A few friends and I debated which is harder: developing effective marketing strategies or hiring sales people.

I fell on the side of developing effective marketing strategies.

Every business has to be able to generate leads to survive, but there is a limit of escalating difficulty that we all hit. Often, that limit becomes the single biggest constraint on our growth.

For example, if you’re a restaurant, you might naturally capture a certain amount of foot traffic, but expanding beyond that is challenging.

In that frontier of growth opportunity, most marketing tactics don’t work.

It’s a harder problem to solve than hiring sales because you operate with limited information. It’s an innovation for the business- the creation of something new.

Innovation is like mapping the sea floor with a depth gauge.

Some problems have a lot of information and naturally lead to understanding. Measurements show the floor gently sloping down in a predictable pattern as you cross above a valley. Other problems don’t betray the same information. The measurements come back the same and then suddenly drop away into a chasm.

As an example:

A couple of years ago, I worked on building an email list through Facebook using paid ads. For several months, I tried all sorts of messaging and tactics using “best practices” with nothing to show for it. Eventually, I made a small tweak to the bid strategy and it was like I had turned a faucet on.

I had stumbled into an innovation shaped like a chasm. There was little indication I was on the right path until I hit it.

Because of this possibility, when you’re innovating, start with proven strategies that have worked in similar contexts.

Chasms exist in nature, but they’re uncommon terrain features. Similarly, when you’re building marketing strategies, you want to be mapping valleys, hills, and mountains not testing your luck finding rare solutions.

Featured image is of Captain Nemo figuring out where he is on the surface. By Henri Théophile Hildibrand (1824-97) used under public domain.