5 fun and simple marketing hacks to decrease your effectiveness
Marketing hacks are not like gold: they’re everywhere and largely worthless. Just now I did a Google search for “marketing hacks” and got 69 million results.
Just a few weeks ago I read this list of 20 growth marketing hacks and was gobsmacked by such gems as “define your ideal customer” and “go where your customers are” (I mean, it does kinda make sense).
(Aside: That same list includes “Lead magnets” which I find confusing—to where am I supposed to lead them? Also, how do they even work???)
These are not marketing hacks, these are marketing fundamentals. When did a fundamental become a hack?
Why does everything need to be a hack, anyway? Are we so inattentive as marketers that we can’t learn how to actually do our jobs? (*rhetoric alarm*)
But I digress.
Here are 5 fun and simple marketing hacks that are guaranteed to make you a less effective marketer.
#1. Find a new tool for each and every problem
It used to be that when you encountered a problem—numbers not doing what you want, questions that aren’t being answered, trouble reaching your audiences—you’d thoughtfully review your objectives and strategy, then examine your tactics to make sure you’re putting effort into the right areas. If, after this not-instantaneous-but-not-super-demanding exercise, you decide you are, in fact, on the right track, then you’d likely make some small tweaks.
Thank goodness those days of ‘work’ are over! Nowadays, no matter what problem or challenge you encounter, it’s a near-certainty that there’s some martech tool with all the plug-ins and APIs you need to clumsily integrate into your stack.
In fact, if you can’t list of a dozen martech tools that you have running right now, then you’re doing marketing wrong.
With such a stack in place, you can busy yourself—all day, every day!— looking at mostly meaningless numbers. Come all ye faithful, and bask in the radiant glow of measurements and metrics that don’t help you make better strategic decisions but are easy to plot into charts with fun arrows and spark lines! It feels a little bit like work, but with basically none of the annoying productive outcomes.
But wait, there’s more! As a bonus, with little effort and with even less conscious awareness, thanks to the magic and convenience of software-as-a-service (SaaS) you’ll gradually end up diverting meaningful operating budget to a complicated mess of tools that are too sticky to remove–ever!
#2. Focus on digital (and nothing else!)
Let me start by asking a simple question: who needs useful content when you’ve got digital channels? Not today’s marketers!
It doesn’t matter whether or not you share something with real utility to your ideal customers (whoever they even are, right?) so long as you put clickable little boxes in front of people vaguely connected to your industry.
In a moment of weakness, someone might ask:
- What do they see in those little boxes?
- Where do they go if they click?
- What’s awaiting them when they arrive?
- How do any of these actions enhance and enable a customer journey?
WHO CARES—you’ve got channels and they need optimizing, damnit.
Crucially, this focus on digital will likely cause you to run into lots of little ‘problems,’ which (per #1) means a deeper martech stack, more dashboards to stare at, and less ‘budget’ for ‘things’ that ‘matter.’
Might you get stuck in a local maximum while tweaking the dials, causing you to obsessively—minutely, even—manage something that has no bearing on strategic outcomes? Sure, that’s a ‘risk,’ but only in the same way that shovelling money directly into a pit of fire is a ‘risk.’
#3. Make noise (not content)
Strategic, coherent marketing plans that support corporate objectives and which take a little bit up of up-front investment to develop are for suckers who want real results.
You can skip all of that boring, necessary work and just get straight to churning out noise. After all, those digital channels (see #2) crave content. And in the absence of useful content, you can instead give…well, not the next-best thing, but maybe the next-next-next-best thing.
Turn it up to 11 by:
- re-sharing articles but (and I can’t stress this point enough) with no value-adding commentary or critique!
- ‘liking’ every inane thing that comes across your ‘socials’
- participating in every distraction-of-the-moment fad
Bonus sub-hack: If you’re having trouble thinking of things to force into your digital channels, just spend 30-40 seconds scrolling through LinkedIn—you’ll be inspired with countless real-life examples!
Now, I want to be clear about an important potential complication: If you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position that you absolutely, positively have to produce something, then it’s imperative that you keep it as short and superficial as possible.
The more you say—no matter how informative or useful—the more likely it is someone might find something to disagree with, and then you’ve wasted your time!
Plus, we all know that our audiences have no attention span, which is why you haven’t read this far in this much-too-long post (and we’re only halfway done!)
#4. Be efficient (do the minimum)
Let’s say you’re gearing up to launch a new product. Your company has been developing it for a while, and you want to bring it market in six months.
Now, the effective approach is to brush off the four Ps and get to work. This ‘proven system’ (note: not a hack!) often entails:
- Doing research to determine the best means of reaching your buyers and the messages that will resonate
- Developing a launch plan (including go-to-market)
- Preparing the market, if necessary, by creating content which establishes or enhances your credibility
- Educating and equipping your sales team and channel partners
- Actually launching the product 3-6 months in advance of when it’s shippable, to build a pipeline and maybe get some beta clients
- Switching into a sales enablement and customer success mode once the launch happens (and diligently learning from the feedback you receive)
This ‘launch plan’ (again, not a hack—and therefore worthless) probably has a few specific objectives, which inform a handful of carefully chosen strategies, which in turn are pursued through a longer list of tactics.
To quote a meme: ain’t nobody got time for that!
Maybe the plan calls for a dozen pieces of (useful!) content to trickle out in the three months prior to launch, plus a benefits-oriented product datasheet and new use case material to make the value proposition clear. Instead of doing all that, you should try to pursue the same objectives with, like, a single blog post. And maybe a press release?
You can position ‘strategy’ as a relentless focus on efficiency. In the vanishingly small chance that you get the same outcome for 1/25th of the investment, just think how amazing that ROI will be!
Now, the ‘experienced marketing professionals’ (read: haters) might say that you’re basically dooming your launch to failure, that saving money on your launch doesn’t really matter if it leads to negligible revenue and all-but-guarantees your failure down the road, or that your competitors are spending $2 million on their launch vs your $12k.
And those are all valid points.
Important note: this is one of those marketing hacks that is much easier to achieve if you’ve already committed more of your budget than you expected to your martech stack (#1); can’t spend it if you don’t have it, right?
#5. Learn through tidbits—and tidbits only!
Your audiences don’t have the time or attention span to devote more than a few seconds to learning how to solve their problems, and neither do you.
Here are two peculiar mathematical facts:
- Breaking up ‘learning’ into bite-sized pieces which are really spread out (in time and topic) takes less combined time than regularly dedicating solid, unbroken chunks of time—it’s a classic 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 3 situation
- Breaking it up into smaller pieces is more efficient, because you’ve trained your brain to be really good at multitasking and bouncing from topic to topic (and don’t let Big Context Switching or ‘science’ tell you otherwise—follow the money, sheeple!)
But what does this marketing hack mean, in practical terms?
Essentially, it means learning about marketing by:
- Quickly flipping through blogs (I hope you didn’t take the time to actually read this post)
- Paying close attention to anecdotes that offer no context and suffer from an absurd degree of survivorship bias
- Watching clickbait videos which provide quick and simple solutions to complicated problems
- Relentlessly consuming self-serving and horribly written personal stories on LinkedIn
Supercharge this hack! If you adopt the mindset that one-size-fits-all solutions are real and useful, then you can really make the most of this strategy. Plus, it’ll mean spending even less time learning!
Books are for suckers (and who has time to read them when there are dashboards—see #2—to be stared at instead). Thoughtful conversations with seasoned professionals are for those misguided fools who want powerfully asymmetric returns on their time by learning from others’ experiences and mistakes.
Building a repertoire of skills is only useful if you want to be able to understand each unique situation and respond appropriately.
Bonus hack: (This one’s probably big enough to stand on its own, but then the post would have too many numbers) Make sure you don’t talk to other marketers, ever! For one, they represent your direct competition, so don’t fall for that rising tide BS. Second, they’ll dangerously and efficiently extend your worldview into situations that you haven’t directly experienced yourself. And, like, what’s the point of that?
BONUS Hack! Choose the wrong organization
OK, I’m really saving the best for last and I feel badly. This one’s so good it’s almost cheating.
All of the marketing hacks above are good—even great—but none of them are necessary if you simply work for an organization that doesn’t do anything useful to begin with.
This hack is truly the super-boss of being ineffective.
Let me explain. Let’s say you’re interviewing at a company and they tell you what they do. Ask these three questions:
- Does what they do solve a real problem?
- Is that problem pervasive enough that the collection of people and companies interested in a solution are sufficiently large as to represent a market?
- Are the people and companies interested in, and capable of, buying the solution?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no” then you’re well on your way to becoming an ineffective marketer. If the answer to ALL THREE of these questions is “no” then wow, you just hit the jackpot. In this (distressingly) increasingly common situation, it doesn’t matter what you do as a marketer—like, it literally won’t matter at all—despite your best or worst efforts, that company is going nowhere and will take you with it.