I remember sitting at the Blue Sparrow Cafe on beautiful July morning, waiting eagerly for my then-date to arrive for a lovely time in a relaxed conversation over coffee. She was beautiful, and over a six-week period, I saw all of the signs and indicators that this is someone I could consider for a long-term relationship. I had not shared how I felt, and I had planned to that day, but little did I know that my delay and inaction in communicating my feelings came too late. She informed me within about 20 minutes that another man had unexpectedly entered her life, and even though it took her 10 more minutes to tell me everything she loved about me, that this was one of the hardest decisions she ever had to make, and she decided to pursue this other man, and let me down as gently as possible. What did my inaction cost me? The girl of my dreams? I’m not that dramatic, but I tell you what: I went home feeling so low that day, seeing her face in my mind, hearing her words in my head, and wondering what kind of a great life with her I left behind by waiting too long to communicate with her. I have not let that happen again, and I never will.
Here is another example. I had a toothache, put it off, and the pain went away. I kept putting it off but I finally went to the dentist due to persistent pain, way after I should have already gone in, and what does the dentist say? “Ryan, I’m sorry, but your tooth is so rotted that you now have an infection in your skull and bloodstream, and you will need major surgery.” That would be costly. Thankfully, my dentist didn’t end up saying that. However, he did say that I needed a root canal and since I did not have dental insurance at the time, it was going to cost me an amount of money that he said I would need a few glasses of whiskey to absorb. What did my inaction cost me? It cost me that year’s savings for which I had worked so hard, vacation budget, delayed financial goals, my pride. The loss of the relationship opportunity above was one kind of inaction cost, but my dental issue was emotionally and psychologically anger-inducing: at myself, for letting my own body deteriorate because of my inaction.
What does this have to do with you?
The unfortunate reality of running a business is that no one gets a notice from the gods of fate that says “Unless you make x number of decisions of this kind and type, and do these complicated but necessary things by y point in your business, your business will fail, and you will have wasted all your precious time.” The hard part about owning a business, or even just being a salesperson or a marketer, is that outside of your written-down defined responsibilities and tasks, some decisions and actions come upon you that you have no idea are going to cost you an opportunity, performance, and in some cases, your job.
Often the consequence of your inaction occurs in the form of an ever-so-common, common business pain: lost business, lost opportunity, and lost income. A company’s marketing is where this indecision reveals itself, and painfully. Today I want to walk through five role-play examples of inaction that I see and experience regarding an organization’s digital marketing, and their respective outcomes. I have no crystal ball, but I genuinely and sincerely want to save you the pain of inaction in your business.
5 Examples of Business Inaction
1: If the shelf-life of my website has expired and it needs a redesign to speak to my prospect and promote my brand appropriately and well, what will it mean if I put off redesigning it?
It means eventually the way you act, behave, move, and talk about your business on the ground, among the employees and customers, will not match what your website says about you.
Maybe your business IS a great business, but if you do not promote your message through proper design, aesthetics, and copy, then it will not matter. Your growth will suffer as a result. It will also mean that your brand will age and the user experience of your prospects will be incongruent with your company. It also says that your brand will not look ‘put together,’ but instead a user who experiences it will feel like they are interacting with a broken Humpty Dumpty that sat on the wall.
2: Why do I have to promote my website with new published content? Why can I not just redesign the website to reflect my business and who I am, and leave it at that?
Imagine buying a Ferrari, bringing all your friends over to look at it, but then you say “Is this not cool? Yeah man, so cool. I have never driven it. I’m actually never going to drive it. However, it is so awesome.” Your friends would look at you like you were an idiot, if not call you one too. Websites are not cool-looking brochures, and it is not cool to only have one to show off to your prospect, customers, and employees. Sites should grow businesses, and if they are not leveraged and promoted with a marketing strategy, the money you spent to have it designed will be a complete waste.
3: My previous efforts have not resulted in my business being number one on Google. Why should I even invest in digital marketing?
Imagine if you had started your business without one potential client in the pipeline. You just set up shop one day and turned on an open sign, hoping the business would appear. That would not be a good strategy, would it? More than likely, previous content production efforts have not been consistent enough, and design efforts have not advanced with the times enough to maintain relevance. As noted in the two previous scenarios, an organization has built a website and not updated the design or filled it with useful content. For Google to promote a site through its algorithms, there must be consistent and relevant content added to the site on a regular basis. In many cases, a business with a good brand name does not need to rank on Google to be successful, but it does require a robust content library and modern web design. For a business to be successful online, it needs more than just a URL, content, and a #1 spot on Google. A company needs to invest in a comprehensive digital marketing plan that has actionable items to help increase the organization’s relevance in search rankings and hopefully simultaneously grow the business.
4: If I invest in a marketing automation platform like HubSpot, I go all-in, but I don’t change my sales process or sales tactics at all, and don’t allow the things I do with my marketing platform to inform and improve the way I do sales, what will happen?
A HubSpot channel account manager will show up at your door in a black suit like the ones from Men In Black, and serve you account cancellation papers that indicate you will be 86’d for life from HubSpot, and that you are a failure at marketing and life. Then they will use a Neuralyzyer on you, and wipe your memory.
Just kidding! That’s not going to happen (probably). But what will happen is that you, and perhaps your agency or marketing person, will sit with the numbers and data in meeting after meeting, scratching your heads and wringing your hands as to why your conversion rate is so low, why your sales process has not incorporated inbound marketing, and why this investment in inbound marketing is not affecting the bottom-line sales like you thought it would. Worse yet, this disconnect often shows up at a time when you need to fix it, but all the money has gone to the platform, inbound, and perhaps consulting work you paid for to fix the on-going problem.
5: What happens if, desperate to get lead generation going, instead of investing in full-stack marketing I dive into PPC advertising using a fairly big budget, and it turns out to be successful at giving me enough leads to close new business?
You would think, in this situation, all would be grand because pay-per-click advertising (aka PPC advertising) is, all things considered, ‘causing leads to come in.’ But, that leads are coming in through PPC advertising alone is deceptive; it’s not actually growth, as counterintuitive as that sounds. The truth that often never gets said about a PPC-advertising-only growth strategy, but should get said, is that a common infection in a business’s operations is a dependence on short-term lead-generation. Instead, businesses should focus on a mixture of short-term paid marketing and long-term, cumulative lead generation using inbound marketing. In the long run it costs you less money, and allows you to maintain a minimum viable investment in short-term lead generation while leaving room in the budget for marketing, all so that you can scale and have your brand maintained. The blunt but truthful answer to this role-play scenario is: as pessimistic and cynical as it sounds, with PPC-advertising only, you will never, ever, be able to invest in the scaling and growing of your business beyond a certain point. In short, your budget for growth will be locked, and you will never be able to increase it. It will be like thinking you are about to summit Mount Everest but then discover that you are still a 10-mile hike from the actual summit and have to turn back because you and your team only brought enough oxygen supply to basecamp to get you close, but not all the way.
So what should you do about it?
Typically we postpone decisions out of fear, shame, or both. Margie Warrell, in her book Stop Playing Safe, says that “human beings are neurologically wired to overestimate the size of risks, underestimate our ability to handle them, and downplay the costs of inaction.” As business owners, salespeople, and marketers, we have to conquer this fear because, in the end, it not only hurts us as individuals, but ultimately it threatens our business and our income.
It is clear; though the consequences of inaction might seem far off, it is nevertheless a serious infection. The key to conquering inaction is fostering and nurturing within oneself a mixture of humility and boldness to face that fact that you don’t know what you don’t know about marketing; and, marketing is a function of your business’s growth that you cannot do without. What have you been indecisive about lately? Identify it, say it out loud, tell a trusted peer colleague in your industry, and ask for advice. Isolate and discover why your inaction continues, and square with what will happen if you don’t make a change and take a risk to grow your business.