The efficiency trap

Here’s what’s quickly becoming the 2023 narrative in B2B marketingland:

It’s all about efficiency. 

Ugh, one of those classic “how-could-anyone-disagree-with-this” type of statements. 

Just like these other ones from recent years: 

- It’s all about revenue

- You gotta create demand

- It’s all about being data driven

Yes, sure, efficient marketing sounds great. Only a fool would be ok with inefficient marketing, right?  

Turns out it’s pretty easy to get onboard with anything opposite of what’s obviously bad. 

But what happens when we then move all the way to optimizing for efficiency? Like, what does efficient marketing end up actually being?

Well, when “experts” tell you to be efficient, it basically boils down to this: 

Just find those little pockets of gold and get demand with as little budget and time as possible.

- Which ads are performing best? 

- Which landing pages are converting?

- Let’s do more of that and cut the other stuff

- Keep looking for it and honing in and…

- Oh, plateau and stall out 

As if there’s an infinite amount of those little pockets of gold. No, there’s not. 

Plus, it’s a slippery slope towards this classic: Get inexpensive growth however you can. 

Which is simply not a strategy. 

In fact, it’s a pitfall. It’s a trap that leads us to think that if we’re just a little more efficient, we’ll get there. Let’s play it just a bit safer. Let’s not take that swing. Let’s tighten up over here. 

As if that’s gonna help us break through.

So what’s something better to obsess over than efficiency? Precision. 

Precision leads to efficiency. And impact. Which is really what we all need.

More precise insights lead to more precise hypotheses. Which lead to more precise experiments. And more precise learnings. More precise messaging. And so on…

All of which ultimately enables bigger bets with lower risk. For greater impact. 

That’s what marketing is about (in our humble opinion). 

Efficiency is a great byproduct of good marketing. Efficient marketing isn’t the goal itself.

So here’s the lesson: 

Just because it’s an obviously good outcome doesn’t mean we should optimize for it. 

And maybe we’re being too sensitive here, but “advice” like this really comes off a bit condescending, doesn’t it? As if we don’t even understand that efficiency is better than inefficiency. C’mon now. 

“Ah, so our marketing should be efficient. I hadn’t thought about that. Brilliant!” Said nobody ever. 

Also, how inefficient is our current marketing really? We’ve already cut down to the bone, right? If they tell us to just be more efficient at this point, they probably don’t know much about our predicament. 

This idea of efficiency is also related to the “do more with less” concept, which we despise. 

It’s companies that need to do more with less. Employees should not be asked to do more with less. In fact, they should do less with less. So they can be more precise. And have greater impact. 

Not surprisingly, our CEO has something to say about the efficiency trap too. 

Here’s to you and your team finding ways to work on the most impactful stuff for your business. No matter the circumstances, optimizing for precision and impact is undefeated.