Fellow marketers, if recent economic headlines are leaving you antsy, if not mildly panicked, you’re not alone.
Last year ended on a whimper — fourth-quarter gross domestic product grew by only 0.7 percent — and then the stock market promptly dove about six percent in January amid predictions of greater turmoil ahead.
The uncertainty also has had a spillover effect on many smart marketers I’ve spoken with since the financial tempest blew in with the new year. Increasingly, they talk about internal pressures from their companies’ financial gurus to choose cheaper alternative products and services.
Even though they remain far from best-in-breed in their categories, the argument is that they are “good enough.”
And it doesn’t end there. As more marketing departments are asked to accomplish more with less, the to-do list grows, while resources are stretched thinner and thinner. Pretty soon, marketers are looking at program outcomes and saying, “Well, good enough.”
Just good enough?
This hardly sounds like a battle cry for success. Actually, it feels more like a myopic recipe for mediocrity.
Marketers are in the business of finding new ways to make their companies stand out from the pack, and in doing so, drive the bottom line. You can’t achieve these goals with “good enough” as your guiding principle.
Marketers need to know how to resist the “good enough” temptation in their operations — and they also need to know how to articulate the value of their own offerings so they avoid falling victim to the “good enough” mindset with their own customers.
Here are some very basic lessons I wish someone had shared with me on why “good enough” — for lack of a better term — really sucks.
”Good Enough” Costs A Lot
“Good enough” gets expensive fast. When I graduated from college and needed to swap jeans and sneakers for formal business attire, a relative suggested that I shop at a discount shoe retailer famous for offering deals. I took the recommendation and returned home with a real bargain: two pairs of shoes for the price of one.
A couple of weeks later, the first pair had rubbed my toes so raw that they bled when I walked. The other pair wore out within three months.
I had to buy two new pairs — I bought with quality in mind the second time. The postscript: Buying “good enough” ended up costing me three times as much — and gave me bloody feet.
Like a pair of lousy shoes, “good enough” inflicts a little more hurt each day. Say you have a goal of increasing customer retention, but you’re also juggling driving new revenue and entering three new markets.
With the plan you have time to execute — emphasis on have time — your retention begins to improve, but nowhere near the rate that would actually move the needle for the company. But at least the numbers are rising, so you proclaim, “Good enough!”
That’s no way to operate!
Same thing goes for the tools marketers use. I’ve seen companies choose a solution just so they could save $20,000 a year in costs. But did their “good enough” products help scale the business? Nope.
In the end, the companies were forced instead to hire more people to deal with the limitations, costing another $200,000 in incremental yearly costs.
No self-respecting CFO or CEO will argue that the $200,000 is better than the $20,000 cost. If they do, your company has bigger problems.
“Good Enough” Wastes Time
The Romans built their first aqueduct in 312 BCE. It was one of 11 separate structures that would supply water to the city of Rome for centuries.
The ancient Romans didn’t scrimp on the quality of masonry, brick or concrete used in construction. If they had gone with “good enough,” their aqueducts would have crumbled long before Julius Caesar.
The aqueducts were so well built that some even found use in the Renaissance era. This is long-term thinking with an exclamation point!
Short-term thinking won’t allow you to plan very far into the future. Going with a good enough strategy, or even good enough talent, means you’re bound to wind up wasting time, effort and money to compensate for the original mistake of a penny wise, pound foolish approach.
In marketing, if you settle for the “quick fix,” you’re bound to shortchange yourself in the long run.
“Good enough” often slows down your entire team as they seek to cope with the inherent limitations of poor planning or a subpar tool. Worse, tools that are not built to last — by design — will force you to stop your business at some point to replace the product or service that was “good enough.”
I’ll very often hear a statement like this: “Well, we don’t need all of those capabilities right now; we’ll just replace this later.” Huh? Yeah, because everyone likes to tell their CEO, “We are taking a break for a few months to redo the process we just did six months ago!”
Take a cue from the Romans, and choose talent and tools that will last your company a lifetime.
“Good Enough” Will Guarantee You A “C”
Every marketer I talk with wants their company to aspire to greatness. They’re in this profession to ignite change, and so nobody wants to belong to the middle of the pack.
But “good enough” suggests that you’re willing to be average. Think about the words. When have you as a marketer ever felt satisfied with average?
Average will not get you the business outcomes you’re looking to achieve. Average will not drive revenue, and it will not help you gain an edge in the marketplace.
There is so much coffee out there at our local gas stations and supermarkets that is absolutely sufficient from a convenience and caffeine perspective that we could claim a glut. That coffee is absolutely “good enough” for the purpose of jolting us awake.
It’s not going to kill us. But, it’s not going to taste great either. It’s a solid “C.”
That’s why millions of us, every morning and every day, still go out of our way to get that high-quality $5 cup of joe. We don’t settle for “C.”
If you want to be a great marketer, “good enough” talent, strategies or tools will never enable you to reach the top. It sends a message to your organization: “Hey, we’re okay being … well, okay!”
You have to compete with the best ammo you can muster. And this means not just thinking for today’s outcomes, but tomorrow’s, as well.
Go for the “A” outcome — say no to “good enough.”
This post originally appeared on Marketing Land on February 9, 2016.