A Different Type of Unicorn

3 principles to transform your marketing strategy


I’m obsessed with unicorns. That might sound a bit weird for a middle-aged guy, but hear me out. For over ten years, I’ve been on a mission to discover the most successful marketing tactics available. I call these tactics unicorns. In this article, I’ll share with you my three principles for creating unicorns.


Be somewhat delusional    


Delusional thinking is about coming up with plans that are so aspirational they sound ridiculous, while believing they are achievable. At one time, it was delusional to think it was possible for automobiles to replace horses, thousands of songs to fit into your pocket, and a quarter of the Earth’s human population to be on a single social network. 


When you come up with a crazy plan, most of the general population will either laugh at you or mock you. You’ll have a hard time finding employees and investors who believe in it. That’s okay. You’re looking for the tiny minority of people who will buy into your delusion and turn your wild dream into a reality. Delusional thinking attracts high-caliber people who create growth by virtue of their dreams, passion, and addiction to success.


Delusional thinking also forces epic change. There is no way to carry out a delusional plan with timid donkey steps or anemic tweaks. Instead, you have to invent new ways of doing things. 


Take risks


Delusional thinking leads you to try out marketing practices that are whacked out, off-the-wall, and possibly dangerous. Much of what you try will fail. 97% of your tricks, tactics, hacks, and crazy ideas will lead to donkey results, but 3% of those will be successful. You’ll notice them instantly because they should be performing two to five times better than your average campaign. 


To find your future unicorn, you need to look to the past. What blog content drove the most organic traffic? Which social media post created the most engagement? Which email subject line elicited the highest open rates?


Try, test, rinse, repeat. The goal is to find one or two unicorn marketing techniques. Every business has one. 


My startup, Wordstream, had been limping along for a couple of years with ho-hum growth. I’m not a ho-hum growth guy, so we obliterated our original product, made something entirely new, and basically gave it away for free. This momentum was what we needed to slash our cost-per-acquisition and blow up our growth. 


Make unicorn babies


Making unicorn babies requires taking those marketing methods that worked well and doing them again. Yep, it’s that boring. Find what’s working, and make it work again–only better.


I’ve discovered that 95% of marketers prefer new and unproven marketing tactics over old, proven ones. That’s donkey thinking, not unicorn marketer thinking. Once you find the unicorn, you start making unicorn babies. 


The mistake people make is not understanding that a crappy idea is crap no matter what. Cut your losses and move on. Of course, marketers should always be trying new and unproven tactics, but they shouldn’t neglect what’s working. Rather, they should improve upon it again and again until it stops working altogether. 


At Wordstream, we tried a bunch of marketing tactics, from PR stunts to free tools. We took this pile of experiments and selected the top 3% for repurposing, which we kept optimizing, testing, and pushing. 


Unicorn land is a remarkable place. To get there, you’ll catch the attention of naysayers, but you’ll also attract believers who will join you. If you’re tired of the marketing strategies you’ve been executing, I understand. Making little conservative moves and getting mediocre success is a complete waste of time.


It’s time to be a unicorn in a sea of donkeys. 


About the Author




Larry is the CEO of MobileMonkey, a chatbot-building platform for marketers that enables mobile messaging between businesses and customers via Facebook Messenger. He is also the founder of WordStream, a leading pay-per-click marketing software company. You can follow him Twitter @larrykim.


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