by Anna Wybieralska Nov 28, 2017

Check out these science-backed ideas that might just change the way you work.

The path to becoming a better marketer is often fraught with lists of qualities you should have in order to succeed. Sure, it's great to have the tenacity or be an extrovert, but it's more important to cultivate and shape your actions and the way you think in order to use your natural talents effectively and manage your imperfections.

That's what this list is about, you don't have to be born a great marketer, you can make yourself great.

Become smarter by exercising

If you're sitting right now, consider standing up for a minute, heck, maybe even throw in a jumping jack or two if you're feeling peppy. While I'm sure you've heard the message that exercise can make you feel more confident, energetic, happy and healthy (all very good things that will contribute positively to your career and life), right now, it's your brain I want you to focus on.

To be a great marketer you need to be able to manufacture creative solutions, have a solid ability to remember names and faces and companies, and use your analytical thinking skills to be one step ahead of the competition. Exercise can help you be great by improving your memory and cognitive ability. The New York Times reported on a study done by PLOS One which focused on determining whether or not an increase in brainpower was the result of exercising or if it was the placebo effect instead. Their findings lead researchers to believe that we aren't simply convincing ourselves that we feel bright - exercise can actually make you smarter.

I know you're wondering, how much do I have to exercise to get my brain-boost?
The jury has not fully agreed on this one. This article from Harvard Health Publications says that 2 hours of at least moderate intensity a week is a good goal and I say goal because if standing up while reading this article was the most exercise you've gotten today then give yourself a pat on the back - any exercise (even standing) is something to build on.

Some say the key is to do any amount of exercise you can convince yourself to do on a regular basis. So, promise yourself you'll do 2 push-ups before every marketing meeting and build up from there. Before you know it, your brain will be more robust than ever and help you build your career.

Now let your brain take a break

Literally, stop thinking so much!
Now that you've just had a workout, it's time to do the opposite and let your brain take a break. In a recent Psychology Today article by Bruce Grierson, he writes about the discovery of neuroscientist Marcus Raichle:

"The brain in "idle", it turns out, is actually far more active than the brain in conscious engagement... The brain's resting-state circuitry (which is turned on, paradoxically, when you stop thinking and just veg out) is thus very likely the best place to park a problem, for it employs the best, wisest, and most creative mechanics."

So I know this might seem counter-intuitive, but let's keep things straight here, exercise helps the brain become better at thinking and taking a break from thinking can help you have the "aha!" moment you need to solve a problem or come up with an ingenious new ad campaign.
What? So I just sit around like a couch potato and epiphanies will explode into my consciousness?

Well, according to Bruce Grierson you might need to do a little coaxing...
Try these:

Power down - not just your laptop (but that would be a good start) and try meditation.

Go on a trip - new and novel situations can open up our minds and make us more receptive to new thoughts.

Take on a Koan - this is basically a confusing riddle that you can ponder for years - here is an example.

Write everything down - drag a notepad with you and start taking life-notes, you can re-read them later for insight.

As you can see, resting the brain is really a whole new type of exercise designed to accelerate your ability to recognize whether you're on the right path or not.

Be nice, and put reciprocity to work for you

No one really likes to be described as "nice". Isn't that something you say about a person you find boring?

Sure, being nice might not seem like an unexpected way to help you be a better marketer, but I think it's underrated and I want to change the way you think about being nice.

Now, when you think of niceness, you probably don't think about vampire bats as the ideal example, but they are. Vampire bats are nocturnal and drink the blood of large animals as they sleep. They are often not successful however and can easily go hungry, in fact, according to the BBC they will start to starve within just 48 hours if they haven't fed. The good news is, if a bat is starving, his fellow bat-friends back at the roost will regurgitate blood for the hungry bat to eat until he is strong enough to go for food on his own again. Furthermore, according to zoologists, bats can keep track of what bats they helped and who helped them for future reference.

This is a nature-inspired example of reciprocity. A basic definition of this social construct is that if you act in a positive manner towards someone, they are more likely to feel obligated to act positively in return. In other words, if you get an opportunity to do a favor for someone, it really is an opportunity. In the future, those whom you helped are more likely to "reimburse" you with an even bigger favor.

So, because I know you'll be putting this to work in your world, the next time someone describes you as "nice", you can truly feel good about it knowing that for every person you're kind to, you're actually building your own future. You can take this concept into your relationships at work, but also to your customers. Literally, do your customers a favor or two and they are much more likely to do one in return, like sign up for your blog or make a purchase to show their support.

Figure out what you're NOT good at

"Our strengths grow out of our weaknesses." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Perhaps you've heard that quote before, but even if you haven't you can probably relate to it because every one of us has been bad at something before we got good at it.

But, what I'm talking about here is your ability to recognize your weaknesses as behaviors, emotions, reactions or some other combination of habits that aren't working in your favor. Maybe you've been criticized for being too opinionated in meetings, or maybe you've missed out on opportunities because you were afraid to speak up. It's possible you arrive at work 15 minutes late every day or feel defeated and deflated at every performance review (even if it's mostly good!). The point is, for every one of us, something's not working.  The good news is, you don't need to "fix" your weaknesses, you just need to create new habits.

In the book "The Power of Habit" written by Charles Duhigg he examines the existences and creation of habits and also talks about how they can be changed. He describes what he calls "keystone" habits:

One of the characteristics of a keystone habit is that it creates a culture. That's why it seems to have such a profound influence on other patterns in our lives.

You can recognize in yourself the three-part "habit-loop" (Duhigg) which can be boiled down to a trigger or event that evokes the behavior, then comes to a routine reaction (habit), then this is followed by a reward of some kind for that behavior (emotional or physical). Thus, this relates to both life in general and becoming a better marketing professional. You can begin to recognize your weaknesses as habits and then slowly, diligently establish new ones that will help you avoid creating roadblocks for yourself and instead build and grow your career.

Treat everyone you can't be with like you're in a long-distance relationship with them

According to one study, it turns out long distance relationships can work after all. As reported in this post by Psyblog, there are a couple of key points to making long distance relationships a success.
They are:

  • share more intimate knowledge,
  • think your partner is the bomb (The formal version is... you have an idealized view of them).

I know what you're thinking, what does this have to do with being a better marketer?

Usually, the goal of marketing a product or service is to create a message that effectively tells people about what you or your company has to offer. The sad part is, you won't get to meet very many of these people in person.  This is where the concept of long-distance relationships comes into play. Let's be clear, I'm not suggesting you try and date everyone you market to, but you can use the principles of long-distance relationships to influence the way you market. For example, by providing published salaries, Buffer was able to elicit a more trusting and open relationship with their users, in other words, they shared intimate knowledge.
And as far as idealizing your customers goes, that shouldn't be hard right? You have the best customers in the world.

Recognize and harness the power of the Zeigarnik Effect

Every day is basically an adventurous quest.
We aim to finally finish our to-do lists and wrap up those lingering projects at work. The only problem is that we're never really done. For every deadline met or errand completed, two more tasks pop up to be done.
How are you supposed to remember it all?

We don't remember it all, we remember what is still uncompleted. This is the basis of the Zeigarnik Effect, a phenomenon discovered and named after a Soviet psychologist named Bluma Zeigarnik. As one example, she noticed that waiters seemed to remember orders that hadn't been filled yet but could not recall the order as soon as the food was delivered. She expanded her research and the science is in - a task you haven't completed is going to stay on your mind until it's finished.

You can see examples of this in media and advertising, after all, have you ever tried to stop watching a TV series part way through? It seems like an incomplete task to just leave it unwatched.

You can harness this drive to finish what you start by simply taking the first step of any project. If it's hard to get started, simply choose any part of a goal that seems manageable at the moment. Then, if you minimize distractions and focus on completing one task at a time, you'll increase your productivity by leaps and bounds.

Now go forth and start your own round of experiments.
It's definitely difficult to change habits, create new ones, stay focused, work out and be nice all the time. Chances are, however, that you can evaluate your marketing skills and pinpoint at least one aspect of your career you'd like to improve. Then, you can try applying one or two of these ideas at a time and see what works best for you. As you know, you're more likely to complete this task (becoming a better marketer) just by taking the first step.

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Anna Wybieralska

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