You have to walk before you can run. That would seem obvious. But that good advice often goes unheeded; for instance by weekend warriors who decide to run a marathon on a whim without the right training or by overconfident DIYers who attempt to fix that pesky plumbing problem because how hard could that be, right? We know how this story turns out. Pulled muscles and kitchen geysers make for terrific cautionary tales that can be applied to many aspects of life and to your marketing approach as well.
It’s tempting to go right for the gusto. BIG efforts and shiny objects have a certain glamour and appeal because they appear to allow you to bypass the hard, consistent work that delivers the customer, process, messaging, channel and program insights that create a successful marketing strategy. They can seem like a rational and attractive shortcut and the wow factor draws attention and envy. They are not always a bad idea. BIG efforts do work. It’s just that they don’t work, or don’t work as well, unless they are built upon a solid foundation. The lure of a quick or easy win has enticed many marketers to take a big swing before they are really ready, but both long-term and short-term results will be amplified and informed by all the work you have put in day to day. Without that work, you are taking a big chance on wasted budget and worse.
Why you should make sure your small marketing is effective before you go BIG:
- Small marketing isn’t really small. It is the accumulation of dozens, hundreds, or thousands of trials across channels and campaigns and their resulting insights. It should tie directly to business goals and morph with audience, competitive, and environmental changes as the backbone of your communication and conversion strategy.
- BIG is relative to your budget, your prospective audience, and other variables. A BIG idea need not take an outsized bite of your budget and budget should not be the defining variable in many cases. BIG could mean an innovation or a novel way to look at your marketing ecosphere.
- You can’t effectively deploy a BIG effort unless you understand your audience and their needs. That comes over time as you trial different approaches, messaging, and channels. If you take that big swing without knowing where to aim, you are almost fated to miss and miss BIG.
- BIG efforts are often the byproduct of an outdated annual planning process that for strategic marketers is being replaced by iterative adjustments that come from learning. The market, your competitors, and the opportunities are too dynamic to plan once and forget it. A better way to look at annual planning is to lay out how you are going to track and respond to all the changes as they occur.
- The spotlight can be blinding. BIG efforts can go off track if you are not disciplined in carefully tying them to explicit goals and measurable outcomes. The spotlight itself is not usually a good enough reason to proceed.
- Without a consistent marketing program already in place, you likely won’t have the infrastructure and resources you need. You will place undue stress on your organization and won’t be prepared to really, fully take advantage of the opportunity you hope to create. Are you ready with CRM follow-ups and other techniques that turn one-time customers into advocates for your brand, multiple sales, or longer-term relationships? These also take time and tweaking to get them right. Collecting data around responses over time helps you to understand your customer decision paths and make the most of the connections that you create when you are ready for that BIG program.
- Even if the BIG idea is strategically sound, much of the hoped for impact is dependent on executional experience and efficiencies. Unless you have built up some memory muscle by doing things over and over again, you won’t have that smooth experience that optimizes the results.
- If the BIG effort goes wrong and doesn’t produce, it is difficult to recover from that failure. To be sure, smaller efforts may also fail but the risk is proportionate and you can glean insights from them to apply to make the next program or campaign more effective. Risk/reward, of course, goes both ways. If the BIG effort pays off in a BIG way you have to make sure you have reserved enough resources to do the effective follow-up and follow through that will make it a long term winner.
- Training yourself with disciplined, regular marketing prepares you to take advantage of spontaneous BIG or small opportunities as they pop up unexpectedly to challenge you.
Digital marketing rewards experimentation. If you only execute on a BIG scale or a BIG stage, you limit your flexibility and the incredibly valuable opportunities to test and learn in this dynamic world.
Have you been tempted to go BIG?
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