What the hell is all that noise? That thought was going through my head as I traversed the crowded hallways of the Austin Convention Center at the annual SXSW Interactive conference this past March. Each year this event draws thousands to Texas for engaging conversations, connections, and community building around all things digital.

This can leave an attendee pretty hungry and in Austin you have a few options to say the least. In the convention center alone the halls are lined with vendors selling their wares.

To stand out in the sea of congestion and competition, one enterprising vendor from Southside Flying Pizza took to adding some music to draw people in. Except he didn’t have instruments. Or a song. Or a singer, for that matter. Instead he chose to do the best he could with what he had. That’s why he made music with his hands and his stand — literally slapping his metal pizza cart at an incredible volume with surprising rhythm.

As previously noted, it got my attention. And I wasn’t alone. Soon enough he was overwhelmed with a crowd. Mission accomplished. As I continued on my way, I remarked to a colleague that what we’d just witnessed was an allegory for how we have to handle our marketing today.

Like the Southside Flying Pizza employee, we have to make our own marketing if we want to stand out from the crowd. We have to be both strategic — planning the work — and tactical — actually working the plan — all at the same time.

What did the pizza guy get right? If we consider the classic 5-Ws (why, what, who, when, where) we’ll find a well-executed mini-marketing strategy:

  • Why — Business objective? Stand out from the crowd. Compel them to stop. Sell them pizza.
  • What — Capture attention with a musical distraction.
  • Who — The pizza dude. There was no one else working with him. There’s no marketing department or agency to farm this out to as is the case with more and more of us these days.
  • When — ASAP. The pizza’s getting cold!
  • Where — At the stand.

Likewise, we can simplify our own marketing by answering these simple questions. And we could use some simplification. Despite all of the shiny new things that social media presents us with, our work as marketers has never been more complex. New social networks and new forms of content are further complicated by an ever-changing consumer. To say nothing of the fact that few of us have as many resources as we’d like.

The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs have asked marketers over the past few years what their biggest content marketing challenges are. Lack of time and budget have cracked the top of the lists each year across all sectors.

We could get lost wallowing or we could be like the pizza guy. We could suck it up and do the work. Consider what needs to be done, what resources we can bring to the table, and then do the best with what we have.

The other thing that the pizza guy gets? Marketing is less and less something you set and forget. Marketing is now something you consistently do. You have to spend time creating content and engaging on social networks. If you don’t feed and water your customers and communities, they’ll never grow.

Are you making your marketing? If not, you’d better get to slapping your stand if you want to stand out from the crowd.