In Marketing, taking shortcuts doesn’t pay

Wait, I think I know a shortcut…

You’ve looked at the map, but it looks like such a long way around to get there.

It’s a slow and winding route and you wish there was a quicker way. And then there’s that person in your group that says “wait, I think I know a shortcut!”. Who wouldn’t want to get there in half the time? Perhaps they just forgot to mark it on the map? What could possibly go wrong?

For the first few hundred meters the shortcut looks promising – it’s straighter and much more direct and you’re feeling pretty smug that you’re privy to some secret advantage nobody else knows about. But then you get over the brow of the first hill and the path starts to deteriorate. By the time you get over the second hill it’s obvious there is no passable route this way – it’s steep and dangerous and you’re starting to fear for your mortal soul.

That’s why it isn’t on the map. And by the time you’ve gone back to where you started, to follow the path you should have taken originally, reaching the destination has taken far longer.

It’s exactly the same with marketing

There is a prescribed route. A time-tested method that, while it might not look quick, others have definitely achieved success that way. But there’s always someone who will promise you the shortcut – that silver bullet for amazing business growth that comes without all the hard graft and only takes a fraction of the time. The “loose fat in 7 days without exercise” of the marketing world. Understandably it’s tempting but you’re usually embarking on a journey to Mt Disappointment.

As a marketing agency we get asked for the shortcut all the time. Let’s skip the strategy. Let’s skip developing the Value Proposition. Let’s make do with the current website, there isn’t time or budget to build a new one. Let’s just start running campaigns to bring-in some leads.

We see businesses that have been sold SEO and tried that for a year but only made it to Page 1 for obscure keywords that nobody searches, and yet the traffic is still conspicuous by its absence. Then they try running their own Google Ads campaign for 6 months but it costs a fortune and all they have to show for it is 10,000 credit card reward points before having to switch it off. Next, they hire someone to do telemarketing but after 4 months most of the appointments have turned out to be no-shows and the wages are costing far more that the business being generated.

Eventually 2 years have been wasted, the marketing budget has been exhausted, and yet they are still standing where they first started.

Get the strategy right first

What’s usually missing is getting the fundamentals right first (a really strong value proposition and a website that converts well) and having a well-thought through marketing strategy that is followed consistently over the medium to long term. Yes, developing a strategy and a marketing plan does take up valuable time. And yes, we all want more customers yesterday and we all want to cut to the chase and start seeing results. And yes, I know it means investing money in something that might seem like intangible fluff to begin with. But if we skip this first step none of the other things we do will be remotely as effective.

At Due North we have helped lots of clients achieve dramatic and sustainable business growth through great marketing and here’s our not-so-secret formula:

  • Understand the target market well including who those people are, what motivates them, what pain points they have and what their “customer journey” is
  • Develop a really strong value proposition that communicates what you’re selling and why customers should buy it from you instead of someone else
  • Develop a well-planned marketing communications strategy and roadmap for all the activity that lies ahead, making sure that all the numbers stack up
  • Build a website that leads customers through the journey addressing all their information goals and providing the right CTAs to achieve great conversion rates
  • Execute marketing campaigns as per the plan
  • Monitor and analyse the important metrics and continually optimise campaigns based on data to maximise results

Trust me, I want there to be a shortcut too. We all do. And if there was one everyone would be taking it. But there isn’t one. Sorry.

In fact, there’s really only one thing you can do to get there quicker; and that is not to waste time looking for the shortcut to begin with. Instead, just set-off on the prescribed route without delay. The route might look long but guaranteed you will reach your destination that way.

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