When your business sets off on an all-new marketing engagement, it’s easy to get excited. You think about the changes you’re going to make, the good you’ll do for your business. It’s pretty thrilling! But it’s just as easy to hit the wall. When that initial momentum and excitement turns into the steady drumbeat of building or rebuilding your marketing foundations, you can get burnt out.
What does that look like? Why does it happen? And how can a business bridge the gap between the exciting start of something new and the steady middle?
What does burnout look like early in a marketing partnership?
Think about marketing like exercise. Getting out of shape is pretty easy, no matter how fit you’ve been in the past. But getting back in shape once you’ve lost it is a lot harder. If you did, say, three years of neglect to your body, you aren’t going to be able to regain your peak fitness by going for a couple two-mile runs. It’ll take time. And it’ll take things like a smart nutrition plan, a sound workout regimen, and the discipline to execute on both repeatedly over a period of time.
The first couple of weeks are exciting and energizing and inspiring. But once you start to plateau a little, and it feels like you’re repeating the same stuff over and over again it’s a lot less fun. You need a second nutrition plan. A second workout regimen. And even more discipline. It becomes a drag.
Marketing can feel like that as well. If you ignore something important in your business’ marketing setup for a while, whether it’s on purpose or by accident, then it’ll take time (and dollars) to correct. It’s difficult. It’s not always fun. But in both of these cases, it’s worth the effort in the end.
So how can a business break through those doldrums and see real results from their marketing? Knowing what you’re getting into as you begin is a great help.
Understand that marketing takes time
There’s a good chance that, if you’re employing a marketing consultant, your business is having issues. And when your business is having issues, you want them solved quickly. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s also not always how marketing is going to work.
You should go into your new engagement with the understanding that results might not come immediately. It will, of course, depend a lot on the specific situation you and your business find yourselves in. But for the most part, if you’re working with a full-service marketing consultancy that’s more strategic than tactical, you shouldn’t expect miracles on day one. Think back to that workout metaphor—going for one run won’t make you Usain Bolt.
That said, you shouldn’t necessarily expect to have to stop everything to rebuild, either. New solutions can and will run in parallel to your current marketing operations. Running multiple projects at the same time will drive prices up and limit your marketing consultant’s ability to bring resources to bear on any one thing, so there’s a tolerance for budgeting cash and time that determines your ability to multitask. The presence or lack of an internal marketing team also affects the ability to execute on multiple fronts at once—a consultant can provide guidance to a team in regards to optimizing the things you’re already doing while the consultant concentrates on building a larger strategic framework.
But the point is that the most important thing is never going to be driving huge numbers immediately. The focus should be on building sustainability and consistency in marketing strategy. You can balance short-term and long-term goals, but you can’t overemphasize the short term.
Things often feel worse before they feel better
As I mentioned earlier, you probably already have some kind of marketing setup in place before starting to work with a marketing consultant. It’s unlikely that you’ve completely ignored or abandoned marketing—more often, the issue is that you’ve made a thing, you put in some best practices, then hit the same notes over and over again over time. Whether by choice or by mistake, the most likely issue is that you’ve just failed to keep up with the times.
So you may already have a foundation in place (or feel like you do), but you’re falling behind the competition and can’t figure out why. You’re starting out from a place of stress, looking for help with these major issues that you’ve identified in your business. Then you get the sense of excitement from feeling like you have a solution in place.
But here’s where the point comes in. The process is hard. The solution you have in place takes a ton of work to get up and running and then to maintain, and it takes time to do it. On top of that, the process of building (or rebuilding, or enhancing) your marketing foundation involves having to answer a lot of tough questions and having to face a lot of tough realities. It might feel like you’ve hired someone just to tell you you’re wrong all the time, and that’s not a very enjoyable process to experience.
But that’s an important part of the marketing process, when marketing gets done right. Transparency and honesty between your organization and your marketing partner are requirements if you actually want to solve the issues you’re facing. Pulling punches doesn’t help anyone, and ignoring problems only allows them to get worse.
Know as you enter into a marketing partnership that you’re probably going to have to have some conversations that aren’t going to be very fun. You’re going to be told some things about your business that you might not enjoy hearing. It may feel worse before things start to feel better.
If you plan to start, be sure you’re in it for the long haul
In case I haven’t hammered this home enough yet, it’s pretty likely that at some point, the process of building and reinforcing your marketing foundations is going to get exhausting. Enter into the process not just expecting that, but embracing it. Part of the cost of your future success is going to be the labor you do now—the actual work and the emotional labor alike that get you through those early days.
None of that is worth it if you’re not in it for the long haul. Getting past these plateaus, in terms of performance and mentality alike, is worthwhile because the other side of the plateau is where you get the major business results. A brand that really represents your business. Strong strategy that allows your marketing to work as a coherent whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Tactics that drive massive demand among the audiences most likely to buy. Stopping before you get there can be hugely damaging to your business.
Smart marketing is not all about quick fixes
More than that, it’s about building a sound and sustainable machine that generates consistent and growing demand for your services among your best possible customers. The foundations of an effective marketing setup take time to build, and you will lose the feeling of momentum you enjoy when you first embark on the process. It’s basically inevitable. But the spoils of your success are worth it. You’ve got to be able to fight through it, refuse to give up and start over, and push on out of the swamp and through to the victories on the other side.
Thomas wears a few hats—writer, editor, and European soccer expert—but his passion is content creation. When he's not crafting thoughtful content, he's coaching high school running, watching the Mets, or talking up Indianapolis to anyone who will listen.
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