By Samuel Thimothy, VP at OneIMS.com, an inbound marketing agency, and co-founder of Clickx.io, the digital marketing intelligence platform.
The idea that our attention spans are shortening has been around for quite a while. With so much information and so many channels competing for our clicks, we find it harder to focus on one thing for too long. When we add the post-pandemic economic pressure and the ever-changing demands of digital presence to that mix, we often find ourselves in the trap of short-term thinking.
Short-termism comes from focusing too much on the metrics and quick gains. We want to be winning and hitting our ROI goals quarter after quarter. This nudges us into a strategy that achieves an immediate impact but has a lower long-term ROI.
The problem is that, even though a short-term strategy might seem to signal growth, it actually damages brand equity and undermines your chances of building something sustainable over time.
Hoping that short-term success will persist in the long run is a bad idea. Long-term efforts bring some short-term effects, but it doesn’t work backward.
What is short-termism in marketing?
In real life, it’s easy to spot short-term thinking. Short-term-oriented B2B marketers spend the majority of their budgets on on-demand generation or bottom-of-the-funnel campaigns, completely ignoring the top of the funnel and customer retention. This, in turn, results in one or a combination of these problems:
• Dry funnel
• Poor quality leads
• Lots of prospects that aren’t ready to buy
No marketer or brand wants to deal with that. So as tempting as it is to go for the short-term results with demand generation and sales activation, it’s essential to recognize that they are just a part of overall marketing success. Short-term strategies can only bring strong and sustainable growth if paired with long-term brand-building activities. Let me explain why.
Genuine connection takes time.
The biggest difference between short-term and long-term marketing is not the timeline. It is the appeal. Namely, short-term sales activation efforts are all about rationality. If you run an ad campaign to inform your customers about the holiday discount and they proceed to make a purchase, it’s simply because it makes sense at the moment. They would probably buy this product at this time anyway, but since you offer a discount, it becomes a good deal.
On the contrary, long-term brand-building is all about emotions. Highly creative and powerful campaigns take more time to get to the full effect, but they create something bigger than pure gain. Customers fall in love with the overall feel the brand creates, they associate themselves with the brand’s values, so they are ready to buy from such a company at pretty much any price point.
Short-termism fails to address customer retention.
When you have a short-term focus on marketing, it often means that you’re only working to acquire new customers. No short-term strategy can ensure that their needs will be met after they sign up. Besides, according to Harvard Business Review, getting a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than keeping the existing one. You might be putting all your eggs in the wrong basket.
Giving value to your existing customers consistently requires a significant investment that might not yield a return for a few quarters or even a few years. However, the return from these efforts could significantly outweigh any short-term customer acquisition tactics.
Growth requires a degree of ‘chance’ and ‘waste.’
The logic of short-term thinking suggests you target those who are most likely to buy right now, but it doesn’t mean the same customers will stay with you for a long time. With this approach, you give your business no chance to expand, whereas by focusing on both existing and new customers together, you can drive faster and more insulated growth.
As explained by Byron Sharp in How Brands Grow, the key difference between leading brands and smaller ones is penetration. If your goal is growth, you need to reach out to not just those who are interested in your business but also those who aren’t. That’s how you can expand your coverage as a brand.
Find the balance between acquisition and retention.
There is no need to choose between brand marketing and demand marketing. You can and should do both because the short-term success of your business is necessary to your long-term growth. At the same time, short-term strategies have little in the way of substance if there are no long-term marketing strategies to back them up. Instead of focusing on one or the other, use an integrated approach to get the best results at every touchpoint.