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Stop with the busy work, and focus on the value drivers. When business or life are not going well, people often look for anything to do. Doing something may make you feel better, but doing the wrong thing won’t help you, and it can even cause harm.

Over the last two years, many people have felt pressure to do something. Governments made decisions, some helpful and some counter-productive because doing nothing felt untenable. 

I’ve talked to no shortage of businesses in panic mode. Restaurant owners who delayed retirement, trying not to lay off employees as indoor dining shut down. Medical facilities providing services deemed “elective” by state or city governments trying to stay afloat. That list goes on, but having a lot of conversations with people who just needed to do something gave me this insight. Something isn’t always better than nothing. Stop, take a breath, and think.

Struggling business owners asked me about SEO many times during the pandemic panic. And every time, I would explain that search engines help people find things they are looking for already. If the problem is awareness because people are not searching for something, no amount of SEO or Google Business Profile optimization can drive results. 

Questions about SEO came mostly from people who expected it to be less expensive than other marketing channels. And while you can dip your toe into SEO for a lower cost than, say, running television ads, it’s likely no business results will be driven from that testing of the waters.

Some companies are happy to take $200-400 dollars at a time, doing task-based marketing work that doesn’t help a struggling business. As much as I like making money, I’ve never been willing to help bleed a company by assisting them in spending an amount of money that will not work in the hopes of magic until they run out of cash.

Push ROI’s contact page now lists our minimum fees. We added this mini rate card to cut down on the time we spent having calls that I’m sure felt demoralizing for both parties. Every call that Push ROI accepts represents about two hours of research time prior to the conversation. And telling someone who sounds very much like my grandfather that the business they built-up over 35 years may not be able to make it, even if it gets on TikTok, hurts.

The businesses I spoke with often found another marketer or firm willing to “try” and do something. And struggling businesses would add signs to incentivize social media shares or build Google maps citations.

These efforts would take the number of Instagram posts about the businesses from 7 to 21 a month, and perhaps slightly improve the number of search impressions on Google. What they didn’t do, was bring in new customers. As one man told me, “the signs didn’t pay for themselves” in other words, all that effort was rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

At one time, I was a loud voice about growth hacking. I still believe efficient marketing is desirable, but marketing pixie dust is mythical. When you don’t have the resources to reach a goal, it’s best to conserve energy. In medicine, the term is minimum effective dose; using less is a waste, even if emotionally it feels better to take 10% of a pill.

My point is, don’t waste both time and money, for the sake of being busy. Before you do anything, create a strategy with a clear option for both success and failure, and pursue it with a singular focus. To cap this off with a quote attributed to Albert Einstein, “If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.

Header Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Mason Pelt is the founder of Push ROI