The benefits of marketers thinking long-term

Easy wins can keep your boss happy, keep your internal clients happy, and reward you with a steady job. But, they only work if they are making steps towards the BIG WIN. Taking the time at the beginning to really identify what you want and not settle for second-best when it gets hard is the difference in long-term success and failure.

I was talking with a client about short versus long-term strategy and how they seem to be at odds with each other. Marketing and technology teams want to be strategic but find themselves responding to immediate needs, putting out fires, managing internal politics, and trying to build solutions that can show quick improvements in numbers of site visits, online conversions, or improved domain authority.

Yes, it is fun to get in a room and brainstorm the big picture, about where they can be in five years as an enterprise organization, but then there is the now:

  • We need a platform upgrade, but we don’t even know what the requirements are.”
  • Our digital analytics reporting needs to be completely reworked so we can make data-driven decisions.”
  • “Our last project, which included major information architecture changes to our website, didn’t turn out the way we had envisioned it and now we’re dealing with upset leadership.”
  • Our digital marketing campaigns are all over the place and we have a hard time knowing what is working and what isn’t.”

These are real things that have to be done. Often, these real things have to be done to keep your job.

Why would two-years out matter when we’re just trying to get to next month?

When you skip strategy

Let’s look at an example to examine how we can inadvertently skip adequate strategy, which gets us on the wrong path.

  • The problem: We lack adequate location information on our website, causing consumers to not understand what service is available at what location.
  • Our initial thinking: Knowing we need to have a vision, we identify that we need to map our services to our locations. We’re excited though because if we could get that mapping done, it would really solve the consumer’s problem and likely have a huge impact on our conversion rates. AWESOME. Everyone is pumped up.
  • We start discovery: Hmmm. This could be really hard. There really isn’t the data in place to do that. And, Legal needs to get involved. We leave a few initial meetings feeling deflated, and drag our feet a few more quarters because it seems really hard.
  • Someone freaks out: All of a sudden, someone in leadership gets a complaint letter and realizes that our Google location data isn’t being adequately managed. They bring you in after they’ve signed a 2-year contract with a third-party vendor.
  • It all falls apart: Your initial vision now seems impossible, if not delayed indefinitely. You’re onto getting this vendor set up and your location information cleaned-up, hoping you can get it done by the end of the quarter.

It might look something like this:

Executing tactics may accomplish short-term goals, but they typically fall short of making meaningful progress when looking back.

What went wrong?

Tactics and short-term goals got in the way of getting the big picture done. Chances are that fixing your Google locations data would have come out of the bigger problem you were trying to solve, but the larger vision was compromised by a short-term solution. And to make matters worse, this new vendor complicates everything even more, as the last thing you needed was one more independent database to manage.

When you are strategy-first

Strategy is a plan that uses technology to accomplish a business goal. It’s identifying where you want to be (your vision) and then a plan to get there (a roadmap).

Let’s look at what this could have looked like.

  • The problem: We lack adequate location information on our website, causing consumers to not understand what service is available at what location.
  • Our initial thinking: Knowing we need to have a vision, we identify that we need to map our services to our locations. We’re excited though because if we could get that mapping done, it would really solve the consumer’s problem and likely have a huge impact on our conversion rates. AWESOME. Everyone is pumped up.
  • We start discovery: Hmmm. This could be really hard. So we document where we are and where we want to be. As we try to figure out the steps to get from today to the future, we decide we should just map one service to the correct locations. This simple beta test can be handled by our IT team in just a few months, we can pay for it out of our normal budget, and it is non-threatening to all the groups impacted by it.
  • We present the solution to leadership: We are able to demo a real-life solution, we’ve identified a methodology that works, we can give rough estimates of what this would cost to be completed, and even identify all the areas it would impact … Including Google locations. Leadership has confidence in the ROI of the project and gives us the time we need to fix it the right way.
  • We hit our long-term goal!
  • Learning and improving the process along the way, we were able to fix our initial problem. We likely identified other projects that need to be done in the process, but the goal was accomplished.

A strategy-first approach looks something like this:

With a little bit of planning (or “discovery” work), execution of right tactics in the right order can get you to your long-term goals.

Why did this work?

Like anything in life, you have to know where you are going or you will waste time on the wrong things. At work it’s frustrating and can lead to burn-out at your job.


All of your easy wins that keep your boss happy, keep your internal clients happy and keep you with a steady job matter. But, they only work if they are making steps towards the big win. Taking the time at the beginning to really identify what you want and not settle for second-best when it gets hard is the difference in long-term success and failure.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu