Let’s dive into the concept of focus. When I look back on my past accomplishments, whenever I’ve been able to do really well, it’s because I’ve been really focused and consistent with just one thing.
When I was learning Internet marketing, I had my internship and I was really focused on that even though I had a full-time job at the time as well. That’s how I was able to learn a lot really quickly. I was able to absorb a lot of information. I downloaded a lot of courses. My internship had a lot of courses built into the onboarding process, too.
When I look back at my Treehouse days and my startup days, I was successful because I was able to focus under very strict timeframes in order to hit specific goals for the company. Everything was all-in and it wasn’t just, “Hey, we use paid advertising to succeed.” It was more like, “How do we build up our content marketing strategy, email marketing strategy, perfect our SEO and manage a social team?”
Then, when I look at the times when things weren’t going so well, that was when I was trying to do multiple things at once. For example, when Single Grain was still recovering and we were trying to pivot into multiple new areas, I tried to switch us into a remote work environment even though people were used to being in an office.
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Changing all these things at the same time, and starting a podcast (Growth Everywhere), and trying to figure out a way to refer our business out—it was all just too much. I was just doing too many things at once and one person can only do so much before they become inefficient and burn out.
Now with Single Grain, it’s night and day because I’m focused on one major thing at a time. Every time I focus on one specific goal, things start to look up again.
There’s this fantastic book by Gary Keller called The One Thing. I think it puts you in the right perspective and it’s actually required reading for people who go through our career tree and are trying to advance.
I was also watching an HBO documentary about Warren Buffett called Becoming Warren Buffett (also on YouTube). Someone had Warren Buffett and Bill Gates write out what makes them so successful, and they both independently wrote one word, the same word: “focus.” I think that’s incredible.
It’s the same thing with Apple. They started with desktop computers first. Then they moved on to other things like the iPod, and then the iTouch, and eventually the iPhone and the iPad. They were hyper-focused on one thing at a time. Same thing with Google; they started with search first and now they’re doing all these different things. Now they’re called Alphabet and they’re looking into everything from global Internet to AI.
Neil talks about this too in one of our Marketing School podcasts. When you’re trying out different marketing experiments, you’re basically throwing spaghetti at a wall. You don’t want to keep doing that. Your goal is to see what sticks, and then double down on that. It’s all about focusing on one thing at a time, one thing that really works.
In every case, you have to get the one thing right first and then you move on to the next thing. In practical terms, hire a general manager to take care of that one thing you got right, and then move on to figuring out and mastering the next thing.
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Let’s say you’re eating dinner and steak is the main course. Are you going to focus on the sides before moving onto the main course?
Maybe. Some people actually do that. They like the delayed gratification of eating the main menu item last. But, practically speaking, this isn’t the best idea because you might get full and before you know it, you ended up eating everything except what you really wanted to eat.
A much better strategy is to start with the main course and then pick away at your side dishes. You’ll quickly decide on one side dish to focus on and the cycle repeats itself. That way, you’re prioritizing in the most practical and optimal way possible.
I think that from a marketing perspective, when companies are first starting out, they try to do too many things. It’s more about focusing on that one thing that’s going well.
Let’s say you have Facebook ads working well for you already and you haven’t maxed out that channel yet, and you know you could be doing more with it. Do not give in to the-next-shiny-thing syndrome. You probably shouldn’t be thinking about SEO or other ad channels yet. Try to max out what you have going on with paid advertising first, and then you can start to transition into these other channels and diversify.
Personally, I try to do a lot of different things because I get bored easily, but the older I get and the wiser I become, the more I realize that having a singular focus is the best strategy.
Get one thing right first and then move on to the next thing.
This post was adapted from Eric’s Facebook Live videos: Growth 90 – DAILY live broadcasts with Eric Siu on marketing and entrepreneurship. Watch the video version of this post: