While the Quick Fix Is Alluring, There’s Usually a Better Option That Will Have a Greater Payoff

Focus on taking small steps to find a solution

The quick fix isn't necessarily the best route.
Getty Images

When things around you are changing fast, a simple answer can feel like a lifeline. When you need to make changes, but don’t know where to start, the allure of the shortcut can be hard to resist.

But simple answers can also be dangerous. They can lead us off course and distract us. They can backfire. As Michael Jordan once put it, “If you try to shortcut the game, then the game will shortcut you.”

What simple answers do modern marketers need to guard against? Here are three of the most tempting.

New tech will fix everything

Marketers love new things. In recent years, marketing technology has played into this attraction with great success.

A recent survey pegged the number of independent tech companies targeting marketers at more than 6,000. When this same survey started back in 2011, there were just 150 companies on the list.

Is all this tech yielding results?

The truth is, tech is easy to buy but less easy to use. And even less easy to use well. It requires time and effort to successfully implement as well as a substantial investment in new teams, talent and capabilities.

The best way to avoid them is to push through these doubts and find a way to start taking small steps along the right path.

Better option: Tech, teams and talent

Once you’ve dropped the silver bullet mentality, new technology may still make sense. The first step is to ensure that your team is aligned around a clear strategy, one that goes beyond tactics and forces you to make tough choices.

Then, if new technology can support this strategy, go ahead and make the investment. But don’t bite off too much at once. It’s much wiser— and less risky and expensive—to opt for a staged series of smaller changes instead of a wholesale transformation, especially when you recognize that tech is only part of the equation. Your new tools will require new capabilities. That means training and potentially new hires. It means new processes, team structures and workflows. It means new methods of collaboration with agency partners.

Agile will fix everything

Another simple idea with strong appeal is agile marketing.

Done right, agile methods can be powerful. They can help to reduce wasted spend and sharpen customer centricity. And, of course, they can allow teams to move more nimbly and respond to change more quickly.

But pursuing this path with a shortcut mentality is risky. First, when you’re working in tight, agile cycles, it’s very easy to over-focus on short-term metrics and lose sight of important results that only reveal themselves over the long term. Even worse, it can be tempting see agile as a replacement for strategy, which is downright dangerous. After all it doesn’t really matter how fast you’re going if you’re heading in the wrong direction.

Better option: Steering wheel first, gas pedal second

What does agile adoption look like once you abandon the quick fix mindset?

A strong strategic foundation is once again crucial. Without strong hypotheses to test, agile marketing is just a faster way to waste resources.

Pay careful attention to metrics, too. Without a clear signal of success, your feedback loops are little more than noise. Metrics can also be used to prevent (or encourage) short-term results. So be sure to balance more immediate signals with longer-term measures.

And, again, start small. Rallying funds and support for a wholesale shift to agile can be challenging. You’re better off running a few pilots to identify challenges, fine tune the approach and prove out the concept before scaling up.

A re-organization will fix everything

Marketing department re-organizations seems to be gaining momentum as leaders grapple with change and complexity. Done right, a re-vamped organization design can be very powerful. But it’s important to realize that a re-organization alone can’t fix a failing strategy. In fact, it could end up making things worse instead of better. As the late, great management theorist Alfred DuPont Chandler once observed, “Unless structure follows strategy, inefficiency results.”