Creating Marketing Alpha

What you can do beyond Facebook and Google

There are two kinds of marketing outreach. Paid and organic.

Paid marketing is a level playing field for everyone, so it produces average, somewhat predictable returns. While that admittedly sounds bleak, I’m not knocking it. Paid marketing can sustain an acceptable flow of new business as long as you keep paying.

I’d consider this your marketing baseline. You know you can put money in and get business out, but you won’t meaningfully grow until you consistently outperform it. The amount you outperform by- your marketing alpha- should be your sole focus.

Marketing alpha– a measure of your results compared to the expected results of marketing in general.

You can gain some marketing alpha by doing an excellent job with your paid advertising efforts. The effects of great messaging and targeting can’t be understated.

However, truly outsized alpha is rarely found within the bounds of an advertising platform or a listing of search results. Most of the opportunity is in more organic marketing.

Organic marketing

Organic marketing can range from producing how-to videos to hosting events to manually DMing people on Instagram or paying every influencer to post an orange square at the same time.

Sometimes it’s called “growth hacking” or “bootstrapping,” but it can apply to any business, any size, with any marketing budget.

Note: People normally separate paid and organic more literally. I prefer to separate paid and organic by the nature of the endeavor, not if you physically paid for it. That orange square example is one of the most successful organic marketing campaigns in recent history… but I’m sure it was insanely expensive.

Outsized returns from organic marketing don’t last, and they’re usually not repeatable. (Great marketing works because no one else is doing it.) Therefore, there aren’t simple instructions to guarantee marketing alpha. However, you can guarantee no alpha by running the same paid ads everyone else is running.

Instead, I separate modern organic marketing into four pillars and recommend businesses pay attention to each area. By focusing on these areas- thinking about them, improving them, putting resources towards them- you’ll start seeing consistent marketing alpha. I’ve provided some examples under each pillar, but for outsized returns, you need to discover ways to leverage these areas that aren’t already being leveraged by others.

The Pillars of Organic Marketing

Local community

Not every business has a local, physical community, but even purely remote businesses benefit from being known (as a business and as individual team members) in their local communities.

  • Attend, speak at, and host meetups
  • Sponsor larger events
  • Throw larger events
  • Be generally visible
  • This kind of stuff:
“Are we parked and cleaning your neighbor? Go online to get on our schedule. It’s easy.”

Online/social community

Online community does NOT mean sharing a generic social post for every national holiday. It’s all about providing relevant and/or timely value in lots of different, natural ways.

  • Create content and educate others
  • Find communities and participate
  • Share data and discuss insights
  • Build things and contribute to things
  • This kind of stuff:

Internal

Businesses are becoming more personal, and individuals are representing their employers more and more as we all become our own online brands.

  • Encourage employees to be ambassadors
  • Create a unified voice and focus across every team member
  • Recognize engaged and contributing individuals
  • This kind of stuff:

External

We can find opportunities in other disciplines, other industries, and in the always-changing outside world in general. Exploration is rewarded.

  • React to outside events
  • Adapt techniques from unrelated places
  • Enable flexibility and preparedness
  • Use a first principles approach and explore new things
  • This kind of stuff:

Through these pillars, we can slowly and consistently improve our overall marketing alpha through organic marketing, which is the only way to find outsized opportunities. By being authentically involved with physical and digital communities, both you and your team will naturally grow your business and general awareness, which means all of your marketing will get easier. I would love to hear stories and experiences from others who’ve done this successfully. Please comment!


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