The Speed of Marketing.
When you boil the purpose of marketing right down you end up with two points:
- To increase sales and profit
- To increase the value of the company
Yes, I’d argue that they are two distinct different goals, not just two sides of the same coin.
It occurred to me that the marketing activities needed to increase income vs increase company value are quite different. They reflect two very different speeds of marketing. And the more I think about it, I think the ‘speed of marketing’ concept provides quite an interesting lens to view marketing activities in general.
Everybody loves a bit of ROI… Except it can be damn hard to measure, and infers the ability to reduce a complex web of interactions into a simple input/output model. But despite the haziness of the detail around ROI, it’s undeniable that the right kind of marketing can generate leads, and those can in-turn convert to sales, raising company revenues.
Fast marketing is all about sales and ROI. It’s about funnels, lead generation, opportunity nurturing and conversion. It’s about smarketing – the interface between sales and marketing.
The ultimate metric for evaluating fast marketing is the income statement, the P&L. It’s about bringing in revenue this FY, this quarter, or even this month.
Slow marketing different. It’s about directly trying to influence the value of the company itself, independently of the income statement. This is your P/E ratio multiplier strategy.
I love slow marketing. It has a lot more depth and possibility. When done right, it can communicate powerful emotion and personality because you’re taking time to build connections, bonds and rapport with your audience. It’s first and foremost a message about your values. And when I say values, I don’t mean bullshit slogans like “we’re passionate about our customers” or “we care about our staff”. If your values are strong enough, you shouldn’t need to spell them out.
If the success criterion of fast marketing is the P&L, then the measure of success for slow marketing is the market capitalisation (market cap) – in other words the value of the company. I appreciate though that if you’re a bootstrapper, startup or other private business, “company value” is not something you can tangibly measure. That’s not to say it’s not real though. The same forces and factors apply, even if they’re less obvious. I’ll keep using the phrase market cap for now, but note I just mean your company’s holistic value.
Fast marketing is about attracting customers. But the interesting thing about raising market caps through slow marketing is that you’ve got a much bigger crowd of people to please.
You need to understand how to create a company brand that both attracts customers to buy your products, while telling a story about your business to other stakeholders to make them excited about your long-term growth potential. Joe Public often has different ideas and priorities to your customers.
Company value is heavily influenced by the market’s opinion of your future earnings. Slow marketing is about convincing people to buy into a vision of where you are headed, more than it is about where you are today.
One of the main reasons for Tesla’s insane market cap of over $50bn despite running at an annual loss and having a negative P/E ratio is because investors believe strongly in Elon Musk’s vision, ambition and capability. Elon Musk is ‘slow marketing’ gold, the personification of the perfect tech brand.
Editor’s note: This article was originally posted in 2017 and re-posted in 2021. Today, Tesla’s market cap is even more insane at $750bn. Although in fairness it does now make a moderate profit.
The speed of content.
Where does content marketing fit in all of this? Is content slow or fast?
I think that the speed of the content is directly proportional, in a nicely symbolic way, to the speed it actually takes you to create it.
Fast to produce content like social media posts, emails, ad banners, and short form blogs tend to be more transient, more transactional. They suit fast marketing well. They’re great for grabbing people’s attention, keeping people warm and pushing deals to convert. Fast marketing is also much more trackable, provides better quantitative data, and can give a much better indication of ROI.
Whereas long-form posts, videos, podcasts and series of content, tend to have a longer lifespan. They convey more personality and can tell much richer stories. They’re great for establishing your brand values to an audience in order to get them excited about what you might get up to next.
This is what I think… If all else is equal: the time it takes you to create your next piece of content is likely to closely and directly correspond with its place on the continuum between fast (income-based) and slow (market cap-based) marketing. An ad brings in quick money next month, a podcast series creates long-term market value. This speed of marketing concept is a very quick and simple way of evaluating what the likely impact of your next marketing activities might be. The speed of marketing provides a super simple framework in order to create balanced or perhaps weighted activities that align to your business objectives.
Suggestion: I’m a bit skeptical about measurement for measurement’s sake. This really doesn’t need to be too precise. But if you wanted to measure the speed of your marketing efforts – you could try something like the Planning Poker concept used in Agile. This uses numbers on the Fibonacci sequence to approximate the length of time each activity takes. So 1 hour (a quick task), 2 hours, 3 hours, 5 hours, 8 hours (a day), 13 hours, 21, 34 (a week), 55, 89, 144 (a month) etc. If you associate each marketing activity you do with a value, and track all of activities together, you should get a good sense of whether you are marketing fast or marketing slow.
When you understand this I guess the final question you need to ask yourself is what speed of marketing is right for you right now? Are you going too fast, or going too slow?