Why Fail Fast Doesn’t Work In Digital Marketing

February 10, 2020 Dylan Brooks

Why fail fast doesn't work in digital marketing

Entrepreneurship and independent insurance agencies go together like a hand and glove.

There’s a good chance the agency you represent was once a startup. If not, it might have had some semblance of entrepreneurial roots.

This is significant because entrepreneurship is having a moment these days.

Traditional industry behemoths such as GE and IBM have lost their luster in recent years. All while upstarts like Apple and Amazon have soared to the Top 5 of the Fortune 500.

These new standard-bearers have an entrepreneurial spirit. That spirit has yielded success — each company's valuation is close to $1 trillion.

What are the ingredients of this success? Visionary leadership. An eagerness to challenge the status quo. And the willingness to pivot.

That last point is the most critical. Apple went from making desktop computers to ushering in the smartphone. Amazon went from selling books online to delivering your groceries.

These changes were integral to the growth of these companies. And they’ve reinforced the longstanding startup mantra: If you’re going to fail, fail fast.

As you grow your agency, you might feel tempted to heed these words. To make quick decisions. And cut ties with anything that doesn’t perform in short order.

But there is one area where you should never use the fail fast method.

That area is your digital marketing.


The Measurement Paradox

What gets measured gets managed.

This adage is at the core of digital marketing.

The shift to digital technology made consumer behavior easier to track. We can track almost everything on a digital channel. Those channels include websites, emails, smartphone apps, and social media pages.

Instead of relying on intuition, marketers can let data inform their decisions. This has made digital marketing both powerful and durable.

Campaigns no longer need to last for weeks to yield results. Even the smallest tweaks can get tested in real-time.

Campaign data can show which messages resonated with consumers. It can prove which types of graphics garnered the most clicks. It can even illustrate which color combinations drove the most potential business.

This information is invaluable. It can help businesses get the most out of their marketing budgets. And it can help align marketing initiatives with what consumers are looking for.

But what happens when we broaden the scope? In an instant, will this data tell us which strategies are worth keeping?

Can the most recent numbers tell us whether to stick with search marketing? Or social media campaigns? Or email marketing?

Not exactly.


The Missing Element

Measurement can make digital marketing more effective at the tactical level. But at the strategic level, we need another element. We need time.

Time provides the context we need to make proper decisions. And with digital marketing, that context is extra critical.

To understand why let's consider this example:

You’re planning on baking a cake. You whisk together the cake mix, eggs, butter, and sugar. You transfer the batter to a cake pan. You preheat the oven. And you put the cake pan in.

You’ve done everything right to this point. You’ve got the right mix of ingredients. You’ve created an environment for baking.

But if you were to judge your results at this moment, it all would look like a flop. That uncooked cake batter would end up in the trash.

The process is not complete. It will take some time for the oven to work its magic. It will take some patience for your gloopy creation to become a delectable dessert.

Well, the same goes for your digital marketing.

The channels you use are not instantaneous. While they might bring you some modest results on day one, they should perform much better down the line.

If you don’t wait, you could kill a digital marketing campaign before it can blossom. And as for that unfinished cake, you’ll have thrown away something promising.


The Consumer-Need Fit

Why does it take time for digital marketing campaigns to take root?

The answer has to do with user engagement.

In the startup world, entrepreneurs talk about product-market fit. That is, they seek to find the best audience of buyers for the product they sell.

By engaging these users, a startup can gain momentum and viability.

Digital marketing also aims to engage users. But the product-market fit analogy is irrelevant.

The business is already viable. The product is already defined. What’s needed is a wider audience.

Yet, digital consumers can be elusive. They have many options to choose from. And it’s all too easy for them to ignore your business' pitch.

To break through this quagmire, you’ll need to leverage the consumer-need fit. That is, you’ll need to find online consumers who are receptive to your message. And you’ll need to provide resources to meet their needs.

Your digital marketing stack can help with this second task. You can write articles, post videos or share images. You can add material to your website, blog, email and social media channels.

But unless you can find a captive audience, all that work will be for naught.

It takes time to find this audience. It takes patience and persistence. It takes trial and error. And it takes testing and tweaking.

This process is laborious. Yet, the potential payoff can be great — assuming you give the project enough time to develop.

Failing fast is not a workable option here.


The Worthwhile Wait

There’s a fine line between prudence and foolhardiness. And in the modern business world, that line has never been finer.

Everything moves at a breakneck pace. And sticking with the wrong strategy can cost you everything.

In these turbulent times, the fail fast mantra is like a life preserver. It can help you hang on to face your next business challenge. It can keep you from going under.

But that mantra is not a panacea. In business, as in anything else, some things are worth the wait.

Your digital marketing work is one of these things.

Fail fast at your own peril.

About the Author

Dylan Brooks

Dylan Brooks helps ITC clients improve the visibility of their agency websites, working directly with them to improve their search engine rankings. Dylan has a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Miami and an MBA from Southern Methodist University. Dylan has extensive experience with writing, strategy and marketing analytics. In his spare time, Dylan enjoys cooking, participating in 5K races, and spending time around Dallas.

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