Congratulations! You’ve hired a so-called “marketing expert,” trusted them with your digital properties, and learned today that you gained 1 million hits to your website last month. But, upon reflection, your cash drawer is not overflowing, and you’re certainly not feeling flush with success.
It’s a sad reality – though many marketing agencies are well-meaning, there are some that can coax you into the fast-money trap. They promise shortcuts, big hits, and a load of sexy-sounding data that may look good on the surface – something I call vanity metrics, but not real business results.
In a world shaken by a global pandemic, it’s understandable that businesses would do whatever they could to gain attention for their business and get people lining up (whether in person or virtual) for their offering. But this approach tends to exchange qualified traffic and sustainable growth for an impressive yet shortsighted cadre of impressions, downloads, clicks, likes, and follows. These numbers may deliver an attractive monthly website traffic report – but they don’t quite pay the bills.
But all is not lost, business leader.
With the pandemic hangover lifting and the economy showing signs of sustained robustness, it’s time to admit that the ready-fire-aim approach is risky, vanity metrics are out, and real strategy is making a return.
So how do you trade in this short-term mirage – a phenomenon I call “growth hacking” – with a more sustained reality delivered through a process that we at Chief Outsiders call “growth gears” – employing insights and strategy first as a means of building a more secure future?
First, let’s look at a real-world example of the “vanity metrics” ideal.
I recently connected with a technology company that was launching new app and service in the U.S. targeting families that speak Mandarin, and others who were interested in learning the language. Though interest in learning Mandarin is growing in popularity in the US, there are only 200 mandarin immersion programs in the U.S. So, by extension, we could assume that the sweet spot of the app’s target consumer would be families that send their kids to these schools.
When I arrived at the company, they lamented about a recent marketing failure that was still stinging: They hired an app marketing company to help with their app store launch. Though the company was successful in getting blog posts and downloads with a million impressions within the first week after launch, there were exactly zero conversions. Crickets. This led the company to conclude that the product had failed.
What the company didn’t realize -- and the app marketing company didn’t bother to consider -- is that the target was a very narrow niche, and that a non-targeted 1 million impressions would never even scratch the surface with respect to awareness building. If they were willing to spend millions of dollars, they might have a chance, but if trying to do it on a shoestring budget with no thought to targeting strategy would never work.
In the final analysis, this wasn’t just a case of an agency not setting realistic expectations with a client, or not doing enough market due diligence to architect an acquisition strategy that was appropriate and effective. It was a classic case of wanting easy wins and fast answers. The agency promised leads and delivered them. But clearly not the right ones, and without a follow-up nurturing strategy that would help the company learn, evolve and discover product market fit.
Some might say you’ve got to start somewhere. But I believe that where you start has a huge impact on whether you’ll achieve success quickly. Scatter shot (spray and pray) marketing is not only expensive, it is distracting. Here are five reasons why lack of thoughtful analysis, strategy and planning can actually set a marketing organization back.
Ultimately, a return to a more reasoned and strategic approach to marketing is the best way to convert your marketing bucks to long-term money. The right marketing resource will know how to:
Target your audience and channel: They’ll help you avoid the “bait and switch” — steering you away from those tactics that deliver vanity metrics, but not a whole lot else.
Avoid “spray and pray: They’ll zero in on the quality prospects who will pay attention to your message, and who will respond. This needn’t be a budget busting exercise. Though starting with highly competitive, expensive channels that primarily support branding (like Super Bowl ads, for example) is tempting, direct response (social media) and performance based advertising can help you go to where the customers are, at a more reasonable cost.
Direct your resources away from the opportunists: Avoid channels and firms that use Fivrr and other methods to ratchet up low-quality leads or focus on vanity metrics that do not yield meaningful leads and business results.
You can avoid growth hacking and still obtain impressive results. You just need to harness key customer insights to define smart messaging, channel and campaign strategies, then iterate to grow and build your marketing engine.
If I can be of assistance to you in helping you focus your marketing on a more insights-based model, please reach out.