In marketing, slow and steady is as relevant as it has never been before. But let’s assume you want to object by saying that we live in an age of real-time marketing, where seconds can make or break a brand, and speed-to-market is critical. You want more leads, more shares, more brand recognition, a fatter pipeline, and a fuller funnel. And you want it yesterday.
Yes, the early bird still catches the worm, but the bird has to show up every single morning and keep at it. Consistently.
From Zero to Hero Overnight? Hardly
As a marketer, I bet you get dozens of emails that promise to take you from zero to hundreds of followers virtually overnight. What a tempting proposition because who doesn’t want to wake up successful tomorrow?
The very nature of the digital realm, especially social media, feeds the instant gratification monkey in us when we see things turn viral overnight and generate thousands of views. It creates a myth that you can achieve success overnight and hides all the energy and hard work that went into that success.
Moreover, “viral” content is somewhat of a myth because many viral campaigns are seeded, which means people are paid to post it. Genuine virality happens, but in many cases, your audience will just “lurk” instead of actively participating.
No wonder marketers, too, fall victims to the allure of fads and gimmicks that churn out thousands of shares within short periods because business owners are the first to demand immediate results. In reality, however, gimmicks and short bursts of activity on social media may produce a desired outcome now, but they won’t get you anywhere in the long run.
Good Things Take Time
The Beatles had performed over 1,200 live shows before becoming an overnight success. James Dyson prototyped 5,126 vacuum cleaners before creating the one that made him famous.
Let’s face it – the real marketing is hard work. Good, old-fashioned, consistent hard work, which requires you to invest that elbow grease. Otherwise, you’re chasing mavericks – and sometimes even riding them – but end up frustrated.
The Myth of Good, Fast, and Cheap
The common misconception many first-time entrepreneurs share is that if they have a good product, investors, and talent, all they need from marketing is to get some “stuff” out there quickly.
But in marketing, just like in any other field, quality takes time and effort. Quality is neither fast nor cheap, at least not simultaneously fast and cheap. If you want something that’s good and cheap, it’s going to take time. If you want something that’s fast and cheap, you’re compromising on quality. If you want something that’s fast and good, you have to invest heavily.
Marketing isn’t about churning out lots of “stuff” quickly. It’s about brainpower, creativity, ongoing education, innovation, and consistency.
Be Slow, Work Steadily, but Adapt Quickly
How do you brainstorm? Do you have to sit in silence for hours on end and think? Do you have to spend a day reading, sleep on it, and then start jotting things down? Do you talk out loud to yourself, or scribble nonsense on your whiteboard until you’re getting something out of it? Do you ever feel exhausted once finished? And that is only a tiny part of marketing.
Then you build a strategy comprised of hundreds of bite-sized tactics, goals, and milestones. Then you make sure you’re on brand, meeting your objectives, driving action, all the while brainstorming over and over again because new trends, ideas, and channels crop up every day.
It’s more like being the hare that has the endurance and consistency of a tortoise or being the tortoise on steroids. Either way, slow and steady wins the race as long as you’re agile and iterative.
Tips For Slow, Steady And Agile Marketers
- Be fast to adapt but also consistent – Today, products can go to market significantly faster than they did ten years ago while digital marketing constantly yields new ways of engaging with buyers. With so many channels and interactions, change is your new constant. If you want to send the right message at the right time to the right prospect, you have to be fast to adapt. Otherwise, you run the risk of building your strategy on outdated information.
But you have to be fast all the time, long-term, consistently. Not the sprint-style fast, but marathon-style fast. Being fast in marketing is not about churning out gimmicks – it’s about agility and never taking no for an answer. It’s about learning from your mistakes and adapting.
Make a quarterly plan, but revisit it as often as it takes to identify if it doesn’t work as soon as possible. If so, adapt. You can’t afford wasting time and resources following ineffective strategies.
- Be iterative – View marketing as a process that produces fresh insights with each cycle, and that cycle can be short- and long-term. So hold regular retrospective meetings, adjust your tactics and strategy, identify blind spots, assess progress and shift tactics if needed.
- Check your strategy for integrity – Slow down, tame your impatience, and identify what key moments are missing from your strategy. And do better, with more integrity.
- Don’t work in silos – think in real time, and work to not only respond to change but anticipate it.
- Divide your big initiative into small parts and short project cycles, where the most important things happen first.
- Communicate constantly – with your audience, internally with your team and your superiors. Communication is key to timely adjustments.
- Apply what Mark Zuckerberg dubs “the hacker way” – an approach that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Accept the simple truth – you can’t get absolutely everything right the first time, at once. Try out things, spy on your competition, learn and do better.
- Analyze – and don’t assume your analytics has no blind spots. While analyzing, it’s OK to be slow because that’s how you identify what’s really resonating with your audience, and shift focus on doing more of what’s working, and less of what’s not.
- Test Systematically – Don’t just rely on your opinion, but back it with big data-based analytics, and deploy as many A/B tests as you must to test all components – offer constructs, channels, pricing, targeting models, campaign types.
- Go the extra mile – Don’t forget about the power of face-to-face networking and going the extra mile to get to know your target audience personally. Remember Morton’s Steakhouse once sent a waiter with a porterhouse steak to Newark airport to meet a customer who tweeted he wanted a steak when he came off his plane? Be it to meet your vloggin influencers in person, or tap into geotags to engage with prospects in your neighborhood – think beyond digital.
- Don’t rush to change a banner or ad just because you’re tired of it. If it converts, keep at it.
For your marketing efforts to succeed, you need to understand that you’re in this for a long haul. You have to be the proverbial tortoise and work hard and steady using traditional methods that create awareness, generate leads, win market share, and drive growth. But here’s the trick – you need to be an agile tortoise. A tortoise on steroids – because the marketing landscape, strategies, and tactics are fluid. Therefore, be quick to adapt, be iterative, learn from your mistakes, and never take no for an answer.
Tabitha Jean Naylor is the proud owner of TabithaNaylor.com, a marketing firm that delivers ‘big agency’ quality at rates that are affordable for startups and small businesses. Her intimate knowledge of how sales and marketing go hand-in-hand has resulted in a variety of successful campaigns for start-ups through NASDAQ traded companies.