Cheap, Quick, and Easy—3 Red Flags for B2B Content Marketing

January 31, 2024

Spend time on social media and you’ll see dozens of ads promising to accelerate and simplify the marketing process.

We’ll fill your calendar with appointments, or you don’t pay a penny.

Connect with hundreds of qualified leads in the next 30 days.

Download a list of 1,000 buyers in your sector, absolutely free.

I’ll share my proven, repeatable process that generated $30,000 in under a week.

It’s a veritable cottage industry of tricks, hacks, “proven” processes, and successful-looking people promising to turbocharge your business.

And it’s all nonsense.

Let’s talk about why that’s the case and how to spot the red flags.


The Logical Fallacy of CQE Hacks

Hacks that promise cheap, quick, and easy (CQE) marketing results share a fundamental flaw: they sow the seeds of their own demise.

Even if one of the proponents found a way to achieve outsized results—in any of the CQE dimensions—their advantage would be fleeting.

An approach that demonstrates a consistent advantage over the established way of doing things gets copied quickly and widely as soon as the news gets out.

The status quo shifts, the new approach becomes the standard, and everything equalizes once more.

In other words, if any of the hacks worked, they would only continue doing so if limited to a small group of players (and not easily detected and reverse engineered by the rest of the market).

Does that seem a likely outcome when said hacks are advertised on social media?


The Reality of B2B Marketing

Effective B2B marketing—and effective content marketing in particular—is difficult, takes time, and costs real money.

Promising to make it cheap, quick, or easy is like defying the laws of physics

Promising to make it cheap, quick, or easy is like defying the laws of physics.

If it was cheap, corporations with massive budgets would dominate the market and make it impossible for smaller players to gain a foothold.

If it was quick, companies would have no difficulty attracting, engaging, and converting prospects into revenue.

If it was easy, there would be no need for marketing experts—or hacks. We’d all take a B2B Marketing 101 class and set about applying the instructions to our business.

Observing successful marketers tells a different story.

They work continuously to test and optimize their strategies and tactics, finding new and creative ways to get closer to constantly shifting marketing goals.

They invest months before seeing the full fruits of their labor. Quick wins are possible, but they are seldom enough to alter the trajectory of the business.

They invest a significant percentage of the company’s overall budget to generate new and future business.

If you want to burn some money and see, at best, a short-term blip in your results, give the hucksters a shot.

If you want to grow your B2B business in a sustainable manner, accept that marketing is hard, will take months to bear fruit, and must be funded accordingly.

The CQE Red Flags

Business leaders must be vigilant for CQE promises and projects creeping into their operations.

They won’t always be as obvious as someone announcing, “We’ve found a way to make our marketing [cheaper, faster, easier].”

Here are some red flags to watch for:

- Engaging a third-party expert on the promise of significantly reducing the cost of lead or revenue generation without a clearly identified deficiency in the way you’ve previously done things.

- Setting internal targets for lead generation, lead nurturing, or lead conversion that are drastically different from anything the company has achieved before.

- Significantly reducing the forecast cost of acquiring new customers (CAC) without a material change in strategy or marketing conditions.

- Results that predict—or depend on—an exponential increase in audience size or audience engagement that is not the result of 12+ months’ investment in ongoing marketing efforts.

- Promising significant marketing outcomes in less than 6 months (and even 12 months in slower-moving sectors) unless they are built upon existing marketing efforts that have been running for 6+ months.

- The promise of reaching an imminent inflection point in audience growth, lead generation, lead conversion, cost to acquire new customers, deal size, customer churn, or repeat business.

Not all red flags will prove to be legitimate alarms.

Hopefully your company will reach inflection points in its growth trajectory, at which point the forecasts of exponential change will be legitimate.

In practice, those moments are few and far between—and the misleading promises far more common—so pay attention whenever a red flag arises.


How to Protect Your Business from CQE Scams

The simplest way to protect yourself from these schemes is to educate your team on how marketing works and why it is necessarily difficult, time-consuming, and costly.

Armed with that knowledge, they will more easily sniff out promises that are too good to be true.

The second step is to clearly differentiate between the need for cost consciousness and the urgency to deliver growth, and the risks presented by false promises and shortcuts.

Overemphasizing the importance of saving money and going fast can make money-saving and growth-accelerating schemes seem unnaturally attractive

Every business should spend its money wisely while seeking to grow at a sustainable clip.

But overemphasizing the importance of saving money and going fast can make money-saving and growth-accelerating schemes seem unnaturally attractive.

Team members fall for the allure of making themselves a hero by bringing a CQE solution to the business.

Set your marketing budget based on practical guidelines and best practices, such as the tried-and-trusted “10-15% of target net new revenue” for non-SaaS B2B businesses.

Then build a marketing plan based on how long it takes real people to do things in the real world. There are plenty of case histories and benchmark reports to which you can refer.

Explain to your team that you expect to spend the budget and to wait for the planned amount of time to see the results.

Sure, you’d love to find ways of spending a little less and moving a little faster, but dramatic changes to the budget or plan will be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Reward people for putting in the work, running creative marketing experiments, carefully managing the budget, and delivering against their targets.


The Bottom Line

Just as it would be easy to believe a whole lot of nonsense about the world if you took every social media post on face value, so it’s easy to be seduced by promises of quicker, cheaper, and easier marketing.

In practice, effective B2B marketing is difficult, takes time, and costs real money.

Watch out for signs that CQE promises or projects are creeping into your business and snuff them out quickly to avoid distraction and disappointment.

Coach your leaders and team on how marketing really works, and why it is necessarily difficult, time-consuming, and costly.

Incentivize them to put in the work and to find creative ways of delivering results in the expected time, rather than hunting for shortcuts to save the company money or juice the timeline.

CQE marketing scams won’t be going away because too many business leaders see marketing as a suck on the company’s time and money and are eager to find a way to hack quicker and cheaper success.

Don’t be one of those leaders. Say no to CQE marketing!


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Image credits: Adobe Stock

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