The map refreshes my memory and brings forward the full set of capabilities I can bring to bear.

Make your own mind maps of solutions you have to common marketing problems. When you face problems of a similar nature, you’ll know what you can do and be far more effective in choosing your strategy.

Remember: you are only as good as the capabilities you remember you can do.

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How to extract value from case studies

There’s an enduring joke about case studies: you can either read one or you can be one. Marketers and decision makers often cite the absence of a case study as a reason for not doing something:

“Where’s the case study on using Facebook?”

“Do you have any case studies on the value of a blog?”

“Why isn’t there a case study about Big Data’s impact on our industry?”

When you hear language like this, you’re hearing a justification for not taking a risk, however small. You’re hearing someone who wants to cover their ass and not be held accountable for a decision. That’s fine; that’s the way some parts of the world work.

However, for decision makers who are more progressive, what’s the value of a case study? It’s not so that you can clone in exacting, perfect detail what someone else did. No, the value of a case study is highlighting that a goal is achievable, that a desired result is possible to attain.

The point of a case study is to determine, knowing what skills, tools, and resources you have, how to attain the same result as the case study. A small business doesn’t have the same resources as Apple, Inc., but you should be able to read a case study about Apple and extract a structure, a concept to apply to the small business.

To extract this value, take a case study, read through it, and divide it up into three pieces: why, what, how.

Why did the organization take the actions in the first place? Was there a particular problem they needed to solve?

What choices did the organization make? What did they base those choices on?

How did they execute on the choices they made? Which tactics succeeded, and which tactics did not?


What you’ll likely find is that you may not have the same resources to replicate how, but you can extract a great deal of value from what and why.

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