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Have you been working your tail off publishing new content, posting to social and blasting out emails but still not seeing results? I speak with other marketers and business owners about how they are frustrated by the results they are not seeing after “following the plan” they see and hear all the “experts” push out. But what if their full-proof plan isn’t so full-proof after all? What if there is no one-size-fits-all solution? I am here to tell you that there is no sure path to success when it comes to digital marketing or any other endeavor. If you're not getting the results you want, change is your only option.

Epictetus once said, “If you are defeated once and tell yourself you will overcome, but carry on as before, know in the end you’ll be so ill and weakened that eventually you won’t even notice your mistake and will begin rationalizing your behavior.”

You may have heard the definition of insanity as “trying the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." Most of the people I talk to are stuck in this insanity loop and have no idea why they don't see results. I don’t blame them. It hurts when you work and work and work but never reap what you’ve sown.

Now, I want to make one thing clear. I am not talking about persistence. Having persistence is a powerful thing and can lead to great outcomes. The difference between persistence and insanity is where your focus is placed. When you are driven and persistent, you focus in on your “why.” You are driven to achieve it no matter what path you need to take or make to get there.  With “insanity” you are focused on the expected results. If what you are currently doing is believing that if you do the same thing more you’ll get what you want, that's insanity.

The real problem from most digital marketers and businesses is expectations. We believe that if we copy someone’s strategy, we should get the same results. Here’s what makes it even harder, sometimes it works. So then we expect it always to work and get stuck when it doesn’t. Trust me, I’ve been there many times and often find myself frustrated, but when I hit this wall, I have programmed myself to stop, take a step back and make a strategic change in what I am doing.

The Problem With The Internet

Content is the fuel that keeps the engine of the internet running. It is estimated there are 2.75 million blog posts published each day: according to a 2010 Technorati study. That’s about 730,000,000 pieces of new content each year. As marketers and especially inbound marketers, we use content to attract, educate, and move users along their buyer’s journey. We have been taught that if you just post good content and then share it through the right channels (typically social channels), then you will have success.

While in theory, this sounds good, practically speaking there is so much more going on and being factored into the equation than just posting and sharing. For instance, let’s say you publish three new blogs on your site each week, that’s 156 new pieces of content you’ll produce in a year. That’s a lot of new content right? But when it comes to the internet, you haven’t even come relatively close to making a dent. You would have to post 7,300,000 pieces of content to have a 1% share in the total yearly content produced. This doesn’t even factor in the legacy content that is already on the web.  As of March 2016, The Indexed Web contains at least 4.62 billion pages. I share all of this to bring something into the light. Just doing what everyone else is doing isn’t going to set you apart.

Many people are drawn into the success stories they’ve read on blogs about quick ways to grow your business online.  Now, I am not saying there aren’t short cuts, what I am saying is do not expect it to work for you. One reason these “full-proof” tactics end up failing is that they get overused and abused. Remember keyword meta information?  How about link wheels?  Not all, but many of these shortcuts will lead to short-term results, and then you're back to where you started. Trust me; I’ve learned first-hand.

What I believe we should do is read what others are doing, take what fits for us and create our own unique path. We need to be leaders, not followers. Good leaders learn from what others are doing, but they don’t copy it. They use what fits for them and mash it together with all the other unique bits of information they’ve gained and created their own path. This is how I created my strategy. I read blogs from Brian Dean, HubSpot, Neil Patel, GrowthHackers, Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferriss, Austin Kleon, and Google and took the nuggets I connected with and put them to work for me. Rarely, if ever do I just copy and paste a specific strategy.

Change is the Only Way to Grow

If what you are doing isn’t working for you, the first question you need to ask is “why.” Is your strategy flawed or do you just need more time? Knowing whether or not you need to pivot can be one of the hardest things for any business owner or marketer.

According to the “Lean Start Up,” a pivot is a structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, business model, and engine of growth. 

Change is hard because it eats at our core beliefs. When we change, we have to admit that what we were doing didn’t work. In order to grow, we have to learn to detach from our work, look at it objectively and then make an educated decision on what to do next. Most of the time, there are only minor adjustments that we need to make, but sometimes the whole strategy needs to be thrown out, and you need to start from scratch.

The key to growth is to embrace your failures and learn from them. We can’t control outcomes, but we can choose whether or not we learn from our experiences. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, having the flexibility to make changes quickly and intelligently is what is going to separate those who succeed from those who are stuck in the insanity loop, doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results.

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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