Better, Best and the Business at Rest
Marketing firms aren’t very dissimilar from fitness centers — at least in one sense. When a new year rolls around, there are lines out the door.
As an individual resolves to improve his/her physical health, businesses generally look to improve their marketing.
The analogy can be stretched a bit further.
Sometimes, those who sign up for New Year’s improvements aren’t very serious about the idea.
When 2015 rolled into 2016, I received nearly 100 new business inquiries in the first quarter. It was a bumper crop.
We’re on our way to that same mark early on, but something’s a bit different in 2017.
For some reason, the most recent inquiries have a theme of dissatisfaction accompanied by a refusal to change.
“We aren’t really getting the results we want right now, but we really like our marketing campaign so we don’t want to change it.”
“We want to improve our business, but we love our brand and website.”
“Is there a way to reach new customers without changing our messaging?”
Honestly, I’m trying to process the trend as I write this.
Perhaps it’s a by-product of our most recent election cycle.
While there are real answers to the questions above, the pattern itself is what caught my attention.
Where there’s a pattern, there’s generally a case for a column like this.
In truth, the seemingly juxtaposed phenomenon of wanting to improve while not wanting to change really isn’t that rare in business.
Over and over, I speak to business owners and marketing managers who desperately want to improve but are incredibly fearful of change.
This is why I believe the greatest force working against any business is inertia.
An object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion.
A marketing campaign yielding no result over a stated period of time will likely continue to yield nothing. Similarly, a marketing message yielding harmful results will likely continue to yield harmful results.
Through some rough polling, I’ve determined there’s a bias toward the latter portion of the definition — that inertia is more akin to momentum.
It’s worth pointing out that “inert” indicates a lack of ability to move.
Inertia is not just momentum. It can also be lethargy.
If you find your cotton crop is weak because your soil is low in nitrogen and no longer fertile, it’s time to take a season off and plant some alfalfa.
You’ll lose a season of profitability but you’ll get your field back for future use. The stubborn planting of cotton year after year will simply return weaker harvests until the plants finally stop growing.
Once you decide to renew your soil by growing alfalfa for a season, you have to actually commit to planting the right seeds. You can’t go to the farm supply store and say, “I want to grown alfalfa this season,” and then load your sowing machine with cotton seeds.
The market rarely (read: never) changes to suit your tactics. To believe this would be to believe that you could plant cotton seeds and alfalfa would spring forth from the ground.
It’s certainly easier to keep doing what you’ve always done, but you can’t expect to see different — and certainly not better — results.
Google experienced this very problem firsthand in 2014. Google Glass was one of the first pieces of wearable technology to hit the consumer market in a big way. It was met with a great deal of ridicule and certainly wouldn’t be considered a success.
YouTube product reviewer Geek Beat began its review by saying, “We rarely do negative reviews,” and closed by saying, “I can’t NOT recommend Google Glass enough.”
Keep in mind, this is a fairly advanced technology in a burgeoning market (wearable technology) developed by a company that has brought us so many products we couldn’t get through the day without.
Gmail was an application developed by one Google developer in a single day. Now, many of us use it every day. It’s the benchmark and basis of almost every webmail service today.
In May 2014, Google Glass was given an open beta and made available to a small portion of the public. Less than a year later, after much criticism and legislative concern, Glass was pulled from the market.
Google didn’t continue to jam its message and product down the throats of the consumer. It pulled what it knew to be a good idea from the market until it could perfect the product and develop a better messaging strategy.
Product hatred ran so deep that wearers of the technology were referred to as “Glassholes.”
Google Glass had plenty of inertia, but it was the kind of momentum that got the company bad reviews in technology magazines and parodied on sketch comedy shows. Instead of maintaining that inertia, it decided to regroup and find a way to develop positive momentum.
Google continues to make public assurances that Glass will return.
Marketing is an investment — but not in the traditional sense. Your marketing campaign will not return an average of 10 percent on your investment over the next 70 years if you simply leave it alone.
Marketing is absolutely a volatile investment that requires management. It requires observation, introspection, and the ability and willingness to change — proactively and reactively.
From my observations, inertia is something that’s usually not on your side.
Not only does one tend to stay at rest, but sometimes inertia in an established direction is difficult to reroute when market conditions change.
So the next time you find your marketing results to be substandard, stop and address the issue. You will only get better results when you move to a better strategy.
Stop standing still.
Stop moving in the wrong direction.
Regroup. Do the hard work of establishing a marketing message that will move your company in the right direction.