An interview last week, that I hadn’t realised was going to be an interview (“pop over for a chat” they said), so I went a bit underprepared and was too hesitant in my answers.
It was for a newspaper who wanted someone to come in for a short contract and shake up their digital marketing. It should have been right up my street, but I didn’t get the gig and, talking to the friend who was in on the meeting, the main reason was that I didn’t offer the circulation director a “magic bullet” that would immediately transform their activity and rocket power their sales.
I got a bit depressed about this (it would have been a great contract and I could have done a lot for them), so I made several “notes to self” – always expect it to be an interview even when billed as “a coffee”; fight against my natural diffidence; ditto on the self-deprecation (charming for a Hughie Grant character, not really the best interview tactic); and, the big one, go along with a cast-iron guarantee to transform sales and add 50%/100%/200% to their revenues with the mystery “ingredient X” that only I can provide.
Then I thought again. The first three notes are all well and good, but the fourth? If there was an “ingredient X” that could be applied either everyone would already be doing it, or I’d be charging millions to share the secret.
Because the truth is, there is no magic bullet. There are all manner of things that you can probably do better and more efficiently; there’ll be a whole bunch of stuff that you’re probably not doing and should be testing; there’ll be best practice that will shortcut some of your tests and development processes; there’ll be efficiencies that will save you money and time. Depending on how well you’re doing things at present, these improvements could add something between 10% and 50% to your sales over the course of the year. It’s solid, it’s unglamorous, it’s unflashy, it’s time-consuming – but it’s continuous improvement.
Because if you spend all your time looking for the one big thing that will magically transform your profitability, you’ll miss the easy but unsexy things that definitely will grow your sales. And you still might never find your magic bullet.
On the other hand, if you work on the basics – get the marketing machine humming along as efficiently as it can possibly be – your revenues and profits will grow, and you’ll free up time and cash to put into “stretch testing” for the transformative stuff.
I was introduced to a phrase that encapsulates this the other week “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” (or, if you want to appear more learned, festina lente); it’s the fable of the tortoise and the hare – steady progress is generally more successful over the long term. And that’s the stuff I’m good at.