It’s finally here. My 40th is today (23/01).

I’m told life begins at 40, so with a new life in front of me, I thought I’d stick down 40 marketing lessons from part 1, that might be useful to take into part 2.

The 80/20 rule title isn’t so much a nod to the Pareto Principle, but the year I was born (1980) and the year it is now (2020, obvs). Hat tip to Nico Fell for that one, who has also created a playlist to fit the celebrations, with a song from every one of my 40 years have a listen on Spotify.


Now, while you’re reading the 40 killer marketing lessons I’ve written for you, I’m off to start buying all my clothes at M&S and see if I can find a Volvo estate to make runs to tip easier.


The 80/20 Marketing Rules

  1. Strategy before tactics is the noise before defeat. I can’t take credit for the pithy phrasing, that’s Sun Tzu, but the sentiment is perfect. Stop obsessing with tactics (how) until you’ve worked out your strategy (who and why).
  2. Stop obsessing over new tools – it’s currently TikTok, it once was Insta and it’ll be something else next week. Work out the basics (see point 1) then work out the channels.
  3. Check your ARMs before launching a new channel. ARM = Audience (is it there?), Resource (can you do it right?) and Measurement (what are you hoping to achieve by it?). Answer those sensibly and you can launch a new channel. If you can’t, don’t. Simple.
  4. Marketing is much more than advertising. If I had a penny for every time someone told me an advert was great marketing…
  5. Performance marketing is not the same as marketing performance. I’d argue Performance Marketing is a subset of advertising. It’s useful, but there’s more to marketing than just who clicked a link online.
  6. Pricing should be part of your remit. If it’s not, you’re probably obsessing with promotion and tactics and leaving the real decisions to the grown ups.
  7. Product should be part of your remit. If it’s not, you’re probably obsessing with promotion and tactics and leaving the real decisions to the grown ups.
  8. Place (where you’re selling your stuff) should be part of your remit. If it’s not, you’re probably obsessing with promotion and tactics and leaving the real decisions to the grown ups.
  9. Ask more questions. Wil Reynolds (a legend) reckons you should ask at least seven questions before starting to offer solutions.

    He’s not wrong, the more the merrier.

  10. Marketing is about the market. You shouldn’t care what I think or what your boss thinks or what your cat thinks. Care what the market is telling you and react accordingly.
  11. There are only a few data points anyone in a boardroom really cares and they all have a £/€/$ next to them. Your CTR and impressions make for lovely graphs, but aren’t much use for making business decisions.
  12. Talk to people. We’ve got so much quantitative data being spewed out of digital (well, every channel) that we can convince ourselves we know everything. We don’t. Talk to people and get the rounded version of the truth. As Dave Trott said (hat tip to Kathryn Luke, pictured, the missus, for being the first person to introduce me to DT a few years back), “data is a fact, but it’s not the truth.” 8020 marketing rule | Belfast | Northern Ireland
  13. Watch people too. There’s a science to it, ethnography, but even if you don’t go that deep, do your best to observe your customers. People often tell you what they think they want you to hear when asking questions – watching strips that away.
  14. There is no such thing as the perfect amount of data. You can always have more, so don’t obsess over it. Get as much as you can in the time you have with the resource available and make a decision.
  15. It was (possibly) Churchill who said; “the best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing you can do is the wrong thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing”. He was right.
  16. Get a qualification. You can learn a lot about marketing tactics by rolling your sleeves up and getting stuck in. But get a qualification in marketing and you’ll see how it all fits together. I promise.
  17. Question everything. I take a dim view of people sharing Gary Vee videos because they swallow his horseshit whole. A stopped clock is right twice a day. Make sure you’re asking what agenda the person has for the content you’re consuming.
  18. Anyone pumping out their own daily content is pumping out daily shit. FACT. (May be connected to a person mentioned in 17).
  19. I don’t own a magic wand. If your product or service is shit, there’s not much I can do for you.
  20. Spend as much as you can afford. Don’t break the bank, but spend what you can. If you have £25 for some design work, spend it all. If you have £250, spend that. And £2500 and £25,000… spend what you have, you’ll see the difference. (No, doing it yourself in Word won’t give you a good result. Canva is better, but a designer will be even better.)
  21. When nothing goes right, go left. What does that mean? Well, stop trying to copy your competitors. Step to the left a little, find some daylight between you and them and hammer home that difference.
  22. Your SEO is never, ever “done”. It’s a moving target in a competitive environment, keep working at it.
  23. Don’t build your business on one channel. I worked with a fab company a few years back who bought all their traffic and customers from Google. Lovely guys. Went bust when their CPA started galloping out of control because competitors entered the market.
  24. Speculative ideas from creatives are a waste of time. You know your audience, stop asking them to guess. Find someone you can work with, share your expertise with them and get out of the way while they do their thing. It’ll be great, I promise.
  25. Be generous with your time and give something back. Remember all those coffees you bummed off people and advice you’ve tapped off people on your way up? Well, leave the ladder down and help other people out.

    marketing consultancy belfast northern ireland
    The Friends Of team all give up their time to help other businesses
  26. But be ruthless with your time. It might sound contradictory, but it’s not. The gurus tell you that time is a perishable asset. You can’t get it back once it’s gone. So do be generous with it, but make sure when you need to focus, you stay focused on the task because…
  27. Delivery is everything. I love coming up with ideas, it’s the most fun part of the job. But any idiot can have an idea, bringing it to life is what makes the ???
  28. People don’t evolve quickly. It’s a slow process, so find out more about it. Marketing is a people discipline and the more you can find out about psychology and what makes people tick, the better you will be.
  29. Your website is there to be used, not admired. Pay more attention to how people will use it than how pretty it is. Read Rick Monro and Fathom_ to find out more about this.
  30. Have a mission. It doesn’t have to be to save the world, but it should be about more than just making money. Without it, how do you know where you’re going? Read this blog to find out more.
  31. I do some guest lecturing at Liverpool John Moores on the marketing programme. The next generation have got loads of ideas and just need a bit of guidance to shape their career. Trust me, the kids are OK. They might even be our future.
  32. Focus your marketing across the whole of the funnel. It’s tempting to focus on “action” (you know I love the AIDA model, others exist too) because it generates cash, but that’s a short term approach. Build for the future, not just for now.
  33. Travel. You’ll be amazed what a great source of inspiration it is. Not just for marketing, but in life in general.
  34. Innovation, someone once said, was old or new ideas, delivered in an old or new way. If you want to know what the future looks like, have a look at the past and see if you can find any ideas worth delivering again.
  35. The old ways still work. If anyone tells you tv, radio or outdoor are dead, walk away as quickly as you can. Go where your audience is, which is usually more than one place.
  36. Copywriting, video editing, social media management, events marketing and brochure design are all different skills. Stop ruling out talented kids by insisting they’re experts in lots of different disciplines. After all, you don’t want a hairdresser to do your teeth whitening, do you?
  37. Don’t try and be the smartest person in the room. If you do, it’s obvious to everyone you’re not the smartest person in the room and you’ll just look like a dick.
  38. Also, if you are the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room.
  39. Everyone is not your target customer. If you’re trying to target everyone, you’re targeting no one. Make some decisions and focus.
  40. Never read blog posts that are lists. It’s usually a sign the author is lazy ?

If you stuck with the post to the end, thank you. Don’t expect 41 lessons next year though, although you might get 50 new things posted in a decade.

To be the first to find out if I do post a new list in 10 years time, sign up for my email list.