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Why business leaders should stop having one-night stands

We have all been impressed by beauty. We have all imagined what it would be like. Captured by the allure of what might happen. The suspense. The tension. The excitement.

I am not talking about the conventional one-night stand you may be thinking of. I am talking about the metaphorical one-night stand many business leaders have in their business.

  • The one-night stand where you act on impulse and make a strong decision that later isn’t followed through.
  • The one-night stand where you commit resources to an initiative and then try to cut the cost.
  • The one-night stand where you want to build something for the long-term but still want short term success.
  • The one-night stand where you position as premium but want to promote like a discounter.
  • The one-night stand where you hire people to do a job for you and then want to micro-manage and control how they do it.
  • The one-night stand where you start building your brand but don’t follow through next week or next year.
  • The one-night stand where you get in expertise but don’t like what they will say.
  • The one-night stand where you commit to marketing but when times are tough it is one of the first things to be cut.

One-night-stands in business are just like the real one-night stands.

  • They are based on feeling. It feels good at the time.
  • It is a moment of gratification but doesn’t change the rest of your life.
  • Making a go of a one-night stand will not be a bed of roses.
  • It highlights you are missing something from your own life.
  • It will never change your world.

We have all flirted with one-night stand ideas, relationships and deals. Something is presented to us, we are teased and tempted. It’s pleasing but we cannot commit ourselves to it fully or we imagine it to be more than it is.

Marketing and brand building is the biggest one-night stand for business leaders.

It has the potential to explode their business but they want to get it forever without the commitment to a course or relationship.

Here are some stats from an industry survey:

  • The average marketer stays in post less than 23 months.
  • Marketing agencies say that almost 30% of their clients drop out of monthly marketing programmes within the first 3-6 months.
  • Agencies report that Client retention is just over 50% in those surveyed.

What can a marketer achieve in 23 months realistically? A lot of tactics but not a lot of strategy.

What can an agency do in 3-6 months? Strong campaigns but very little long-term impact.

Every agency will drop the ball and every professional agency can and will blow you away with ideas and programmes. Every agency and marketing person will get it wrong and get it amazingly right.

These statistics across the industry show me despite the challenges of marketing in such a quick changing world, there are too many one-night stands.

Some of this comes from agencies lifting or creating unrealistic expectations. Marketing people know how to engage and excite people. It is their biggest strength and their biggest weakness. Agencies can create awesome ideas and plans but they will take time and money to implement. Often the critical claim made against agencies (which is probably true) is that they oversell the outcome and undersell the process to get there.

The reason most agencies handle more corporate clients is that they are usually more stable in their process and decision-making. Corporates tend to think longer term. Whereas, SME’s tend to react more quickly, are less long-term and are more susceptible to changing moods/market changes. Agencies working with SME’s have the most one-night stands.

A good or bad month in a corporate doesn’t have the potential to change the operations of the business in a large corporate, whereas it can affect the whole business in an SME. That is why agencies love corporate work.

Sometimes the agency flirts with a client, giving short-term signals, but offering a long- term process. Sometimes agencies offer long-term and a client gives long-term signals, but really isn’t ready for commitment long term. One-night stands are a two-way street.

There isn’t an agency on the planet that hasn’t experienced the frustration and disappointment of a one-night stand. A client who likes the big picture or end result but isn’t prepared for or didn’t realise it was a long term process.

Marketing success is over-estimated in the first 3 months and under-estimated in the first 3 years. It’s a long-term thing.

If a client comes to our team, we tell it straight: Our programmes are not about the next week or month. Yes, we will work to secure quick wins along the way, but if quick wins are the most important thing to you, you should probably go elsewhere.

It is harsh. I am certain we lose clients because of it. Our clarity (and honesty) allows us to focus on making our clients succeed longer term rather than scurrying around finding quick wins that probably undermine their brand and deviate from their long-term strategy. It takes time for an agency to learn about you, your client base and your way of working. Client involvement will help guide and speed that process but it is a process of learning.

If you want 4-month success, you want a sales campaign or promotion. It can be executed by an agency or marketing team but that doesn’t substitute a long-term marketing plan.

I have seen and met with companies that change agencies every 6 months because they were unhappy with short-term results. Honestly, changing so often doesn’t help the business and none of the agencies gets the opportunity to do their best work.

If you want solid business growth you need a long-term marketing programme that can survive your budgeting decisions, delays, frustration or occasional disinterest. When the problems and setbacks come (and they will) you could become your worst enemy and flirt with a one-night stand opportunity.

If you want or are offered a marketing one-night stand…. You know what to do.

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