The Diminishing Returns of Short-Term Marketing Tactics

Almost three years ago, Truly. was approached by a company who wanted a strategy that would help them raise awareness and drive sales. "Great!" I said, "It'll take us around 4-6 weeks to do the research and another 3-4 weeks to build the strategy and the plan."

The CEO looked perplexed, "But we need to sell X units in the next 3 months!"

We both agreed that we weren't a good fit, but I did tell him to come back if he wants to build a solid, long term strategy for growth after he gets through this panicked period. He said that he would.

Three years later, he called me up again and I told him the same thing. And, once again, he decided to focus on the near-term: this time putting $100k into Facebook ads. He told me that he was guaranteed a certain number of impressions and click-throughs. This time, I didn't tell him to come back when he was ready to invest in a more sustainable growth strategy.

The amount of money we see spent on short-term tactics like Facebook Ads and enormously expensive "viral video" productions is heartbreaking. All of the while, these ads are getting more expensive AND less effective. The platforms inflate their numbers (without much consequence, apparently) and the clicks and leads these companies are getting are high in quantity, but LOW IN QUALITY.

The clicks and leads these companies are getting from these short term tactics are high in quantity, but LOW IN QUALITY

And yet...that's where the money keeps getting poured. I have an idea for their next marketing spend:


Frankly, it's just about as useful as that $100k spent on Facebook.

Markets full of conversations, but nobody wants to listen...

As I talk about in this week's video, the idea of investing in listening and conversing with your customers is NOT new. In fact, my early career influence was The Cluetrain Manifesto (seriously awesome old school site!) and, 20 years+ later, things haven't changed that much. The biggest spends are still to the media platforms (broadcast) rather than the customer relationships (inbound and customer service/loyalty).

A few weeks back, I showed another client why listening and creating strategies to help grow the organic awareness and traffic was so important. I sat down with them to show them how you would put together a LinkedIn ad to get in front of their desired audience. We walked through creating a target audience and the creative that would speak to them and then showed them the cost per click.

In their target audience, which wasn't as targeted as I advised them to be, there were 230,000 people. The cost per click for this audience was an average of $11.00. They did the math.

"What if 100,000 people click, but then don't buy?"

Exactly. I explained that it's better to have a smaller audience of quality leads. When we honed the target audience down to about 5,000 people, the cost per click also went down to $7.50 (not as much competition!), they all of a sudden realized the impact of listening.

Now we can make certain the message of that campaign speaks directly to this audience - their language, their needs - and that we are getting in front of the right people who are:

  1. most likely to need their product;

  2. can PAY for their product; and

  3. will help organically spread the word about their product to others like them.

But this is only a teensy tiny example of how investing in listening and relationship building can make your marketing spend much more efficient and, frankly, I would love to ween all of our clients off of ads altogether.

Can you name other examples of how listening and relationship building helps improve your marketing? Let me know in the comments below.