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The million dollar question

Sarah McIntyre About The Author

Tue, Jul 18, 2017

This article was recently published on LinkedIn

A few weeks ago I ran a strategy review session with a client. We reviewed the key performance indicators for the campaign. We discussed what’s working and what’s not working. We revisited the current goals and what we aim to achieve for the next quarter so we can set the strategy direction for the next 90 days. Most of the key performance indicators are up and the key inbound elements are all in place. Conversion rates have improved, website traffic is up, blog subscribers have increased. But there was no single BIG thing that he felt excited about… and so he asked the million-dollar question.

“If you had a million dollars [to spend on marketing] what’s the one thing that you’d do?”

Whoa!... deep breath… well…it depends.


What could we do with a million dollars? My mind immediately raced with all the shiny and new things we could do with that amount of money. But when I sat back and thought about it, I realised that the question wasn’t about marketing spend.

A million dollars can sound like a lot of money. But in the rush to find that ONE thing, it can be easily blown away on things that may or may not have an impact on the business. There are so many different marketing tactics or programs you could spend money on. But, it always comes back to the fundamentals of understanding your audience and helping them solve their problems.

Not just one thing

The other problem with this question, is that there’s not just ONE thing that will solve the problem. Inbound marketing needs an integrated, connected approach. Perhaps what this client was looking for is the elusive silver bullet. Something to get excited about, something viral.. something other than all the unsexy tasks that lead to the goals. SEO, SEM, landing page optimisation, content creation, social media publishing, email marketing, graphic design, video production are all part of this program of work. And so, it's not just ONE thing, it's all of these things that work together to achieve the goals. I understand. It's complicated. It's difficult to communicate the successes.

Silver bullets - just human nature?

Looking for a silver bullet is understandable. Yet it can also be a distraction, diverting resources that would otherwise focus on consistent marketing execution.

It’s very easy to be distracted. There’s always something new to try. Whether it’s Ads in Facebook Messenger this week or the flavour of the month strategy next week. The hope that something new holds all the answers may be the reason that strategies never seem to get fully executed. Each new "opportunity" to pursue means that we're constantly starting from scratch. And what's worse - we've lost focus.

I don’t mean that we shouldn’t ever change direction and there is merit in being agile enough to pivot on the direction. But pivoting for each new opportunity shouldn’t be mistaken as strategy. I worry about the pre-occupation with doing the next big thing, instead of the right thing to achieve the agreed business goals. Often what’s at play here is the hope that there’s a faster, less painful approach to inbound marketing. One that short-cuts the time-consuming approach of understanding your buyers, creating excellent, helpful content, promoting that content to the right audiences and then measuring each element every step of the way.


In moments like these, when you question the strategy, it’s important to remember that focus and execution wins. Your ability to resist all the shiny and new and say No - or at least park it for consideration later - will be the measure of your success.

Few marketing teams are able to execute on everything all at the same time. So before changing direction, consider whether this opportunity helps to achieve the goal or if it’s just wishful thinking that this is the silver bullet.

Do the work

Unfortunately there’s no replacement for doing the work. Rather than wasting time and money on the latest marketing “opportunity”, invest the time to create a fully-functioning, measurable plan, based on a deep understanding of your buyers.

Yes it’s time-consuming, yes it can be frustrating, perhaps it’s not sexy. But it can be measurable and I think that’s pretty sexy.

These are just some of the elements of a successful inbound marketing program

  • Deep understanding of your customer
  • Measurable, meaningful goals
  • Tools to measure the goals
  • Content assets for all stages of the journey
  • Nurturing strategy
  • Promotional strategy
  • Sales alignment

So, tell me, if you had a million dollars to solve a marketing problem – what’s ONE thing would you do? #agencyinfluencer2017


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