The Speed of Marketing

When you strip marketing back to its fundamental business functions, by repeatedly asking “why?”, you end up with two goals:

  1. To increase sales and profit
  2. To increase the value of the company

Yes, that’s two different goals, not just two sides of the same coin. There are connections no doubt – companies with high earnings tend to be valued more – but there’s much more to it than that.

The purpose of this post is not to explore the relationships between company value and income. I’m sure that’s been done thousands of times already. But rather it occurred to me that the activities businesses undertake to increase income vs increase company value 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.

 

Marketing fast.

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 gen, 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 money in this FY, maybe even this fiscal quarter.

 

Marketing slow. 

Slow marketing different. It’s about directly trying to influence the value of the company itself, independently of the income statement.

Just a quick tangent here based on some personal experience. Slow marketing is not a fall-back position from a failed attempt at fast marketing. A discerning marketer shouldn’t be making excuses for poor fast-marketing results by changing the success criteria to better suit the results. Don’t turn your failed product advertising campaign into a brand awareness initiative. I’ve seen it done, it’s lame. Take the hit, learn from the mistakes, right the wrongs and try again. You’ll become a better marketer in the long-run. Anyway, back to the main message…

I love slow marketing. It’s got so much more depth to it. 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. You’re not trying to sell people anything… not right now at least. 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 market value of the company.

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.

Depending on your industry, there’s a good chance most of your customers aren’t institutional investors or even amateur traders. You therefore 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 investors to make them excited about your long-term growth potential. In fact it’s even bigger than investors. Anyone can come up with a flashy investment portfolio. You have to convince the toughest stakeholder crowd of all: the media and the general public. Someone would have to be pretty brave to invest their money in a company that was being regularly dragged in the media and had a terrible rep with Joe Public.

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.

 

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, 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 driving conversion. 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.

Conclusion

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, as the process of measuring things can themselves add inefficiency to what you’re doing. So rather than being too precise about measuring marketing activities to the nearest minute, you could employ something like the Planning Poker concept used in Agile Development which 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 working day), 13 hours, 21, 34 (most of a week), 55, 89, 144 (most of a month) etc up to the limit of your activity timelines.

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