Unicorn marketers are rare — so rare that I’ve only come across a few in the wild.
Some of these unicorn marketers were consultants.
Some were part of an in-house marketing team.
A few of them were marketing executives.
All of them had five things in common.
I’ve explained before that modern unicorn marketers have a blend of hard skills and soft skills.
But what do they do with that colorful cocktail of unicorn marketing skills?
These five things.
1. Unicorn marketers expect explosive results.
When I talk about unicorns people think I’m talking about magic.
Let me be clear about something. Marketing is not magic.
But unicorn marketers do expect to get insane results (borderline magic) from their marketing efforts.
Some might call it delusional, but these marketers truly believe that they will win the marketing lottery.
In 2008, I was hogging Panera Bread bandwidth and inhaling way too many diet Cokes, while coming up with a business plan.
It looked like this:
While the 2008 economy was imploding, I was devising plans to skyrocket my not-yet-created business from $240k to $26 million in revenue in three years.
“HA HA HA!”
I was talented at drinking diet cokes and mooching Wifi, not at pioneering startups, let alone startups with a multi-million dollar annual revenue.
But explosive results often come when you believe that they will.
The whole theory behind unicorn marketing is pretty simple.
It holds that 98% of marketing efforts fall flat.
Only 2% of efforts get results — and that 2% of results drives most of a company’s clickthroughs, views, shares, conversion rates, and revenue.
This 98% and 2% data isn’t arbitrary, by the way.
It’s the result of relentless content testing that I did at my previous company.
That 2% — that’s unicorn stuff.
And that’s what unicorn marketers believe is going to happen.
But it’s not magic.
It stems from something else.
2. Unicorn marketers will try anything and everything.
Donkey marketers — creatures that are content to hoe their row — get siloed about their marketing.
They think, “Okay, I’m an SEO. So I’ll do SEO stuff. I’ll optimize the metadata and alt-tag the images, that’s what I’ll do.”
But a unicorn marketer — creatures that prance in fields and poop rainbows — they don’t see boundaries, don’t hoe rows, and don’t believe in silos.
They try anything and everything they can conceive of.
The donkey thinks, “But, wait, you can’t do that. That’s not really a thing, and I don’t think …”
The unicorn replies, “I’m going to try it anyway.”
The more things they try, the greater chance they have of discovering that 2% sweet spot where unicorn results bloom.
I’ve seen unicorns do things that seemed absolutely stupid. But as you can probably guess, those were the things that got genius results.
Heck, I’m personally taking a major gamble on Facebook messenger marketing right now, a marketing channel that didn’t even exist a couple of years ago.
Some unicorns have done things that could hardly be described as marketing. But results don’t care about labels.
And the not-sure-it’s-even-marketing moves turned into millions of dollars in revenue for their companies.
And, that’s what really matters — results.
3. Unicorn marketers obsess over results.
Unicorn marketers can be hard-headed. They’re not into following rules or abiding by some playbook.
All they truly care about?
Donkey marketers dot every i and cross every t, hoping that by following someone’s rules, they will achieve marketing success.
They measure success in terms of quantitative output — 3 blogs per week.
They run roughshod over these arbitrary rules.
They think outside the box, color outside the lines, toss the manual (pick your metaphor) they do random stuff.
I don’t care how smart you are.
I care about whether or not your relentless efforts produced big results.
In this game, the only thing that matters are outcomes.
Eventually, something works. And that’s the unicorn moment.
It’s the results that they’ve been angling for all this time.
If following the rules isn’t giving you results, write some new rules.
Anyone who parrots some marketing method is anti-unicorn.
It’s not that unicorns spit on rulebooks and disparage boundaries.
Instead, unicorns believe that a method is only justified when it returns results.
And when it does, they know exactly what to do about it.
4. Unicorn marketers repeat their unicorn moves until they stop working.
If you’re expecting results, trying everything, and addicted to results, then you will find your unicorn growth hack — something that will blow up with eye-popping results.
When you find that one thing, do it again.
And yet again.
Until it stops working.
This is the way of the unicorn. Unicorns make unicorn babies.
If a donkey marketer does something remarkable, there will be a round of high-fives and back-slaps, and then it’s onto the next thing on the content calendar.
Unicorn marketers, on the other hand, know they’ve unlocked a unicorn hack. And when they do, they double down on it.
Repurpose the content.
Keep promoting the asset.
Maintain the ad configuration.
Launch a webinar.
Turn it into an infographic.
Make a video about it.
Produce deep content on that single subject.
Replicate the heck out of your unicorn hack as long as it keeps delivering results.
5. Unicorn marketers are just donkey marketers pretending to be unicorns.
Here’s the dirty secret that most unicorn marketers won’t tell you.
They’re actually donkeys. And they’re pretending to be unicorns.
If you strap a unicorn horn onto a donkey, it sort of looks like a unicorn, right?
A lot of unicorn marketers are strapping on their proverbial unicorn horns because it makes them look like a unicorn.
Once they look the part, they act the part.
What does this mean in real life?
It sounds cliche: Fake it till you make it.
I did this in the early days of my first startup with a few simple and inexpensive hacks.
Sure, my company didn’t have the legacy of an IBM or the reputation of a Microsoft, but I knew how to read social media algorithms and generate real traffic to my company’s content so we looked big.
I pretended that my company was a unicorn by promoting our content to audiences in the millions.
The massive awareness I achieved was the catalyst. It transmogrified a donkey into an actual unicorn.
Real people, real clickthroughs, real conversions, and real revenue started pouring in, and I knew that the donkey act had produced a unicorn reality.
Sometimes, acting like you are a unicorn is the best way to become one.
Unicorn marketers are made, not born.
The characteristics I described here can be learned, built, and formed through diligence, hard work, and time.
Granted, this article is not about the tactical methods that unicorns use. It’s about the mindset of a unicorn — what they expect, how they try, why they obsess, and what they do to achieve unicorn status.
I write it, think it, read it, or say it every day — be a unicorn in a sea of donkeys.
My hope is that I’ll find more and more marketing unicorns in the wild.
Originally Published on Inc.com