A marketer walks into a bar after a long day at work.
He’s been dealing with a marketing problem at work that he doesn’t quite know how to solve. He’s given up for the day, hoping that a beer will help him relax so he can try again tomorrow.
As his beer arrives, he overhears a familiar voice. Looking around, he realizes that at that very same bar are three successful marketers that he’s always looked up to and followed online. They’re sitting at a table near him.
After gathering his courage, he approaches them. The chance to talk to one’s idols is very rare, he thinks to himself, and should not be missed.
“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 to him. 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 at him as if to say, “okay, go ahead.”
“I’m having trouble driving traffic to my website. I’ve read your articles, and have tried taking action on your advice, 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 his drink while raising his finger, signaling he’s got something to say.
This first marketer, The Artist, confidently replies:
“Driving traffic is simply about creating something exceptional. Look at Seth Godin, WaitButWhy or webcomics like XKCD and The Oatmeal. They spend their energy on getting people excited about their message and their ideas, not on things like SEO, website optimization, or Facebook ads. Focus on what your audience really cares 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. Do it again and again. The internet is full of learning material on each of these things. 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 TripAdvisor, Quora and most media sites. Imagine you published 1,000 pieces of content: Pareto 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 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.”
As he listened to their answers, the marketer did his best to keep a respectful, neutral expression. He was trying not to show his frustration.
Here were three undeniably successful marketers, each at the top of the field, giving him three completely different pieces of advice. The marketer is unsure whether he is closer or further away from solving his problem.
He thanks the three marketers for their time and shakes their hands. He walks back to his seat more confused than before.
He sighs and orders another beer.