With 20 years of experience behind me, this is the phrase that scares me the most when prospects talk to us about their marketing plans: “Let’s start slow and see where it goes.”
While I get the sentiment and the reasons for wanting to go slow, this is the worst move when it comes to realizing results from your investment in marketing.
Let’s get into why so that you don’t make this mistake at your company.
I’m not sure people think about their business as a car, but there are a lot of similarities. You have a company and a vision for it. You want to get it to a certain place or reach some milestone, and you usually want to get there as fast as possible.
This should sound familiar. When you’re in a car, you have a destination, and you want to get there as fast as possible by taking the most efficient route.
The more you press the accelerator, the faster the car goes. The less you press the accelerator, the slower the car goes. It sounds basic, but think about marketing as the accelerator pedal.
Want to go fast? Step on the gas and consume more fuel but reach your goals faster.
Want to go slower? Ease off the pedal and consume less gas but take longer to arrive.
The challenge here is that most people measure marketing based on results like leads generated, sales opportunities created and new customers signed.
That’s fine, but if you choose to go slow, expect the results to be equally slow. The more you invest, the faster you go and the more significant the results. Your expectations have to be aligned with your approach to growth.
When you tell your new marketing agency that you want to go slow, you might mean you don’t want to invest a lot of money to start. Recognize that you are also saying you don’t expect a lot of leads early on.
Going slow is going to make it very hard for any agency to prove that they can drive a significant number of leads quickly – just like barely touching the gas pedal means it might take you twice as long to get where you’re going.
Keep this in mind as you refine your approach to marketing in 2024.
Another aspect of making decisions around investments in marketing is the expected return. Everyone wants to invest $1,000 and make $10,000 in return. Unfortunately, returns like that rarely become reality, and those that do often come with high risk, meaning it’s 90% likely that you’ll lose the $1,000 before even getting $2 back.
Investing in marketing is no different.
However, it’s important to understand what you’re investing in as well as the why and how around the return on investment (ROI) question.
First, many companies (actually, most companies) need a certain amount of marketing that we consider foundational marketing. This is marketing that MUST be in place to expect any lead generation. Foundational marketing means you need:
That’s just scratching the surface. While all these elements are important, they might on their own drive only a small number of leads. Getting this foundational marketing up and running doesn’t happen overnight. It takes months to be done right.
Think about it like the foundation of your house. Without it, you can’t build the fun stuff like the blown-out kitchen, TV room, man cave or outdoor entertainment area. You must have a solid foundation to do anything else.
Only after the foundation is in place can you start laying in campaigns, demand generation tactics and other activities that ramp up lead generation based on the foundation you put in place.
It’s important to think about these two important aspects of getting your marketing working, consider the different kinds of investments and set the appropriate expectations during both phases.
Back to the car analogy, there is also an element of speed during ongoing marketing work. The faster you go, the sooner you should expect to hit your goals. How fast you go is 100% dependent on how much you invest.
During the engagement, the more you invest, the more your marketing team can cycle the program faster.
Cycling means reviewing performance, making adjustments based on data, relaunching or testing the adjusted program and analyzing the results. Then it’s rinse and repeat. The more testing, the more you try, the more you learn and the more data you collect, the better your program will perform.
If you put $5,000 a month into ongoing optimization and cycling, that might mean (and I’m making this up here for the sake of the article) two cycles a month. If you invest $10,000 a month into ongoing optimization, that might mean five cycles a month. That’s 250% more learning and insights every month.
The result is you’re going to get to your goals faster.
I think one of the major challenges associated with some of the ideas out in the marketplace is that many people think marketing is a switch you turn on or off. They think it works like a light switch and that there’s no relation to any previous experiences.
Marketing isn’t like that. You can’t flip a switch. You have to build it, run it, optimize it and regularly invest in it over time. Once you stop, you can expect it to degrade dramatically and quickly.
Most business owners, CEOs and leaders I know want to go fast. They want to go lightning fast, in fact. If that’s the case with your business, then align marketing accordingly. Invest appropriately and work with your internal team or your external agency to get everyone on the same page about what you expect and how fast you expect it. Then follow their guidance and invest accordingly.