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Why Content Marketing Shortcuts are Dangerous

Sep 12, 2018
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Why Content Marketing Shortcuts are Dangerous

While few things in life ring consistently true, one statement I always find myself admitting (with a hint of disappointment) is shortcuts don’t work. An athlete who doesn’t spend time lifting weights isn’t going to stay competitive. A musician who never practices won’t earn first chair. The same is true of digital marketing, but I’m still always asked how to get fast results by way of shortcuts.

The truth is, while every excellent content strategy is personalized, we must implement the same steps to grow successfully. Skipping steps can harm your website and social media profile, and it can negatively impact your entire marketing strategy.

Not too long ago an article about Jimmy John’s Founder, Jimmy John Liautaud, caught my eye. If you aren’t familiar with Jimmy John’s, well, I’m sorry to say you’re missing out on one of the best sandwiches available. Jimmy John’s opened in 1983, started franchising in 1993 and had 200 stores by 2002.

As the article explains, in 2002 Liautaud was operating 10% of the Jimmy John’s stores, and his profit was double that of any franchised operation. So, with his name on the line, Jimmy John and his business partner started visiting the lowest performing franchises to figure out what was happening.

Here’s the part of the Chicago Tribune article that stood out to me:

How do you turn around a restaurant? I'll tell you how," he recalled. "You go inside the restaurant, pull all the equipment, pull it away from the walls, you scrub the walls, paint 'em, patch 'em, fix 'em or do whatever has to be done.

"You push everything back against the walls, you blow out the compressors, you replace your disposables and any of your cutting boards and whatever isn't good, you fix your refrigerators, you sharpen your blades, and you get back to business. And that's pure hard work. And doing it 70 times is really hard."

Liautaud learned that a successful franchise stays focused on the details of the business and doesn’t take shortcuts.

There are No Shortcuts in Marketing

One of the things that Jimmy John’s is most known for is their bread. Part of their marketing includes a sign hanging in the store window that says, “Free Smells.” Jimmy John’s bake their fresh bread daily which makes their restaurants smell amazing and if you are someone like me who grew up eating these sandwiches the smell promotes feelings of nostalgia and makes your mouth water.

Their bread is so amazing it is a feature on billboards, commercials, and their website. The bread being consistently the same is important. If the ovens aren’t working correctly due to build up or there is a change in the recipe, the bread won’t taste the same. When you skip important details like keeping your equipment clean you risk short-circuiting my nostalgia and with hundreds of sandwich shops around disappointment will likely cause loyalty to shift.

While new customers may not notice the difference, we all know that word-of-mouth advertising is the best marketing available. If longtime Jimmy John’s loyalists start making comments on social media that the bread tastes different or bad, the whole marketing strategy turns negative.

Every business is vulnerable to the impact of negative reviews. While you will never please everyone, the best way to reduce opportunities for people to criticize your products and services is by making sure your marketing promises match your delivery.

In the case of this franchise, the store owners had the benefit of a built-in fanbase, but they needed to deliver what people were expecting to keep that reputation thriving.

The problem with shortcuts is that they often omit the steps that prevent errors. These days there is an additional risk to using shortcuts that can negatively impact your website rankings and social media visibility. Google and Facebook algorithms are continually improving to identify spam. This includes email as well as websites and blog posts. Behind the scenes, shortcuts can harm your marketing.

Shortcuts that Harm Your Ability to be Found Online Include:

  • Linking your website to an untrustworthy site
  • Buying backlinks
  • Buying lists of emails and/or sending emails to people who did not give you permission to email them
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Skipping proofreading and producing content with broken links and spelling errors
  • Retweeting or sharing an article via social media from an disreputable site

Cleaning Up Mistakes from Shortcuts Takes a Lot of Work

Jimmy John Liautaud learned the hard way that his lack of attention to detail was not quickly repaired. To his credit, once he figured out the issue he dove in and literally got his hands in the middle of the grime to get the stores back on track. It took 18 months of back-breaking work to get the franchised stores reorganized.

While Jimmy John’s was able to survive, not everyone has a year or longer to devote their days to correcting their business, let alone the capital required.

The lesson I learned from this article is that skipping steps will cause you to build your business on a weak foundation that won’t sustain problems. When consequences from negative reviews or bad SEO begins to add weight, things will bend and may even break.

It’s Not Too Late

While it’s best to avoid a headache and financial strain of shortcuts and build a strong foundation for your business, it’s not too late to start to steer things in the right direction. We can help.

At SMA Marketing, we are experts in creating personalized strategies without cutting corners. Contact us to learn more about our data-backed processes. You need to make sure your digital marketing strategy is shortcut free. Let us help.

Contact SMA Marketing

Read more about the dangers of shortcuts in Content Marketing Strategies on

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Beth Walker

By Beth Walker

Beth Walker is a Content Strategist who is passionate about storytelling. She leads our In-House writing team and works closely with clients and Inbound Strategists to ensure all the content SMA creates meets SEO best practices and tells each client's unique story.

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