“You still running a lot?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “A few times a week at least.”
It had been awhile since I had seen Jason. Since it was August and still warm, we decided to catch up over coffee on the Starbucks patio that morning. Two seconds into the conversation, I realized I must have been facing east because I was staring directly into the sun behind his head. Two seconds into the conversation he probably realized the same thing by the way I was squinting.
I reached down, grabbed the seat of my metal framed chair and shuffled right to avoid the glare.
“I’ve always wanted to run like a half marathon or something. That must be cool to know that you can run so far.”
“Yeah, for sure,” I laughed. “I probably don’t think of running as glamorously as that. On race days — once or twice a year — it’s a complete rush. The rest of the time, you’re just grinding it out. Lot’s of routine running.”
“You’re so disciplined. I would never be able to find the time to get out and run thirteen miles.”
Another good laugh. “Zero to 13 is a huge jump man. You don’t start out running the long ones. You start with one mile. Then you add half a mile. Then more. I’ve been running for almost ten years.”
“I just don’t have the patience for it. By the time I get home from work at night, do homework with the kids and get them into bed, I’m wasted. Running has no appeal to me whatsoever.”
“Get up early and go out before work,” I intentionally joked.
“That sounds even worse!”
We both laughed at that one. I nodded to show him I understood and shuffled to the right again.
Jason has a binary approach to running. On or off. All or nothing. Zero to 13 miles.
And I get it. We open an app on our phone and expect a dinner reservation in one step. Binary. One input generates the result we want. A notification window pops up on our computer letting us know we’ve been mentioned in a tweet. With one click we’re responding to it. There’s literally millions and millions of dollars in the economy for anyone who can take a two-click process down to one. Simplify everything down to the most binary approach. One input = expected outcome.
It’s great for technology. It breaks down in decision making.
Jason wanted one input to result in a certain outcome. Block out a chunk of time and run 13 miles. The problem is a binary approach is at odds with the laws of physiologically. In that realm, rarely does one input ever get us the desired result. Instead, he could have focused on one small run a week, gradually building up to 13 miles over time. He could have found or started a running club to create accountability. If weekly running doesn’t motivate him, he could have joined a local cross fit box, taken up swimming or worked out with P90X DVDs at home. There are other ways to get cardiovascular exercise.
A binary approach forces decisions into one of two categories, yes or no. Off or on. A non-binary approach asks questions? How can I achieve this? How do I get there? What are the steps along that path? It’s a process filter. A journey filter. There are decisions in life that are going to be a series of steps or a series of decisions and ultimately have dozens of binary points along the way.
It’s easy to approach marketing the same way. We want one input to generate our desired result. It’s there or it’s not. It’s either awesome or it’s non-existent. It’s natural to want a thriving, successful marketing program, but many of us get lost or confused along the way. Instead we turn back, give up or just don’t start. It’s tremendously helpful to think about marketing programs as more of a process. Lots of little binary points along a path that ultimately leads up to our desired result.
So instead of “I want awesome marketing,” let’s start with, “What’s my budget?” Then “Where should we invest that budget?” Followed by, “Do we have the right tracking systems in place?” “Is there a designer we can trust with our brand?” “Is our SEO as good as it could be?”
To quote one of the modern day masters of marketing, Seth Godin, “Marketing is never about a hammer hitting plate glass (binary), it’s always about the power of a thousand little drips.”
Take the pressure off. Don’t try to make the giant leap to awesome overnight. Instead, create one little drip. Then another. Then another. Before you know it, you’ll look around and realize you’ve built something amazing.