Are Marketing Shortcuts A Folly?

marketing-shortcuts-sunset

At some point or another you, like me, have likely searched for a tip, trick, or tool to save time.

Saving time is a good thing right? After all, there are only 24 hours in a day and you have to balance between work, family, friends, hobbies, and sleep.

There are those that will tell you that there aren’t any marketing shortcuts.

Others will tell you that there are a multitude of marketing shortcuts that you can potentially use. Not only to save time but also to make more money.

Many are given to you for free but there are some that you can’t get unless you’re willing to pull out your wallet.

This begs the question: What are marketing shortcuts and will they really help you?

The Problem with Marketing Shortcuts

What is a marketing shortcut?

It’s something that helps you get the same marketing result in less time.

Who wouldn’t like that? I certainly would.

There is a problem though.

If you start looking for shortcuts you are likely to run into people selling silver bullets, something that requires very little from you but promises huge returns.

I have no doubt you’ve seen many a sliver bullet. They are those things such as if you buy 10 shares of this stock you will become a millionaire. Or, a promise that you will lose weight without changing your eating habits or even exercising by just taking a pill.

There are plenty of these in the marketing and communications world as well. They hide under names that have some legitimacy like hacks or best practices.

Silver bullets are too good to be true and they prey on those who either are incredibly frustrated or don’t yet have the knowledge to know better.

Some of them could also cause more problems than they actually solve.

What Do You Really Want?

Let’s be honest, you just want to make your life better. I do too.

I actively look for ways to improve. I put time aside every week for training. It helps me level up my skills so I can provide better insights and advice for my clients.

It also helps me become more efficient in delivering better results. In other words, I want life to be a little easier and being more efficient certainly helps with this endeavor.

If you are looking for a marketing shortcut you need to take a step back and ask yourself what it is that you are really trying to accomplish.

For example, there are marketing tools that I use in which I’m competent but I’m not an expert. If I were an expert I could get better results in a shorter amount of time.

Let me give you an example.

I use Google Analytics (GA) and I can find the information I want but if I was more proficient I could have that same information in less time. This would allow me to spend more time in other areas of my business.

The goal is to be more efficient but there isn’t something like a keyboard shortcut that can help me become more proficient with GA (and GA-4).

In other words, there is no shortcut. To save more time and get the insights I want to get better results, I need to make a time investment now so that over the long term I can the results I want.

In my last article, I said that getting a return on your marketing starts with seeing it as an investment. The same is true of many of the tools and processes you use too.

You won’t get what you want if you aren’t sure what it is and in many cases, you don’t need a marketing shortcut. You need additional training or to create or tweak the processes you have in place.

The Best Marketing Shortcut

I feel there are four major pieces to marketing. Research, planning, execution, and measurement. If you are doing these four things, your going to get a better result than those who aren’t but doing them is an investment of time and money.

They aren’t shortcuts but if you do them well, they could save you time and make you more money in the long term.

These four pieces are broad and they in turn break down into smaller pieces.

How proficient you are in each of these pieces will determine the amount of time your spending on them which will tie to the return you get.

Don’t forget, time is a type of cost.

Here’s an example.

If you create a video, there is money tied to it. This is true whether you assign it to an employee, hire an outside vendor, or do it yourself.

The first two have an obvious cost. The wages you pay your employee or the amount you pay the vendor.

If you choose to do it yourself, the time you spend creating the video is time you can’t spend doing something else which could be an issue.

The results you get, meaning the quality of the video created, can also vary.

If, for example, you do the video yourself, do you have all the skills required such as scripting, getting the proper lighting, or editing the video?

The more proficient you are in these things, the less time it will take you to produce a good video.

I would argue that this is the only and best shortcut.

The more proficient you are, the easier it is to do something also ties to the amount of time it takes to do it.

Proficiency breeds efficiency.

My niece started mowing my parent’s lawn this summer. I’ve done it for them in the past and can mow and trim in about 45 minutes. The first time my niece did it, it took almost two hours. She can now do it in less than an hour.

Over time she became more proficient. In turn, she is making more money an hour.

This applies to everything you are doing with your marketing. The more proficient you and your team are, the better the results are going to be.

When you start multiplying this across everything that you do in your marketing such as creating content, writing a newsletter, posting to social media, creating a video, or media relations, it adds up.

Proficiency breeds efficiency which means you’ll see better results in less time with a better return on your investment.

Can The Tools You Use Create A Marketing Shortcut?

Many certainly bill themselves this way.

It could be a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, a social media tool such as Agropulse, or an audience intelligence tool like SparkToro. (Disclaimer: I’ve used both Agropulse and SparkToro.)

The idea behind these tools is to make it easier to do the task they have been designed for which in turn creates efficiency.

I might be able to gather some of the information that SparkToro collects but it’s going to take such a long time that it might be a poor investment in the end.

Over the last couple of years, the trendy “tool” has been AI.

It seems like every day I get hit with something through email or social media about AI and how it can be used to make my marketing life easier. They don’t say it, but many subtly suggesting that they are creating a marketing shortcut.

They might be right but if you’ve ever read anything on AI by Chris Penn at Trust Insights, a company that uses AI, machine learning, and data to help their customers, he doesn’t talk about it as a quick fix or a shortcut.

He does talk about the value it can bring if set up and used properly but a marketing shortcut it isn’t.

However, like other tools, the proficiency you have with it can create long-term value.

Tools themselves aren’t marketing shortcuts but they can help you create an efficiency that will it appear that they are.

Are There Really Any Marketing Shortcuts?

Learning tools and building processes take time. Experience only comes with time.

These aren’t things that people would view as any sort of a shortcut. At least, not in the short term.

You can gain knowledge from people without having to learn it the hard way. The problem is that you won’t get much if any of the wisdom that comes with that knowledge because you didn’t earn it. It’s a shortcut with an important caveat.

What most people really want when looking for a marketing shortcut is efficiency and improved results but there is rarely is a quick fix for this.

In most cases, becoming proficient at what it is you do is the best choice and that may be the only real marketing shortcut.

Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash

Shane Carpenter