The Marketer’s Winning Hand
When an army invades a city or a country, the process happens in waves. The first wave are air strikes. Next come the boats or the heavy artillery, the tanks. Then, finally, there’s the infantry, who arrive to take what’s left and begin the occupation. There’s a playbook for invasions, a way it’s done, a combination that works best in any given situation.
But there was a time when airplanes didn’t exist. And therefore, that tool, that part of the invasion process, wasn’t available.
Marketing is no different.
There was a time before Google and Facebook, the dark ages, with dark liquors for lunch and a lack of accountability with steaks for dinner. The winning hand for marketers for most of the twentieth century was to throw the most resources possible—generally speaking, money spent on advertisements and creative talent for storytelling—at our business problems, launches, repositions, etc. Then back up that onslaught with some level of hand-to-hand combat: events and other direct-marketing techniques, like mailing out brochures. That was your advertising campaign.
Was it working?
The only way to know was if the numbers went up or the phones were ringing more than usual.
Today, we don’t have that problem. In the Age of Ideas, there’s a very clear winning hand, a surefire way to reach your audience, to demonstrate the value of your marketing efforts.
Let me explain.
In the short term, you need cover. In the business world, cover comes with revenue and cash flow. The best way for marketers to show return on investment is to focus their spend on low-funnel, measurable, high-return channels. Digital marketing is that channel, and within it, Google is the lowest part of the funnel: people who search for something already intend to take an action i.e. go to the movies or make a restaurant reservation. Digital is the salvation of the marketer. No longer should marketers be dragged over the coals by their peers or bosses for spending money with no measurable return. Now, marketers can show exactly how many clicks, purchases, views, and other engagements their efforts receive to demonstrate the ROI on their marketing spend. Digital is the short-term cover we always dreamed of, and it’s part one of the winning hand.
Short-term revenue is great and necessary, especially in a society obsessed with now. But there’s far greater value that can be generated by creating a trusted brand. Think of it this way: You may buy something today because it’s on sale, but that doesn’t mean you’ll buy it again later. The brands you love—the ones you’re loyal to—you’ll continue to consume for many years into the future whether they’re on sale or not. That’s long-term brand value, and that results in far greater revenue over time than the short-term income generated from picking up the short-term low hanging fruit. Therefore, the second part of the winning hand is brand building. While this can and should be done partly through digital awareness channels like Instagram or an owned content platform like a blog or newsletter, the practice of branding is done through a consistent aspirational dialogue with your audience. Build trust, put their needs ahead of your own, inspire them and improve their lives, and combine that with a strong perceived value, and you’ll have a customer for life. But that doesn’t happen overnight; that requires consistent investment without a clear short-term return.
To achieve marketing success, you must have both revenue and relevance. That can only be achieved by effectively implementing both parts of the winning hand, the math and the magic. Satisfy the skeptics with the only thing that cannot be debated, short-term revenue and ROI, and then invest the time necessary to build the thing that everyone really desires, long-term brand value and loyalty. That is the winning hand when it comes to sharing your creations in the Age of Ideas.