Urgency Culture Is Hurting Your Business — Here’s Why.
Letting urgency overwhelm your strategy is a recipe for failure.
When it comes to the term “mindset,” you’ve probably heard a lot about concepts like the “abundance mindset” or “scarcity mindset.” One thing that hasn’t been talked about as much is the urgency mindset.
We live in a world on the move. Today’s business landscape is one of fast turnaround, quick production, and a run-to-the-goal attitude that never seems to take a break. The digital age has turned corporate goals into a series of sprints rather than a steady marathon.
This trend is easy to fall into. Businesses — including your competitors — are so visible now that it can seem like everyone is further ahead than you. Everyone is working on some big new strategy, and everyone is building up success story after success story on a near-daily basis.
Or so it seems.
You have likely heard about the “ comparison trap” brought on by social media feeds. Individuals who are active on sites like Instagram or Facebook tend to develop “FOMO” or “fear of missing out” after spending a lot of time looking at other people’s lives through the tinted lens of curated profiles. There are real psychological impacts from this kind of life-to-image comparison, and it can harm a person’s self-esteem and overall happiness.
It’s just as easy to fall prey to this trap not only as an individual, but also as a business or brand. If you are representing a company as its owner, an executive, or simply as someone who is deeply invested in its success, that same comparison trap and FOMO can quickly take hold of your perceptions and goals.
Urgency culture is the natural result of this shift. It soon feels as if every competitor and colleague is in the fast lane, hitting milestones at warp speed while you’re stuck by the starting gate. The feeling of falling behind can be paralyzing. The most common response is to push harder, putting everything into overdrive in order to “keep up” with or surpass the rest of the market.
Companies invest a huge amount of money into short-term goals. They push strong but short-lived marketing campaigns to get their products and services in front of as many eyes as possible in as little time as they can, and the resulting spike in sales or engagement can be validating. Then the moment passes, the spike drops away, and business owners are left feeling even more paralyzed than before. These daily and monthly ups-and-downs can bring about a sense of chaos and stress that seeps into a person’s personal life as well as their professional one.
Although short-term campaigns are useful, research consistently shows that long-term marketing strategies and mission statements produce better results. Those results aren’t just related to the bottom line, either. Urgency culture can be harmful to a company’s employee morale and in many cases to the very clients and consumers the short-term pushes are meant to target.
By making everything seem urgent, CMOs and CEOs are unwittingly making nothing feel important. This is the urgency trap, and it can undermine your entire business if allowed to fester. When you saturate your strategy with urgency, you are more likely to create overloaded and burnt-out employees, an ambivalent audience, and eventually an under-filled (or empty) client roster.
Unreasonable time constraints are one of the top five causes of employee burnout. Burnout is one of the leading causes of productivity decline and high turnover rates for niches in every industry. Data indicates that “companies with moderate-to-severe burnout have a 376 percent decrease in the odds of having highly engaged employees, 87 percent decrease in likelihood to stay, 22 percent decreased work output and 41 percent decrease in the perception of the employee experience,” according to a report by O.C. Tanner.
The impact doesn’t stop with your employees, either. Too much emphasis on the short-term can undermine the value you provide to consumers. There is a delicate balance to be struck in this area, as the modern customer expects speed and quality to be prioritized throughout their experience. The problem with businesses tends to be that speed is pushed ahead of quality without any conscious intent. This is the urgency mindset in action.
Paying the price of this imbalance can range from costly to lethal for both producers and consumers depending on the industry. Mistaking efficiency for effectiveness is a classic error that stems directly from a culture of urgency. It is a pervasive misperception that can slowly overtake any progress your company has made. The experts will generally agree that success has a formula, and that formula begins with quality and then turns toward efficiency once that quality has been established.
A lot of this information is straightforward. You’re likely thinking that you already know all this, and you don’t need it repeated back to you. And while most business owners and executives do know this conceptually, the trends show that very few are putting that knowledge into practice. Even without hard data to back these statements up, all you need to do to see the truth is step into a consumer’s shoes and put yourself on the receiving end of modern marketing strategies in any industry.
The businesses that take the time to target you as an individual — likely by investing in quality data and strong algorithms for their online platforms — are far more effective at getting the right products and services in front of you. The result is more sales conversions.
Those who emphasize mass marketing strategies, however, usually end up in the trash folder of your email, or as annoying (and ignored) background noise when you are surfing the web. Too much urgency can result in a consumer becoming annoyed and actively blocking a company’s ads or inquiries from appearing on their screens. Needless to say, this does not result in conversions.
The takeaway is clear: success means putting importance and prioritization at the center of your strategy, even at the cost of shorter-term returns. You can see this in action when you look at the biggest players in the corporate world. For example, when Google first began running ads, they sacrificed short term reach for individualized targeting in order to make sure that their focus remained on conversions instead of views. They invested more time in their foundational systems, even at the cost of the immediate profits their competitors were fixated on. The result hardly needs to be stated.
Amazon is another example of how sacrificing urgency for quality can pay off. The Amazon strategy of implementing targeted ads is well-known. The company is almost synonymous with the concept of targeted marketing itself by now, and the results speak for themselves. These results didn’t happen overnight.
While Amazon’s early competitors were pushing out as many products as possible to as many people as possible, the e-commerce giant kept quiet and built groundbreaking algorithms and segmentation into its DNA. Now the majority of those competitors either don’t exist or have been brought under the Amazon umbrella. They kept the urgency mindset subordinate to their overall mission and reaped the benefits of this wisdom.
The best way to prevent urgency culture from taking over your business is to learn from examples like these. Success arises naturally from an investment of time in your brand’s mission statement and deeper identity. The mission statement isn’t merely a series of empty words — a true mission statement is a full examination of the values and principles that define your business. Those values and principles will, with time, become your priorities, which in turn become your defining strategy. A mission-focused strategy is the most powerful predictor of success for any company or individual.
That strategy will take sustained and consistent maintenance. It will, in short, take time — but that time is an investment that will pay back unimaginable dividends over the long term.
If you take just one thing away from this piece, it should be that urgency culture is not a good investment. In fact, it is like paying into a scam, as your short term gains are more than likely to give way to long term losses after the present moment has passed. Don’t take this concept for granted. If you think you already know all this, that’s wonderful, but do yourself a favor and step back to objectively look at your strategy for a second.
Is it really aligned with a long term mission, or is it leaning too far toward efficiency and not far enough toward quality? Is your mindset one of balance, patience, and growth, or is it beginning to slip into one of stress, comparison, and urgency?
The answer could be the difference between the success or failure of your entire business.
Emily Sinclair Montague is a freelance writer and editor living in the Washington, D.C. area.
She is passionate about all things written. She enjoys creating meaningful work that sparks inspiration in others and forges lasting connections between people and businesses.
Emily is also the author of The Jewel Chronicles Trilogy (under the name E.M. Sinclair) and runs two blogs. Her professional site, Words of a Feather, and her lifestyle blog, Bougie on a Budget, are good places to find her.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.