Looking for a sustainable competitive advantage? Try patience. There are no shortcuts to marketing your business. We live in a marketing culture obsessed with finding the right tactic to boost sales instantly; that one big idea that will immediately define a brand and differentiate it from competitors. Here’s a tip: If you really want a strategy that is unique, one that 90% of your competitors will not be able to duplicate, go with patience.

It’s not surprising that advertisers and agencies continue to search for a quick fix. We live in a world of instant gratification and, to be fair, there was a time when it was possible to get an edge on your competitor using clever offers pushed out to the masses with traditional advertising. So what’s changed? Attention. Today’s consumers are not paying attention to mass market advertising like they used to. There are too many ads in too many places and 99% are irrelevant to the audience that is exposed to them. Yet even with all the news of TV ads getting Tivo-ed, print ads being ignored, and direct mail going straight into to the trash you still see streams of hopeful business owners putting hard earned capital on the line to run a 4 week campaign expecting an immediate 2-to-1 return on the investment. Once they realize it’s not going as planned, they pull the ads and start searching for another magic bullet. It’s the marketing equivalent of yo-yo dieting.

Don’t fall into the trap. Once you have decided what and how you want to communicate with your customers, design a plan that allows you to implement that strategy consistently over a significant period of time. Treat your marketing plan as if it were any other operating expense such as rent, utilities etc. This will enable you to maintain a more consistent presence than your competitors and will allow your messaging to gradually seep into the minds of your customers. Realize that only a tiny fraction of the market is ready to buy your product at any given time. Your goal should be to reach customers well in advance of the transaction so that your brand is the first one they think of when the impulse hits.

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