A marketer walks into a bar after a long day at work.
The Marketer has been dealing with a business problem at work, and doesn't have a clue on how it could be solved. Giving up for the day, The Marketer is hoping that a drink will bring some reprieve from the stress.
As the drink arrives, The Marketer overhears a familiar voice. Then another. And another. Looking around, it turns out that at that very same bar are three successful marketers that many people look up to and follow online. They’re sitting at a table nearby.
After gathering some courage, The Marketer walks towards them. Suddenly feeling awkward, there was a split second of hesitation. But it was too late to go back. The table had noticed the approach.
“Um, hello everyone. I’m really sorry to disturb your evening, but I’m a big fan of all of you, and just had to say hi.”
The three marketers, who were in mid-conversation, pause to listen. They smile and return the greeting.
“I know I’m pushing my luck here, but I’m stuck on something, I was wondering if I could just ask you one question?”
The three marketers, always eager to help, look at each other for a moment, then look back as if to say, “okay, go ahead.”
“I’m having trouble driving traffic to our website. I follow you all on social media, listen to your podcasts, subscribe to your newsletters, and have tried taking action on your advice, following it all to the T, but my stats just aren’t moving. What am I doing wrong? Am I thinking about this the right way? How do you think about driving traffic?”
The three marketers smile, with the kind of confident grin that reveals itself when you get a question you’ve been asked a million times and you know exactly how you’ll answer.
The three marketers look around the table, wondering who will go first. One of them takes a sip of a drink while raising a finger, signaling that they've got something to say.
This first marketer, The Artist, confidently replies:
“Driving traffic is like growing an audience. It's simply about creating something authentic and exceptional. Look at Seth Godin. Look at Joe Rogan. They spend their energy on creating things that they are personally passionate about, doing it as best they can, then trusting that the audience and the traffic will follow. That's it. Not on things like SEO, content optimization or Facebook ads. Focus on what you really care about and the rest will fall into place.”
The second marketer, The Soldier, has a different take:
“You see, to drive traffic, you just have to work the system. This is not rocket science. Publish content that your audience is already searching for. Hustle for backlinks. Go promote it on other channels. Do this again and again. HubSpot already showed everyone how to do this. The internet is already full of learning material for each of these steps. Study how these mechanics work, then just put your head down and execute.”
The third marketer, The Gambler, offers yet another perspective:
“The way to drive traffic is to create a system that allows you to publish content at scale. Think about Quora and most media sites. Think about giant ecommerce brands. Imagine you published 10,000 pieces of content: the Pareto effect will kick in. Yes, most content is going to get little-to-no traffic; but that’s okay, they’ll soak up the long tail. But a small percentage are going to be big mega hits. They’ll be huge. And since you have a process, you can tweak it and optimize it. Don’t get too obsessed about every piece of content being amazing, and by the way, it’s okay to try a bit of gray hat stuff now and then. It’s all a numbers game.”
Listening to these answers, The Marketer tries to keep a respectful, neutral expression. But the keen observer could tell this was not easy. Beneath the polite surface was a deep pool of frustration.
Here were three undeniably successful marketers, each at the top of the field, giving three completely different pieces of advice. Was this a helpful conversation? Was the resolution of the problem now closer, or further away?
The Marketer thanks the three marketers for their time and shakes their hands, walking away with a feeling of confusion that was greater than when the evening began.
The Marketer sighs and orders another drink.