Adjusting Your Ends To Your Means


We all know the phrase, “the ends justify the means.” But how often do we think about adjusting our ends to fit our means?

We're so used to thinking about what we want—or what we think we need—we can forget to think about what we have at our disposal now.

If Dollar Shave Club had thought only about what they wanted—a huge ad campaign that would launch their business—they might have hired an expensive ad agency or launched a TV campaign.

Instead, they thought about what they had at their disposal—$4,500, improv training, and a warehouse full of razors—and made one of the most successful ads of all time, and the first step toward a billion dollar acquisition. So much for constraints.

Claude C. Hopkins, the most influential advertising copywriter of all time, said, “most business wrecks which I have encountered are due to over-reaching. To reckless speculation on a hidden chance. All advertising disasters are due to rashness; needless and inexcusable.”

If you only think about what you want and not about what you have, you're betting on an overreaching wreck. If you don't have the means to reach your end, you won't make it the whole way. Better to adjust your ends to your means and, as Ogilvy said, “go the whole hog.”

The fact is, we will never have all the budget or resources we want. We'll never have everything we think we need to launch that big, ambitious campaign. But we might have everything we need, right in front of us, to do something better, bigger, and more effective than we thought possible.

An in-house team member with improv and video experience may be more valuable than a budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars. An effective social media campaign may be more useful to your business than the 15 second TV spot you've been wishing for.

If there is one lesson that should be clear from history it is that bad means deform the end, or deflect its course thither. I would suggest the corollary that, if we take care of the means, the end will take care of itself.
— Liddell Hart

So for your next marketing opportunity, consider trying to do even more with what you have, instead of pining for what you don't.

Do more in-house, take control of your marketing and your means, and the ends will take care of themselves.