Is your business waiting for a big, shiny solution? OK, maybe not waiting – you guys probably do some stuff each day. But are you really attacking core problems in a systematic way? Or merely having meetings about more topical stuff and pontificating what to do about it? Are you waiting for silver bullets to be withdrawn from a velvet-lined box?

Ah, the fabled silver bullet. Heralded for its ability to banish evil threats and transform the despairing neighborhood once more into an idyllic place of joyous recreation and swift commerce. Surely those will make the hairy problems go away, right?

In folklore, the concept of silver bullets represents the ability to render a problem vulnerable. To destroy an obvious threat through strength of heroic will in combination with precious tools, effectively neutralizing the problem to allow better, happier times to return. Makes for good movies, but I’ve yet to see this kind of scene unfold in real life. Yet I think a lot of business resources are wasted waiting for silver bullet solutions.

Silver BulletsYou’ve probably experienced the anticipatory wait, too: bolting on the new enhancement needed to kick your product over the top; finagling enough inbound links of the right quality to nudge your listing from no. 5 to no. 3; landing the big new fish of a client to boost Q4 reports. This one [insert silver bullet here] will make [insert bad business thing here] go away.
Whether your werewolf, metaphorically speaking, is an awareness problem, parity product, or a conversion problem, it’s still unlikely to be solved with a single change in tactic, no matter how shiny and gleaming. Business success isn’t achieved by pulling a single trigger releasing a single shot. There’s very little linear about it, really.

So why, as marketers, do we wait – or search for – silver bullets? Can’t we draw inferences from data, scrabble together secondary findings to support our thesis, or give a test project a super-alpha go without our full wish-for budget?

If you’re doing those things, then good. There are far too many others mired in the thick bog of red tape, fear of failure, and debilitating leadership.

Stop looking for climactic resolutions

Just like the unwitting character who dies in scene 2, we victimize ourselves when we look for one thing to make massive, disruptive change in the direction our brand or business is headed. We wound ourselves and our potential when we take what should be an agile process and make it complicated. When we wait for the big rescue (that silver bullet), we’re transferring power to one thing. But what if we miss the mark?

Here are a few of reasons why a silver bullet mentality will get your business axed:

  1. Waiting for change to occur creates its own set of problems. It encourages a “not my job” mentality and creates apathy. Apathetic workers shirk accountability and waste resources finger-pointing.
  2. When drastic change is needed, pinning the outcome of objectives onto a single tactic is foolish. Too many elements beyond your direct control will impact the ensuing result.
  3. Waiting, by its nature, means you’re not proactive. At best you’re responsive, but probably more like reactive. Little wonder your business trails in share.

If you’re going to fight the competition, the distribution complications, the supply chain changes caused by the cost of XX in YY, the depressed demand for your widgets, you shouldn’t hedge your 401(k) and medical benefits on a single campaign. You don’t pour your entire budget into a Super Bowl ad or glom onto QR codes like the second coming. And you don’t wait for a bucket load of tweets bashing your company’s lackluster customer service before you realize you have a service delivery problem (and potentially a product problem). There’s no silver bullet success here.

Relief won’t come if you somehow manage to fell today’s scary beast. Oh, you might get a couple of quick breaths in, but that’s all. Surprise! The beast had a partner.

Success is incremental; its small gains made through ongoing intelligence-gathering leading to informed decisions. It’s calculated risk and passion, a framework that supports smart failure, and a curious culture.

Success looks different for every company. And it comes to no company that waits for a silver bullet.

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About Heather Rast

Heather Rast

Heather is Principal of a boutique Cedar Rapids digital marketing company. She develops brand positioning strategy and marketing communications plans to distinguish small businesses from the competition and attract their ideal customers. Her content planning, writing, and online community-building work helps larger businesses better serve their audiences with useful information that solves problems as it builds affinity for the brand.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://prostarassociates.com/ Kenneth Northcutt

    Very good bullet points. You have lighten up the right direction where business supposed to take. Very thought-provoking post. Thank you for sharing this. 

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

      Glad you stopped by Kenneth. I’ll bet each of us in the working world have experienced some form of bet-hedging or another. We’re often impatient and don’t anticipate the aggregate affect of incremental improvements/adjustments. Instead we look for big results quickly, often from the wrong sources.

      • http://prostarassociates.com/ Kenneth Northcutt

        Yes indeed! Kodus to you Heather! 

      • http://prostarassociates.com/ Kenneth Northcutt

        Yes indeed! Kudos to you Heather!

  • http://prostarassociates.com/ Kenneth Northcutt

    Very good bullet points. You have lighten up the right direction where business supposed to take. Very thought-provoking post. Thank you for sharing this. 

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

      Glad you stopped by Kenneth. I’ll bet each of us in the working world have experienced some form of bet-hedging or another. We’re often impatient and don’t anticipate the aggregate affect of incremental improvements/adjustments. Instead we look for big results quickly, often from the wrong sources.

      • http://prostarassociates.com/ Kenneth Northcutt

        Yes indeed! Kodus to you Heather! 

      • http://prostarassociates.com/ Kenneth Northcutt

        Yes indeed! Kudos to you Heather!

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    Your are so true about waiting for changes to and it will surely lead to “not my job”attitude which is very disastrous to business..

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    Your are so true about waiting for changes to and it will surely lead to “not my job”attitude which is very disastrous to business..

  • http://www.TheDirectMailMan.com Blase Ciabaton

    Love this post Heather-great job! So many people are looking for the quick fix, but slow and steady wins the race. I provide direct mail marketing services to business owners, and success invariably requires multi-touch campaigns and a long-term strategy-the problem is that most customers want to write a check and see immediate results, and this just isn’t how it works. My best customers “get it” and you do too.

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

      Hi, Blase. Seems we’re of the same mind. One of my concerns with this systemic silver bullet thinking is this: how can afflicted companies possibly achieve success? With so much energy spent chasing the elusive big fix, few resources are left to dedicate to the kinds of programs that meet long-term goals. The aggregate affect may be discounted if even noted as a strength. The downstream affect on morale and team mentality goes without mention.

  • http://www.TheDirectMailMan.com Blase Ciabaton

    Love this post Heather-great job! So many people are looking for the quick fix, but slow and steady wins the race. I provide direct mail marketing services to business owners, and success invariably requires multi-touch campaigns and a long-term strategy-the problem is that most customers want to write a check and see immediate results, and this just isn’t how it works. My best customers “get it” and you do too.

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

      Hi, Blase. Seems we’re of the same mind. One of my concerns with this systemic silver bullet thinking is this: how can afflicted companies possibly achieve success? With so much energy spent chasing the elusive big fix, few resources are left to dedicate to the kinds of programs that meet long-term goals. The aggregate affect may be discounted if even noted as a strength. The downstream affect on morale and team mentality goes without mention.

  • http://www.mobileappsdesigners.com D T

    Great article! I love your silverbullet analogy and couldn’t agree more with your points.  

  • http://www.mobileappsdesigners.com D T

    Great article! I love your silverbullet analogy and couldn’t agree more with your points.  

  • http://www.stevescottsite.com/ Steve Scott Site

    So many people seem to think that there is some magic button you can press for success.  Like the old joke, “How do you get to carnagie hall?”  “Practice”  they don’t realize that the only way you can reach success is through long hours of hard work.

    There are no shortcuts.  It is a step by step process.  You build a foundation.  Then the next level.  then the next.  Eventually you will reach the top but it is a process not a magic ride.

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

      “There are no shortcuts.” As true in achieving business success as much as it is weight loss ;-) Note how many companies make money capitalizing on our wish for silver bullet diet pills, too.

      Thanks, Steve!

  • http://www.stevescottsite.com/ Steve Scott Site

    So many people seem to think that there is some magic button you can press for success.  Like the old joke, “How do you get to carnagie hall?”  “Practice”  they don’t realize that the only way you can reach success is through long hours of hard work.

    There are no shortcuts.  It is a step by step process.  You build a foundation.  Then the next level.  then the next.  Eventually you will reach the top but it is a process not a magic ride.

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

      “There are no shortcuts.” As true in achieving business success as much as it is weight loss ;-) Note how many companies make money capitalizing on our wish for silver bullet diet pills, too.

      Thanks, Steve!

  • http://twitter.com/hardmonylenders Hard Money Lenders

    Hard work and dedication are the only path to true success.  It’s just common sense.

    http://hard-money-lenders.net/2011/08/31/commercial-hard-money-loans/

  • http://www.socialmarketingdynamics.com/ Sydney @ Social Dynamics

    I concur. It’s far too risky to put, as they say, all your eggs in one basket.  Because sooner or later you might find it empty or, worse destroyed. When something goes wrong, be sure to find out the what and when and how of the problem, to find a proper solution.

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

      Banking so much on the next uber product release or super cool marketing campaign just isn’t smart. I think this happens more often than companies realize, because the behavior is usually part of the culture and systemic, so it takes a newcomer to raise a hand and say, “Hey, why don’t we dive into this issue our customers keep surfacing instead?”

  • http://www.socialmarketingdynamics.com/ Sydney @ Social Dynamics

    I concur. It’s far too risky to put, as they say, all your eggs in one basket.  Because sooner or later you might find it empty or, worse destroyed. When something goes wrong, be sure to find out the what and when and how of the problem, to find a proper solution.

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

      Banking so much on the next uber product release or super cool marketing campaign just isn’t smart. I think this happens more often than companies realize, because the behavior is usually part of the culture and systemic, so it takes a newcomer to raise a hand and say, “Hey, why don’t we dive into this issue our customers keep surfacing instead?”

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