Let’s be honest, at one point or another we all want to be lucky. It’s luck that’s going to cause us to produce the next viral post or double our audience in three months, right?

If we just do all the right things, follow all the best practices, then one day - BOOM - we’ll get lucky and become the next case study of successful marketing.

Not so fast, cowboy or girl.

We all (perhaps secretly) wish for that kind of success. But it just isn’t always reality.

The good news is, reality is actually not so bad and will teach you how to be a more effective marketer - how to make your own luck.

Disillusioned by luck

Maybe like this marketer, you’re asking “Does marketing just boil down to luck?” We study the stories and strategies of successful startups, marketing legends, entrepreneurs turned millionaires and brilliant products or services that have taken over the market.

But an unidentifiable ingredient seems to be between us and a similar kind of success. Best practices seem to fail us. We’re frustrated that what worked for the ‘lucky ones’ doesn’t work for us. We think to ourselves, “Maybe that missing ingredient is luck and I’m just not one of those lucky people.”

But that’s probably not it. Allow me to explain.

Survivorship Bias

Without knowing it, we’ve succumbed to survivorship bias - “the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that ‘survived’ some process and inadvertently overlooking those that did not because of their lack of visibility,” according to Wikipedia.

“If failures become invisible, then naturally you will pay more attention to successes. Not only do you fail to recognize that what is missing might have held important information, you fail to recognize that there is missing information at all.” - David McRaney

It’s easy to isolate successful marketing from the dozens of mistakes and missed opportunities that preceded it. What are we not seeing? Is there missing information that might help uncover the secret of ‘lucky people’?

We look to research from David McRaney, blogger at You Are Not So Smart to better understand survivorship bias.

”Survivorship bias also flash-freezes your brain into a state of ignorance from which you believe success is more common than it truly is and therefore you leap to the conclusion that it also must be easier to obtain.” - David McRaney

What is luck, anyway?

Perhaps luck isn’t as magical and elusive as it seems. What if it’s possible to actually become lucky? Here's how McRaney describes luck.

“The latest psychological research indicates that luck is a long mislabeled phenomenon. It isn’t a force, or grace from the gods, or an enchantment from fairy folk, but the measurable output of a group of predictable behaviors.” - David McRaney

If luck is a ‘measurable output,’ what is the ‘group of predictable behaviors’? The short answer is your reaction to change, uncertainty, and events outside our control.

Luck - good or bad - is a result of our conscious response to the seemingly random events of life. It’s what we do when we encounter the unpredictable.

Psychologist Richard Wiseman describes unlucky people as “...narrowly focused. They crave security and tend to be more anxious, and instead of wading into the sea of random chance open to what may come, they remain fixated on controlling the situation... As a result, they miss out on the thousands of opportunities that may float by.”

By contrast, lucky people “tend to constantly change routines and seek out new experiences.” People self-described as lucky often put themselves in situations where anything can happen and consequently expose themselves to more random chance than unlucky people.

“The lucky try more things, and fail more often, but when they fail they shrug it off and try something else. Occasionally, things work out.” - David McRaney

Embrace the tension - this might work, this might not work

What does this mean for us as marketers? We need to acknowledge that following certain steps will not guarantee the same outcome for every marketer. Should we learn from best practices and the advice of marketing gurus? Absolutely. But we have to hold in tension two opposing thoughts: this might work and this might not work.

"All the good stuff comes from leaping. From doing the things that might not work." - Seth Godin

Each of us serves a unique audience with a unique product or service. The copy, campaign, tone of voice or strategy that works for one marketer may not work for another. And that’s okay.

As marketers, our job is to become experts on what works for our audience and our product or service. This means taking time to speak to and survey your audience and customers. Seek to gain a deep understanding of how those customer and prospects see the benefits of your product or service.

When you have a crystal clear understanding of who they are and what they want, you can more accurately judge if the latest craze or blog post is relevant for your marketing. Keep iterating and trying relevant, researched ideas - some might succeed and some may not.

"'This might work,’ on the other hand, is the thinking of art, innovation and insight." - Seth Godin

Embracing the tension of opposing outcomes is not an excuse for half-hearted attempts at a million different ideas. As you understand your audience and refine your messaging (both should be ongoing), put together a three-month plan and relentlessly execute it.

Only by doing the hard work of marketing will you be able to determine what does and does not work. Making your own luck is hard work and takes time. There are no shortcuts to long-term, effective marketing.

"Only by doing the hard work of marketing will you be able to determine what does and does not work."

Be creative, take risks, measure results

Becoming a lucky marketer involves taking risks and being creative. It’s failing and yet trying again. Now let’s be clear, this doesn’t mean recklessly dashing about in our marketing efforts. Always start with a plan based on what you know (who your audience is, what they want and where they hang out), then as you encounter unpredictable events, let your creativity shine. Continually measure how well things work. A/B testing is a given.

For example, I thought writing content on a bigger idea like cultural transparency would be effective and I experimented with several different posts. After monitoring the impact of those posts (organic traffic, social shares, etc.) in comparison with our other posts, the data showed those transparency posts weren’t resonating with our audience, as it was too broad and ambiguous. So now, I’m developing content on another related, but much more specific topic - goal-focused teams. It might work and it might not - but I’m eager to try.

One aspect of being a marketer that I absolutely love is the combination of creativity and data (having measurable results). Marketing is part art and part science. Whether we’re improving our search engine optimization, writing blog posts, creating visuals or designing a new campaign entirely, metrics help inform our new ideas.

It's important to define and track marketing metrics. For example, we recently created an SEO dashboard to monitor organic traffic, website rankings, top keywords, conversions and more. We have targets set around these metrics that align with Geckoboard's wider growth goals.

By tracking these metrics, we know how movements in keyword rankings are impacting traffic and conversions. We’re also able to see how our content and optimization actions impact our goals. This way we can focus more on the keywords that are delivering conversions and content that is driving rankings and less on the things that aren't.

Here’s an example of what a live marketing dashboard might look like. You can customize the metrics to build any type of marketing dashboard such as a CMO dashboard, social media dashboard, marketing analytics dashboard and more!

How lucky are you?

Remember, you make your own luck. Identify your audience (buyer personas) and the job your audience ‘hires’ your product/service to perform (jobs to be done framework). Think about where they hang out and what they do when they're looking for a solution similar to yours.

Build a plan around that and relentlessly execute on it. When you run out of ideas, review the latest ideas and posts from other marketers and determine if they're applicable to your audience and your buying cycle. If they are, then test them out! Always set objectives and KPIs for each new tactic you try and continuously measure performance.

And perhaps most importantly, actively learn from failure - both yours and others. It’s only a failure to fail if you don’t learn anything.

“Keep in mind that those who fail rarely get paid for advice on how not to fail, which is too bad because despite how it may seem, success boils down to serially avoiding catastrophic failure while routinely absorbing manageable damage.” - David McRaney