When you hit a plateau—in business or life—it can mess with your motivation. Oftentimes, it’s even more frustrating than hitting a “wall,” because that would mean there is a clear obstacle in your way and there are defined ways to get around it. With a plateau, there may not be a clear hurdle to get over or anything glaringly negative in terms of performance results. It may just be… boring.
Of course, this happens all the time in business, and many times marketing is leaned on to shoulder the burden and get out of the rut. A campaign levels off, then starts to become ineffective. Budget cuts can create a challenge and often require creativity. Senior leadership isn’t interested in what you have to say, making it easier to stay placated and say, “I guess this is fine…”
It’s anything but fine.
“Monotony is an enemy of growth. Inertia is an enemy of progress.”
One of the key challenges to overcome is actually recognizing you’ve hit a plateau. It’s sometimes hard to realize you’re in autopilot status, especially if things appear to be operating smoothly.
But, even if you have sufficient budget and your tactics have performed in the past, are they really the best for progressing the business? If metrics are not trending down at the moment, are the gears still moving and are you analyzing what's happening and seeking better opportunities? If the answer is no, you've hit a plateau—or are about to.
Staying stagnant not only becomes boring to you and your audience, it’s a risk you cannot afford to take. Even a flatline in marketing activity will eventually mean a downward dive in business performance, including revenue, growth, and customer satisfaction.
Wake Up, Shake Up
The worst response to a plateau is something Einstein is credited for defining...insanity (doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results). Monotony is the enemy of growth. Inertia is the enemy of progress.
“Throw things at the wall. It can be inspiring and idea-generating.”
Instead of living in that paralysis, I would argue that even snap decisions and experimenting without a solid strategy is a positive plan to shake things up. Throw things at the wall. It can be inspiring and idea-generating. Most of all, it is movement and change of some kind.
However, going "back to strategy" can be a nice reset and allow you to reevaluate the goals you targeted. Are they still relevant? Are they audacious enough? Are they too aspirational? Adjusting goals can create a path for entirely new plans and tactics.
Be the Squeaky Wheel
It’s especially difficult to overcome plateaus when you’re not the sole decision maker, but it’s not impossible. Navigating plateaus I felt I didn't have the authority to impact helped to ingrain in me an attitude of “keep learning, and keep proposing.” Collect more data, facts, projections, hypothesis, opportunities—and share, present, pester, prod. Even if your efforts fall on deaf ears for a bit, it could be the right amount of annoyance to get someone to bless just one initiative that you can use to prove your case and double down.
Finding yourself in plateau status could be an undesirable position to be in, but it happens. The most important thing to remember is that it can be a temporary status if you have the right team, strategy, and expertise on your side.