Blog, Culture

Sustainable results: the sustainable marketing series


Author: Aby Sullivan, MD

The concept of ‘investing in sustainability’ changes the conversation around marketing and business results. 

The phrase “fail fast” has become a timeless a staple in the start-up, scale-up, venture capital world. The underlying sentiment is valid in and of itself; spot mistakes fast, break things, learn quickly and try again. But the reality is it seems to be encouraging a mindset of scrapping progress and starting from scratch.

This mindset is starting to limit our capacity for patience in business and marketing. It’s prompting companies to dismiss sustainable, strategic plans in favour of chasing immediate results through noisy techniques. Or, starting to take chances based on intuition and seeing what sticks. 

When these tactics don’t produce the results they want, we often see them scrapping it all and moving on to the next “quick win”.

This unsustainable cycle leads to wasted resource and a lack of meaningful results

The misconception driving this behaviour is that ROI from sustainable marketing takes years. In reality, it’s more like a few months. During these months, dedicate time to detailed research, defining audiences, creating a strategy and understanding how you’ll nuture opportunities. Build your infrastructure and insights so you can make small, strategic adjustments, not throw the whole initiative out when your initial plan doesn’t work.

If you do the legwork, your marketing activity and results feels much less like guess work. There shouldn’t be a need to “fail fast”. If you have a researched strategy guiding your activity, then your results should be relatively predictable and quantifiable.

Plus, taking the time to ensure consistency in your activity will pay many times over in terms of brand authority – this is the key to driving sustainable results.  

Here are a few all too common scenarios of how this fear plays out…  

You have organisations that just throw money into acquisition. Then, a few months later, they throw money into retention. In another few months, acquisition needs more attention. And it becomes an endless back and forth between the two.

Getting out of this cycle can be as simple as building an infrastructure. Understanding what their customers need to be acquired and retained, creating strategies to support this and then executing consistently. 

Or there are the businesses who have completely irregular results. One day they’ve gone viral, and the next their feed is radio silent, and they have no idea why. Again, testing and analysed the data early on, would reduce the wild guesses or constantly change in approach.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll never need to evolve, but overall, sustainable marketing means that you already have an established infrastructure that has positioned you to survive, scale, and succeed long-term.

At this point – with best practice in place and data retained – it becomes easier to manage your marketing and your results. 

Why focusing on sustainable results is so important.  

Because sustainable marketing, sustainable business, is about more than making money. There’s a longer game at play which is all about improving something for people or planet. If you don’t have a goal that’s bigger than just making cash, your focus will always be short-term. 

Watch out for the final piece in the series, where I think about how to start putting these lessons into practice.

Or, if you missed it, the previous piece looked at how and why to create a marketing infrastructure that can scale.