In the wild world of marketing, where the landscape changes as frequently as your Aunt Betty’s Facebook profile picture, it’s hard to keep up. It also becomes harder and harder to deliver measurable results.
I often get an email asking how I manage to drive traffic, engagement, and leads when their results are stagnant. They’re doing everything right. They’re following the playbook. But nothing is working.
Here’s the deal…
Getting results in marketing isn’t easy, and there’s no playbook for instant results. Everyone’s in the game, armed with best practices, templates, and automation tools. If you’re following a playbook you learned in a course or article, you’re blending in with the thousands of other people who learned that same strategy.
You’re not going to stand out. You’re not going to be seen or heard. Growth will flatline.
Discouraging, I know. But it’s not the end of the world. It is possible to drive healthy growth. So let’s look at why marketing is so hard and what you can do about it.
The Problem: Digital Marketing Has Matured
Digital marketing used to be like the Wild West. You could stake your claim and strike gold without breaking a sweat. As it’s matured, it’s become more like New York City — a noisy metropolis where you can disappear into a crowd and still get a ticket for jaywalking.
Everyone is creating content, building funnels, and executing their favorite guru’s best practices. Most are using the same playbook, or a knockoff of it. So when your customer looks at their options, they see a blur of sameness. So they choose the one with the lowest price or the biggest name brand.
As if that weren’t enough, we’re seeing a huge uptick in oversight, privacy laws, and disruptive technology.
The government is cracking down on marketing practices they don’t like, and they’re making examples of companies that oversell or make exaggerated claims. I know several big-name marketers who have been investigated and either settled or spent time in jail.
Privacy laws, such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), are making it harder to collect data that tells you what’s working, what’s not, and who your best customers are.
Social media and SEO are practically pay to play. You need a doctorate in algorithms to get your content seen. And Google keeps raising the bar on the content they rank.
Meanwhile, with the right technology, your competitors have complete insight into what you’re doing. For instance, a new client recently told me that one of my competitors had called to poach them from us before they signed with us!
What’s the Antidote?
If best practices aren’t working, it’s time to start thinking outside the box. It’s time to get scrappy.
Scrappiness is that spark of creativity that helps you pull a rabbit out of your hat when everyone else is still trying to find their top hat. It’s about finding new ways to do things, duct-taping solutions, and using your smarts to outwit the competition.
This is what successful marketers are doing today to drive continuous growth. They know the best practices, but they don’t lean on them. When results stagnate, an algorithm changes, or the budget is cut, they find a workaround.
Let’s look at the four workarounds they use most often, according to Paulo Savaget, author of The Four Workarounds:
- The piggyback: leveraging unrelated relationships to address your problem
- The loophole: capitalizing on ambiguous or unconventional rules to defy the status quo
- The roundabout: setting up positive feedback loops to self-reinforce desired behaviors
- The next best: repurposing or recombining resources to get the job done with minimal fuss
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Examples of Scrappiness in Action
Scrappiness is about looking for ways around whatever stands in your way. You need to at least have a hypothesis about what the problem is. And then you need to find novel ways to solve it. For example…
Find Your Own Way: Remember the Dollar Shave Club video where the founder used humor, a simple set, and a shoestring budget to disrupt the razor industry? That’s scrappiness in a nutshell. They couldn’t afford Hollywood-level ads, and they knew they wouldn’t stand out against well-established brands. So they entered the market as Everyman, with a viral video, a strong offer, and a lot of moxie.
User-Generated Content: Don’t have time to create your own marketing? Invite your customers to help with user-generated content. Airbnb does this remarkably well. Every quirky listing, every traveler’s story is a testament to their scrappy approach.
Newsjacking: Ever seen a brand swoop in on a trending news story with a witty tweet or ad? That’s marketing agility at its finest. Oreo’s “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout is a legendary example.
Local Guerrilla Marketing: Small businesses often become scrappiness superheroes. Whether it’s reverse graffiti on the sidewalk or an offbeat event at the local coffee shop, they find creative ways to grab attention.
Scrappiness: The #1 Skill Needed Today
Scrappiness isn’t about cutting corners or settling for less. It’s about finding workarounds, being resourceful, and daring to be different.
So, next time you’re staring down the marketing abyss, don’t just follow the herd. Get scrappy, and remember that the most remarkable marketing often happens when you’re willing to color outside the lines of convention.
After all, in marketing, as in life, it’s not about having the fanciest tools. It’s about knowing how to use them in ways that make jaws drop and competitors scratch their heads in amazement.