You Need to Play the Long Game
I've been thinking a lot recently about how hard it is to play the long game in business. It requires several things. Most people lack: Trust in the future, confidence about their choices and patience. The requirement for a long game is true in many areas of your business, but nowhere is it more stark than in the area of creating a meaningful online marketing presence. When social media first hit the scene in 2007 and 2008, we were all struck by the instant-ness of it all.
I think of an idea. I write it. I publish it. I come up with an idea for a visual. I turn it into a graphic. I post it. Fast, fast, fast. Right? The problem is that the ability to produce and post things quickly has absolutely nothing to do with creating customer awareness or becoming a fixture of their consciousness. That is slow work, tedious work, and it takes a long time to see results.
Because in today's marketing environment, success isn't measured by how many messages you can blast out to the public, but by how many meaningful links you can create that will bring a searching public back to you. Let me say that again, because what I just described to you is the most basic understanding of search engine optimization or SEO. Success isn't measured by how many messages you can blast out to the public, but by how many meaningful links you can create that will bring a searching public back to you.
When we talk about telling stories online, when we talk about creating rich content, what we're talking about is all the words and phrases you bake into your website that will help a searching person find a product or a service you offer. And that takes time. Time isn't the only thing. It also requires a strong CMS website. That means content management system, not just eCom. It requires the creation of lots of good content — across articles and products and promotions on your Web site.
And it requires patience, as you build out that content over time and that content gets turned into links by search engines. But time. Time is the thing most small business owners underestimate. After all, in the past, you could run a radio ad and a few people would come off the street as a result of it. Or you could run a TV ad or a newspaper ad and you could see pretty quickly if there was a response. You can run those same ads today and you might even have a few people respond.
The problem is that today's consumers are completely distracted by whatever is happening on their smartphone and they're inundated with marketing messages everywhere they look and listen. Also, they aren't shopping around for products like they did in the past. They do their shopping online. And then if they like what they see, they come into a store to buy. And yes, 90 percent of all purchases are still happening in a store. In a recent report on retail, the NRF or National Retail Federation reminded its membership that it's not about "online versus retail" at all.
It's about retail dependence on online. Today's consumers see online marketing as a seamless part of their retail experience as they search for online products and knowledge and references. And then they seek products out in stores and in-person. And how do those customers find your business, so you can be the store they walk into? Using search. They search for what they seek. They drill into the links that show the most promise. They check out the ratings and the reviews of the seller and the individual products, and then they decide where to go to buy. The creation of that website content — leading to meaningful links —takes time. The creation of a strong system of references and reviews and ratings, which is what we call social proof, that takes time and patience and more time. But here's the interesting thing. In the first two or three months, it feels like you're doing a lot of work for absolutely no results. Then in the four to six month range, you start to see tiny benefits, but it's hard to trust them because they're small.
Then if you've been super disciplined and you continue to develop content, despite the fear and frustration at around one year, you really start to see results. They begin to build slowly and then steadily. When I first started my blog in 2006, I had a grand total of three readers and I was related to all three of them. Now, 13 years later, my blog drives thousands of visitors per day to my websites. All those blog posts over all those years serve as links to my online presence. I don't pay for any advertising beyond my blog, because the rich content that I've put on the Internet is all the marketing I need. Of course, 13 years is a long time. You don't have to and you shouldn't have to wait that long to see results. And if you're selling jewelry or other luxury goods, you will need other marketing tools besides a blog. I just use this as an example of the exponential power of rich content.
What you need to remember is that a year or two is not very much time at all. You also need to remember that this is the way marketing and selling work now. So if you haven't already, you need to commit to a long game of content creation so that a year from now you've already made significant progress. After all, the time is going to go by either way. What do you want to have to show for your business's marketing presence when next year rolls around?