For over 15 years, I’ve sat across glossy, cherry wood tables with frustrated executives and marketing directors to discuss their ultimate goal: attracting more customers. They were there because of a pain: their marketing isn’t working as well as they wanted. And there’s nothing that will suck the life out of your business faster than lackluster marketing results.

Marketing is supposed to be the most fun activity you do at your company. Your employees should be lined up, trying to get in on the action. It’s your playground for exciting copy, tantalizing headlines and creative offers. It’s where the creativity, innovation and magic happen. Marketing is also your stage to showcase your remarkable brand to your customers. Let’s face it, they aren’t getting jazzed about your distribution methodology or manufacturing process.

One of the most common pitfalls that contributes to this is when marketers try to do too many things. It’s a tempting strategy because today’s world offers so many options now, especially in the digital space. A far cry from the “Big Three” TV networks where ad agencies placed media fifty years ago.

It’s natural to feel like you’re leaving money on the table by not including all fifty million social platforms in your marketing plan. But successful marketers and companies know that they cannot be all things to all people and it’s far better to dominate one space than to dabble in a hundred.

Think of a tree. You have the main trunk, several large branches, dozens of smaller branches and hundreds or thousands of the smallest branches. What you may be needing is simply to trim the branches and stick to the trunk. Just like your landscaper does each year with your trees.

I like to apply the 80/20 rule here. Trim 80% of your marketing efforts back and dump those resources into the 20% that works best. Just because your competitor is killing it with their latest automated messenger bot doesn’t mean you have to start one.

Sometimes it’s better to fish where your competition isn’t. Go back to your research and do what’s best for your customer.

John Wannamaker, a late-nineteenth-century businessman and philanthropist is known to have said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” And while that was true during his lifetime, it no longer needs to be the case today.

With all the analytics and data at your fingertips, there’s no reason why you cannot know exactly where the breakdown is in your process. It’s just a matter of properly setting up your foundation, defining your expectations and tracking results along the way.

I like to look at marketing in four main phases: foundation, attraction, transaction and expansion. When there’s a breakdown, asking simple questions helps me diagnose where the problem lies and what to do about it. Much like a mechanic would do with a vehicle. Some of it is art. However, when you have your process down, a lot is science, which eliminates the mystery from your marketing.

John Wannamaker would be proud.

Rather than constantly looking ahead to the next fad that will likely come and go, use your data. Truly understand your customer, define your process and apply the principles that worked so well in the younger years of your company. Turn down platforms that don’t make sense and don’t feel like you have to try everything. You don’t have the bandwidth.

Keep your marketing plan simple. Marketing executives are spinning more plates than ever before and the last thing they need is a complicated plan and verbiage that makes their eyes twitch. For example, the definition of marketing, according to the AMA is: “…the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

I think I may have just fallen asleep.

I submit something a little more digestible: “The art of creating value to influence behavior.”

Strategies full of flowery hyperbole only confuse your team. In its essence, marketing solves a problem. Who is your customer, what is their pain and how do you solve that pain better than anyone else? Stay focused on that core and spend less energy on anything else.

When you get at the heart of solving your customer’s pain, you’re in the zone. You’re living out your company’s purpose. You’re successfully doing what you set out to do and your customers are praising your name for it. And that’s when it becomes fun.

If you’ve wandered out into the weeds a bit, consider asking yourself a critical question: is it time for some pruning?