How to build a marketing habit – ignore your goals

Football hitting the back of a goal net

Let’s be honest – marketing can be difficult. Not because it’s complicated or requires advanced skills and knowledge, but because it’s (probably) not why you set up your business in the first place. It’s not what you’re in business for but it is something you have to do if you want your business to survive/continue/thrive.

The ideal is to get in the habit of marketing – make it something you just do.

But most people set themselves goals to get their marketing done. And that can be a problem.

The problem with marketing goals

The problem with a goal is that you only achieve it once. To get the same result again, you have to set another goal, and another and another. Goals are great for motivating yourself to act, to get something done. But they don’t change your behaviour long term. And marketing is a long-term behaviour – something you need to do regularly over time.

And yet, a lot of marketing advice is goal-orientated: “generate 10 new leads”, “win 3 new clients”, etc.

Building a habit relies on repetition. Marketing goals are great when you achieve them, but they don’t create good marketing habits.

In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear explains that if you want to make a long-term change in your life – build a solid, useful habit – systems are what you need to focus on.

The 4 problems with marketing goals

James Clear is, well, clear that relying purely on goal-setting to get things done brings four distinct issues:

  1. Problem #1: Both winners and losers have the same goals. By focusing on a goal it’s easy to overlook what you need to do to get there. It’s also easy to get distracted keeping up with other people.

“Every Olympian wants to win a gold medal… if successful and unsuccessful people share the same goals, then the goals cannot be what differentiates the winners and losers.”

  1. Problem #2: Completing a goal is only a momentary achievement. Writing a blog post or recording a podcast is great – but next week you have to do it again, and that week after that, and… For repetition you need a system.
  2. Problem #3: Goals don’t make you happy. Attaching your idea of happiness to the achievement of a goal means any satisfaction you have is fleeting at best.

You might say to yourself, “I can relax once I have written this blog,” or, “I will get more clients when I post this video.” But these are things that one action is unlikely to achieve.

  1. Problem #4: Goals are at odds with long-term improvement. When a goal is the measure of progress, you’re hopping from one achievement to the next, not working on getting better creative and effective marketing.

“It’s not about a single accomplishment, it’s about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.”

Make your goals part of building your habits

The way forward is to reframe how you think about goals – instead of focusing on them as a one-time achievement, try seeing them as part of an ongoing process; a series of goals that you work on over and over again, getting better each time.

Looking at someone successful who creates great content, you might say, “They post every day, that must be how they’re doing to well,” which is focusing on the goal. The real reason why they’re successful is that they have a system for making and sharing consistent content regularly. They follow a process and get better at it each time they do it.

If marketing isn’t working, we tend to think we need to change the results, but the results are not the problem. What needs to change is the system (the habits) that caused the results.

Find your marketing flow

Jumping from one goal to the next is the equivalent of focusing only on milestones and not the journey as a whole. Instead, visualise the journey. Map it out by creating a content workflow that will help you get your ideas out to your audience consistently. It doesn’t have to be convoluted or complex. It can be simple and start off slowly, once a month, for example. As you work on that process over a few months you can make it more frequent or add more content to it. Make it better each time. This is building a consistent marketing habit.

But… Isn’t this just repeating a goal over and over?

You can look at it this way, sure. It’s a repeating task, a weekly goal, after all. But the difference is one of perspective. A goal is a single destination, and when you reach it, you look around and wonder, where next? A content workflow is a sequence of goals – milestones on a single, ongoing journey.

By focusing on the process of creating your content rather than simply posting, you begin to integrate your marketing into your weekly work routine. You see it as less of an isolated (quite possibly unloved) task and more as part and parcel of running a successful business.

How to build a marketing habit

Jumping from goal to goal is dynamic, active, it feels good and you ‘get stuff done’. But consistent and effective marketing needs to be a habit, not a series of individual goals.

Forming a marketing habit makes marketing easier, more fun, and more effective for you and your business.

If your want marketing is more goals than habit, take a look at my new book Reframing Marketing. It’s a step by step guide to effective and ethical marketing that will guide you through forming your marketing habit in a way that is manageable and achievable.