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The Balancing Act Between Short-term and Long-term Marketing

As someone whose main job responsibility is to brainstorm, plan and produce effective marketing campaigns for NHPA’s membership, media brands and products, I understand that it’s hard to wait for results. Especially when leadership or key stakeholders are concerned about their immediate return on investment. The longer they have to wait, the more it can feel like you’re throwing money in the trash. But, it’s important to draw a clear line of distinction between short-term and long-term marketing so that everyone is on the same page about how and when to expect a payoff. In this article, I’ll cover some of the objectives that fall in short-term and long-term marketing strategies and why you need both to produce results and revenue. First, let’s dive into short-term marketing.


Short-term Marketing

Short-term marketing focuses on tactical or operational marketing strategies. The idea here is to run campaigns focused on generating revenue quickly, such as advertising sales and promotions to get a lift in sales, or generating leads to fill up the sales pipeline. Here are a few examples.


Promoting a product or service.

To use NHPA as an example, when the COVID-19 lockdown began in early 2020, we realized that one of the core functions of our association is to connect independent home improvement retailers with one another to share challenges and solutions. 

With the absence of live events, there was a growing need to provide virtual experiences to help retailers gather and discuss how they were dealing with health and safety concerns and supply chain issues. To meet this need, we ran a campaign to promote monthly virtual town halls.

In this example, it is easy to determine success because you can measure the amount of time and money spent creating the campaign against the results, like the number of retailers who attended and engaged in the town hall conversation. 


Running a sale or promotion.

Sales and promotions can be tricky to navigate. When you run too many of them, customers may catch on and avoid buying your product unless it’s on sale. And depending on the perception you want, this could make your business appear cheap. On the flip side, running strategically-timed campaigns to move inventory or drive demand is a quick, easy way to drive revenue.

If you don’t sell products, don’t count yourself out of the promotion game just yet. You can offer free trials, limited-time service deals and free consultations. For example, A website development firm could offer free consultations to prospective clients about what website tools could drive traffic from the prospect’s website to their store.


Engaging in a retargeting campaign.

If you are trying to get eyeballs on your advertising message quickly, the easiest solution is to saturate the market with ads. Even better, saturate a familiar audience with ads. The Rule of Seven tells us that a prospect needs to see or hear an advertisement seven times before taking action. While that number may vary depending on the industry or how aggressive your competitors are advertising, it’s likely that people who are familiar with your product are more likely to convert from prospect to customer.

Cue…retargeting campaigns. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to capture the attention of a warm audience is to run a retargeting campaign, which pushes your ads to prospective customers who have visited your website and then left. 

For example, Joe is looking for a new hedge trimmer and he visits a lawn equipment company’s website to look at options, but he leaves without buying one. Before he logs off for the day, Joe also browses the internet, looking at the local news, weekend weather forecast and the score of last night’s baseball game. 

When he was on the lawn equipment site, a cookie was placed on Joe’s computer so that when he left and visited these other sites, the company could begin feeding him ads for hedge trimmers as he navigated various sites on the web. This constant messaging from the company would likely increase Joe’s intent to buy one of its hedge trimmers when he’s ready to make a purchase.


Long-term Marketing

While short-term marketing focuses on the now, long-term marketing can help companies lay out more general objectives over a longer period of time. Some of the most crucial tools a company has are its brand strategy and website, which require much more planning but can pay off big in the long term.


Building brand strategy.

Strong brands in every industry are successful because they spend time on an overall strategy. They develop a clear brand position that speaks to their market, and they stick to it. A brand strategy is built to address consumer needs, emotions and competitive environments. In fact, all of their short-term marketing starts with this brand strategy in mind. 

Trader Joe’s positions itself as a “national chain of neighborhood grocery stores.” It focuses on smaller footprints for a more intimate shopping experience, friendly staff members in Hawaiian shirts, nautical signage and high-quality food at a low price. 

The company’s website also says, “We know that maintaining our everyday focus on value is vital, which is why we don’t have sales, we don’t offer coupons and there are no loyalty programs or membership cards to swipe at our stores. Trader Joe’s believes every customer should have access to the best prices on the best products every day.” 

The company has established its commitment to offering value through quality products at reasonable prices in a fun atmosphere. 


Focus on your website.

There is no question, even in industries where people prefer traditional marketing, you have to have a website where information is readily available, easy to navigate, safe and secure, loads quickly, looks and sounds great, matches your brand, answers all the questions, etc., etc., etc. My point is, even if people shop your products in store, more often than not, they start their path to purchase online—so don’t skimp on a well-thought-out plan that includes content strategy, navigation and user experience. Also, continuous improvement is key: With technology changing so quickly, companies are moving away from relaunching websites every few years and are instead making constant updates to keep the site fresh, helpful, inviting and secure.  

Building a website can be an overwhelming concept to explore, and it can include an equally overwhelming price tag when you go down the rabbit hole of features and functionality. So try to start simple: What do you want the website to articulate about your business? Who do you serve, and why should they choose you? Refer to your brand strategy as a starting point.


In conclusion, both short- and long-term marketing strategies are important for brand success. Timing can help you determine where to start. While long-term strategies like building your brand identity are mission critical, if you are just starting out or are on the bleeding edge of a growing trend, focus on short-term goals. (If you take the time to fully vet a brand identity, you could miss a great opportunity.) On the other hand, don’t get so caught up in cranking out deal after deal or product launch after launch without revisiting the overall impact on your brand and your business.


Hardware Retailing, published by the North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA) offers nearly 34,000 readers with how-to management and new product advice every month. Hardware Retailing offers a range of digital and print advertising options to help you get your message to key buyers in both the retail and wholesale markets. And, the revenue generated from advertising is reinvested to produce education and research for the independent home improvement channel. Download our media kit for more information.

Author avatar

Whitney Daulton

Whitney has spent more than a decade at NHPA, beginning as a graphic designer fresh out of college, then moved into art and creative direction before landing her current role as Executive Director of Marketing and Communications. She is passionate about building content and tools to help independent retailers succeed. She is instrumental in helping the association build strategies and brand awareness behind its products and services.

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