Getting from here to there

By: mak

August 25th, 2019

I see it all the time.

Meet with a Founder or CEO of a VC backed startup and the conversation goes like this: “We need to grow 10X (or 100X) in the next two quarters and we think we could do it if just could find the right agency for paid digital”

This is when I am forced to say something like this :”I am sorry but paid digital ads are cost of entry, totally commoditized, and not realistic that you can get from here to there with just Google and FB ads.”

Oh, and it likely has nothing to do with the digital agency. Stop wasting their time and your money. Or worst of all, squandering your business lead churning through new agencies every three months.

At this point, a more thoughtful CEO will say “Tell me how we can do this.”

They hire me, I tell them, we work together to implement what I call “Performance Branding,” and we achieve the marketing goals.

But more often then not the CEO says “Well, I think we can do it with paid digital” and the conversation essentially ends – until I get a call about 6 months later where the same CEO says “You were right, can you now please help us”

And yes, I can help, but the truth is that in those cases the 6 months wasted are an extra hurdle because the competition moved decisively and now has a leadership position and the brand is now playing catchup or on the defensive.

So, why does this happen too many startups that default to chase ridiculous “growth hacks” and try and scale with just paid digital ads?

Because they think it is still 2010 – when FB newsfeed ads were less crowded, Google SEM was less restrictive, Netflix was not yet big, Mobile smart phones were not yet as prevalent, Amazon was not what it is today, and on, and on.

These Founders want to believe that “Performance Marketing” or growth hacking can do the heavy lifting without taking into account the changed media and marketing landscape, new tools, and the simple reality that building a brand takes connecting with people on an emotional level, in their daily lives, not just through a digital ad.

And that other small thing that the creative idea, execution of media and advertising matter as well. This is the other part of the “lift” that the hard work of making great ads (no matter the media) is an art, and when based on real consumer insights and the customer journey – is what actually makes all your marketing tactics work harder.

This is why “Performance Branding” really works to help brands break out of the clutter, define themselves. and connect on a meaningful level.

And, that is how new user, engagement and revenue metrics increase.

So, next time you are speaking to a Founder with lofty growth goals and a two play marketing playbook, ask them what year they think it is.

The more realistic, thoughtful and innovative ones will understand that building a real brand and marketing means you need too look forward, take risks, and swing big to win.