Recently I bought an antique camera on eBay. I don’t know why, maybe just a desire to recapture something from my youth. Or perhaps to find craft in a world largely absent of it. Anyway, when it came in the mail I wanted to quickly load it with film and shoot something. Anything.
Given the camera’s age and limitations, I opted for a roll of slow (100-ISO) black-and-white film and waited for a sunny day. That took a while, given our balky Northeast spring. And I was paranoid about selecting subjects. What should I shoot … landscapes, buildings, flowers, elderly blues singers from Mississippi? The film offers eight exposures per roll, and it’s cheap to buy, develop, and print. But it isn’t “free.” My digital Canon “costs” me exactly nothing per shot.
With film, I’ve become very careful about the choice of subject. I make sure each shot doesn’t duplicate the previous one, unless the lessons learned help me improve. Now I watch the weather and sun. Backgrounds just as carefully. Tonality, shade, exposure, speed. Carefully. The results are good.
Today, the marketing talk is about how quickly things have changed. New markets, new or uncovered targets, new channels. And in particular new methods to exploit these markets, targets and channels. The mantra today is some variation of, “Act quickly and fail fast.” While I’m certainly not averse to changing with the times—I’ve done an incredible amount of it in the past year alone—I see eerie parallels with earlier times and techniques, and I wonder if we’ve lost something in the process.
“Act quickly and fail fast” seems like a digital photographer firing off countless shots of meaningless subjects. It seems to be the opposite of the power, skill and accuracy we acquire. When. We. Slow. Down.
Does real-time A/B and multivariate testing really improve our landing pages and subject lines as much as careful thinking beforehand? Does programmatic ad buying add leverage to targeted marketing? Or would deep consideration in advance by keen minds do it as well or better?
Have you ever thought to yourself, “How did I function before the Internet, mobile campaigns, Web analysis, predictive analytics, Big Data, reverse IP lookup, triggered e-mails, and demand-side platforms?”
Here’s how: You were careful. You thought a lot before you acted. You looked at fewer results, and thus had fewer mistakes to correct. The good results outweighed the bad. You culled out the bad and tried again. In doing so, you exercised your brain, your heart, and your soul. Which isn’t a bad way to spend your professional day, if you have to.
Christopher Hosford is editor-in-chief and head writer at HosfordGroup LLC, a New York City-based content marketing agency. He is former East Coast Bureau Chief of Crain’s “BtoB” magazine, and former editor-in-chief of Nielsen’s “Sales & Marketing Management” magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.