Marketing for Speed, Cost, & Effectiveness

Whenever a company has a project, they’re juggling 3 things: time, budget, and quality. Notoriously, both big and small brands continually go over-budget, exceed their project time window, and get less desirable results than they hoped. This is usually due to an insistence on UNREALITY. By trying to get something cheap, fast, and effective, they wind up holding a fistful of air.

project triangle - fast, cheap, rightPeople who manage projects describe the three criteria of time, budget, and quality, as the project triangle. It’s a lot like the bermuda triangle, because projects go sailing into it, only to get lost at sea. A project manager will tell you a central truth: You can have it fast, cheap, or right – you get to pick 2. That reality is no less applicable to marketing projects. It’s not wishes that govern effective decisions, but reality. In reality, you can’t have it all and, in the words of Stephen King, “wishes can’t make it so”.

So what would you do, if you acted in accordance with reality? What marketing campaigns would you run, in what venues, with what resources, and for how long?

Sales

Speed: fast
Cost: high
Effectiveness: drops when you stop

The challenge with sales is defining your pitch, creating and managing the sales program (including leads and compensation), and finding the salesperson. There are certainly lead generation services, if you’re willing to be the salesperson/closer. If you want the closer to work for you, though, you must make it worth their while. Do that, with a service or product people want, and be prepared to manage a quality sales program, and you can get results fast.

Advertising

Speed: fast
Cost: high, if you do it right
Effectiveness: drops when you stop

Ads aren’t set it and forget it. That mythology comes from only looking at the output. The input is far more substantial. Effective ad campaigns need A/B testing and continual optimization for budget, copy, search factors, landing page behavior, and performance. It’s also a hotly competitive environment. Too low a budget is either just enriching the ad provider or else drawing the wrong audience in the wrong state of mind. Whether native ads, PPC, retargeting, or related content, if you’re willing to invest in ads, devote a substantive budget for the experiments, optimization, and competition, and you’ll avoid needlessly tossing away time AND money.

PR (Public Relations)

Speed: slow to medium
Cost: low to moderate
Effectiveness: lasting, sustainable

PR requires dedication and some disruptive factor that isn’t fluff. If your business is a game changer, raising the stakes in your industry, you can get the story out there. The rest is budget and/or perseverance. You can get free PR just by dedicating yourself to an aggressive and routine practice of contacting reporters. It’s not hard; it’s just that so many businesses like the idea of it better than they like the consistency required. That word, ‘perseverance’, should automatically tell you it takes time. PR pays off what you put in, but only if you put it in regularly, at least for a while. If you’ve got a substantial budget, and six or more months, you can go the professional PR route, but you can’t be a commodity. If you’re unwilling to stand out, you’ll waste your PR money. Lead your field – be a thought leader and an actual leader – and you’re potentially a prime candidate.

Live Events

Speed: can be fast
Cost: low to high
Effectiveness: depends on the event

Event space and promotion are the big factors. Of course, you need a killer idea for giving people value in a face to face environment. Whether you charge for it, and it’s the gateway drug for your business, or you do it free as a promotion, it can immediately result in a contact list of potential leads. When you host or co-host an event, you determine what to hand out, give away, sell off, teach, etc. You have a lot of opportunity to collect information, too. The one thing you can’t do is come off as entirely self-serving. Promoting your event will require a solid plan; you can’t build it and hope, staking your event on a wing and a prayer. Too many events depend on thing assumptions that people will sign up willingly. Be prepared also, to follow up strategically to leverage your new contacts over time. If you factor in all costs, timing, content, followup and especially the promotion, you can get a ton of fast and ongoing value from event marketing.

Social Events

Speed: fast if it’s effective
Cost: moderate
Effectiveness: depends on the event

Giveaways, contests, webinars, and other online events can minimize cost, but the need to promote it, deliver hard value, and follow up remains. An under-attended or low-participation online event can be a non-starter. You’ll need to have built up an amenable social audience or have a plan to spread the event through other contacts’ audiences. Don’t just give away the iPhone when it’s not related to your product or service. An effective online event gets people excited about something that ties it to what you’re selling, by introducing them to how fun or valuable it can be.

Networking

Speed: fast if it’s systematic
Cost: low to moderate
Effectiveness: high, if it’s high quality

If you’re brilliant at networking, going after referrals or direct contacts may be your best bet. Still, you’re working cost, time, and quality. You can go to event after event with a pocket full of business cards, as the unstructured route, if you’ve got the time and the price of a few drinks. You can also join a well-structured referral marketing group with a single seat for each profession, like BNI, if you’re willing to pay the dues and put in the time on a more predictable basis. Usually, it’s not a substitute for other types of marketing, but a supplement to them. If you’re willing to give in order to gain, finding referrals for other people, you can build up the offline version of social media cred with in-person networking.

Promotions & Programs

Speed: slow
Cost: low to moderate
Effectiveness: high, if you have intrinsically motivated evangelists

Membership programs, referral programs, and introductory specials can get boots in the door, but you need to be working a solid e-mail list, phone list, or social following. Alternately, you can use a promotional service like Groupon or LivingSocial, but those can be the bane of some businesses because, in addition to losing money on the campaign, bargain seekers don’t make good repeat clients. As a gateway program into a more extensive package of services over time, it can work if one hit simply won’t do the trick for the client anyway. If you’re willing to invest, over time, in building up an audience, or put cash into buying one via a service, your promotion *might* grab some new clients.

Content Marketing and Social Media

Speed: slow
Cost: low to moderate (who’s doing it?)
Effectiveness: high, if it resonates with the audience

Blogging and social media, done smartly, can be some of the most sustainable marketing, but it’s not fast. Cost ranges from moderate (if you pay a copywriter that specializes in engagement) to free (if you do it yourself). In addition to the 3 sides of the triangle, you choose cost vs. involvement. If you pay, you pay more to make it effective. The more effective it is, the faster and more sustainable it is. Short it on consistency, quality, or authenticity, and it stagnates. Put out stellar blog content, paired with thorough social distribution, and you can build authority, presence, search results, and a referral-prone social audience around your brand.

E-mail Marketing

Speed: fast if it’s systematic
Cost: low
Effectiveness: high, if it resonates with the audience

E-mail marketing starts with the list. If it’s well-nurtured (not stale), and well-segmented (not a big pile of assorted contacts), you’ve got a platform for content. Then it’s about content. Your content strategy needs to provide high value (not just a pitch), and focus on growing the list and increasing clickthrough. Campaigns can be simple, if you want to curate content you’re already posting to other channels. Maybe you’ve got an active blog and are regularly putting out videos on Youtube. Maybe you’re just a good writer. You can also get downright scientific, with A/B testing, and very involved with auto-responders, and sequences of automatically delivered e-mails. E-mail is low cost, so it’s all about the quality of the content and how directly or quickly that appeals to your audience.

Video Marketing

Speed: slow to moderate
Cost: low to moderate
Effectiveness: high, if it’s high quality

Just doing video to do video won’t accomplish much. You can lay out thousands for a great explainer video for your home page, but you still need an interested audience to visit it. Video blogging can be easier, and you can afford lower production values, but you’ll need to have high value content to compensate. Watching a video upload from you needs to leave us in a slightly different place. Video can also get you great search results, but ultimately, video is social – it’s about the audience. Video is like any other communication where we’ve given you a chance to have the floor. You must get it in front of us. to start with, then grab us, delight or interest us, and follow through. For video blogging, you’ll need to be frequent, consistent, and patient.

SEO

Speed: slow
Cost: low to moderate
Effectiveness: low

What a lot of SEO shops mean by “search engine optimization” is a mix of content marketing, social, and plain clothes PR. Essentially, it’s packaging things that go together anyway, and marking up the bundle. Often, you get pretty low grade versions of each. So it’s expensive, but not effective, or it’s inexpensive but not effective, or it’s moderately effective but still not very fast. In all, bundling merely obscures the project triangle; it doesn’t make it disappear.

Reality is Comforting

All of these marketing strategies presume you’ve got a website worth sending people to, a rational strategy informed by experience, and ongoing coaching for you and anyone involved. Those things mean there’s automatically *some* cost. Short the prerequisite cost, and you’re belly up out of the gate. If you’ve got that stuff, you face reality cleanly: do you want it fast, cheap, or right?; pick two.

The comforting thing about reality is you avoid the snake oil, empty dreams, and fairy dust. Once you know the shape of a problem, you can be strategic about it. So draw a triangle, and figure out which side you’re willing to yield on. Once you know, you can make a plan. For help doing that, get MadPipe.

 

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership in marketing, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.
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