The Problem with Reactionary Marketing

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Digital marketing is constantly changing, and it often feels like you have to react to every single change. Imagine someone saying this in one of your planning meetings:

“There’s a new social media platform? Oh, we should sign up and use it. It should be our main focus for the next few months of our marketing plan!”

Of course, when I use general terms like this, it sounds silly. Why would someone abandon all of their strategy and planning just to take part in a new trend? But it happens far too often in small businesses, particularly those who don’t have a concrete marketing strategy in place.

In fact, I’d be willing to bet you’ve done it. You’ve been in a meeting where you’ve discussed something you’ve seen a big brand do that’s caught your eye. Maybe a competitor of yours is doing something particularly well, and you want in. You immediately react and scramble to add that particular tactic to your marketing plan. We’ve all done it before.

Now, if I may ask, how often has this strategy worked out for you?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t take inspiration from your competitors or other successful brands. The distinction I’m making is that you must first ask yourself why you want to do it. Simply spotting a trend or idea and doing it “just because” is reactionary and foolish.

But if you take the time to analyze why a tactic is working for others whether or not it would work for you, your brand and your target audience, it is no longer a reaction, and instead becomes an opportunity.

This all comes back to the idea of strategy before tactics, a tent pole of the Duct Tape Marketing philosophy. If you’re reacting to a tactic, you’re putting the tactic before strategy. But if you take the time to analyze why the tactic works, how it can work for you, and where it fits into the grand scheme of your marketing plan, you are once again putting strategy first.

So the next time your competitor begins a new marketing tactic that catches your attention, whether that be marketing on a new channel or using an existing channel in a new way, do yourself a favor and ask yourself three simple questions before getting involved:

1) Why are they doing this marketing tactic?
2) How can it work for me?
3) Does this fit into my overall marketing strategy?

Don’t be afraid to say no if the answer is no. You only want to execute a tactic if you’re sure it’s going to work.

There’s also the added benefit of reducing the feeling of catch up that comes with being reactionary. You’ll feel more in control of your marketing, rather than letting your competitors dictate your tactics.

Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

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  • Great article! It seems that not-so-long-ago, Periscope was the new secret weapon for marketing. I haven’t heard much about it lately.

    • Alex Boyer

      I agree that it was, for some time, a platform that had a lot of reactionary posts written about it, but I think we haven’t heard much about it recently because businesses are still trying to figure out how to use it with their strategies. Doesn’t mean we should ignore the platform wholesale yet.

      • Agreed. I see too many people giving up too easily on some strategies because they “didn’t work” and they’re off to the next shiny thing. Some of those new things may pay off, but it seems that they often take just as much effort to be successful as the ones that “don’t work.”