Success is largely determined by one’s ability to delay gratification. This applies to just about any endeavor. Being the kind of person who likes to observe things, I noticed that social media and online marketing are no exceptions.
The Marshmallow Test & Delayed Gratification
Walter Mischel, a Standford psychologist, conducted a delayed gratification study in the 1960′s on a group of kids. He gave each of them a marshmallow. They were told they could earn another one for being patient, if they refrained from eating it (for 20 minutes) until the instructor came back.
Some of the kids ate their marshmallow right away. Others resisted their impulse and waited. Mischel followed up with both groups 14 years later.
The kids who immediately ate their marshmallow were described in these later years, by parents and teachers as “stubborn, prone to envy and easily frustrated.” (fitzvillafuerte.com)
The kids who waited were “more self-motivated, educationally successful and emotionally intelligent.” (fitzvillafuerte.com) They even scored higher on their SAT’s. You can read more details about their career success as adults in newyorker.com.
Here is a reproduction of the marshmallow test:
Gratification Delay and Online Marketing
There are 2 ways to acquire new business/ traffic. Please note, I am not saying that one is better than the other. I am just saying that there are 2 routes for marketing. Ideally, both should be done for optimal results.
1. short term tactics
2. long term tactics.
Patience for number 2 is obviously needed.
The Short Term Path
Examples of short term tactics include:
- email marketing
- pay per click
Short term tactics give you fast results. But guess what? They are done by practically everyone. Eventually, these do hit a point of diminishing returns. When you rely too heavily on them, you lose opportunities to develop and differentiate your brand. In the eyes of your target market, you are just a name in a sea of comparative companies.
The Long Term Path
What I call long term tactics are those things that strike most companies as frivolous, fluffy, nice to haves. At first, they seem like a waste of time. But they are all ways to present unique philosophies & perspectives. And they allow you to entertain, engage and develop quality relationships that motivate brand loyalty & greater visibility and recognition. Sounds fluffy? Maybe at first. But long term strategies are certainly not fruitless.
- regular blogging
- team brainstorming
- white papers
- person to person networking
- professional photography
- thoughtfully produced video content
- feedback gathering to evolve your offerings
- social network tools, community building etc
Oh I can hear the groans and moans already. After all, most businesses just want to eat their marshmallows RIGHT NOW. Many of them don’t want to wait for more candy at a later point in time.
When done correctly with the needs of customers fully in mind, these kind of strategies build valuable sentiment. I can just imagine some readers vehemently resisting this concept. What does touchy-feely, sentiment have to do with business?
Here is a quote by Maya Angelou which sum up the answer really well.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
And if the sentiment is strong and compelling enough, they might even refer you to their friends. Remember, this is where word of mouth, viral marketing starts.
In the eyes of prospective customers, users, members etc, do you want to be remembered or forgotten?
Again, I am not saying you should ditch all short term marketing strategies. They just need to be balanced out with the foundation building that long term strategies require. When you reach the point of diminishing returns, there will be no need to worry if you’ve laid the groundwork for increasing returns to come your way.
On this final note, here are more words of wisdom by Maya Angelou.
“All great achievements take time.”