Tarnished Silver Bullets and Other Reasons Your Business Fails

by Heather Rast |
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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 Are you waiting for silver bullets to be withdrawn from a velvet-lined box?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.


About the Author

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.