Marketing, Fast and Slow
BY John Miller
October 25, 2017

Marketing today moves really fast. Things have been changing frantically for at least a decade.

Social networks change their algorithms, marketing automation platforms have emerged and there are now about a million things to bolt on to them, and the customer continues to accumulate power over brands.

Keeping up is a fulltime job. Sometimes, you find something really cool and helpful and interesting. Sometimes, you read something and believe it and implement it, but it’s just flat out wrong.

And sometimes, even though the new idea or product or service sounds perfect for your company, you should ignore it. Because it’s just too much, and your team can’t do everything. With all of the information and endless possibilities swirling, you need to slow down and really think about what your team can excel at, and what you need to leave on the shelf for now.

You need to embrace “marketing slow.”

In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains that we have two ways of decision making, which he labels System 1 and System 2. Basically, System 1 is the brain’s fast, automatic and intuitive approach, while System 2 is the slower, analytical way of thinking. System 1 is often emotion-driven; System 2 is based on reason.

And System 1 holds a lot of power over System 2.

In other words, emotion rules. You likely know that your company’s customers are driven to buy by emotion.

But did you stop and think that your buying decisions might be driven by emotion, too? Whether it’s FOMO or simple envy at what the competition has, emotion is very possibly fueling our voracious appetite for accumulating martech. But if you step back and logically look at what you need and what you can do really well, you probably don’t need all those cool new toys.

Too often, we’re like the six year old who gets toys from 25 kids for his birthday … and then two weeks later doesn’t play with any of them.

We’re using the System 1 part of our brain. We’re moving too fast, making emotional decisions that not only aren’t helping us in the long run, they could even be derailing our best efforts. When we spread ourselves too thin, we tend to do poorly across the board. That’s bad. And it almost certainly isn’t making a positive impression on the audiences we care about.

We seem to be having a crack up here at the intersection of Technology and Creativity. They’re supposed to work hand-in-hand, but it often seems that we’re allowing them to slam together and prevent us from getting where we want to go. It inhibits a lot of companies from establishing a strategy and sticking with it; as soon as the newest, coolest, shiny thing comes along, they drop everything to chase after … something.

This does not have to be the new normal.

As marketers, we need to engage our analytical brains, not at the tactical level, but at the 30-thousand foot level. Let’s be analytical in deciding what to do, and what not to do. That’s strategy.

Marketing like a Navy SEAL

Tim Ferris relayed a story about a friend of his who is a former Navy SEAL. The SEALs have a training principle that’s applicable for this chaotic marketing landscape: “Slow is smooth; smooth is fast.”

When you’re in control and moving with purpose, you get to where you’re going more efficiently and more quickly. In marketing, this means that you’re positively impacting the top line.

We need to slow down in order to accelerate the pace of our marketing. More is not more; less is more, as long as you do it well. We need to develop some discipline, have confidence in what we’re doing and execute, execute, execute.

This requires thinking and commitment.

In his book Thank You for Being Late, Tom Friedman quotes Dov Seidman:

When you press the pause button on a computer, it stops. But when you press the pause button on a human being, it starts. It starts to rethink, reimagine, reflect.”

Great marketing requires creativity, which requires less task completion and more thinking.

We work in a business that hums with energy—everyone seems enthusiastic and bright, ready to take on the world. That’s the personality type that migrates to marketing. There are also a fair percentage of us who are pretty freaking competitive. We’re charging ahead, but too often it’s into anything and everything that happens to be on the way to where we want to go.

You need to change your marketing muscle memory

Marketing professionals tend to be enthusiastic. We aren’t trained to say “no.” We want to be upbeat and optimistic, and our essence is to want to bring value and move things forward—what better way to do this than by being first to embrace new technology and new ideas?

But too often, we get down in the weeds and lose focus on the big picture.

How many companies do you know that have signed up for a marketing automation platform, with no idea of how to use it or what to use it for? How many B2B companies buy advertising in local papers or on radio stations and become a household name to millions of people that have zero interest in their product? How many companies started a podcast because they loved Serial?

Yes, you should be exploring new options all the time. But if you have no idea who your audience is, what you should do to connect to them, and no capability for creating the content to make that connection, that earth-shattering concept will come up short.  The classic cart-before-the-horse scenario. Too often, we’ve seen it do more harm than good.

Of course, that new tool might be exactly what you need. But, unless your marketing team and/or budget is huge, you probably don’t need to be on that platform, plus every social platform, plus developing an AI, plus sponsoring events while also buying ads in vertical trade magazines.

Like the great athletes, you need to make the game slow down. While the competition is flailing around, chasing the coolest new trend, do what you do. Be great at it. And you’ll probably be successful.

Let’s talk about growing your company.

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