Is Your Marketing Plan Sustainable or Unsustainable?

Is your marketing plan sustainable or unsustainable?

You started your business from scratch, figured things out as you went, and you deserve major kudos for that! You took courses, listened to webinars, and DIY-ed the crap out of your online business. And, you should be damn proud. (We are!)

But when it comes to your marketing, are you 100% sure where you ended up is where you need to be?

There are so many potential marketing tactics available to you as a business owner — like social media, ads, and emails — but there’s a catch: they’re not all created equal.

Some are easier to implement, some are more time-consuming. Some produce quick wins, some play the long game. Some are super sustainable and worth investing, and some are, well, not.

Your goal: use the 10 (ish) minutes that we have together as you read this post to double-check that your marketing tactics are sustainable marketing tactics!

Keep reading to learn whether your marketing plan is sustainable or not (and if not, what you need to do to right the ship).

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What is unsustainable marketing?

Unsustainable marketing tactics are marketing efforts that need to be constantly maintained, fed, or paid for in order to produce results. They’re the opposite of evergreen marketing— a fire that threatens to go out as soon as you stop feeding and stoking it. (Think: paid ads.)

Unsustainable marketing strategies rely heavily on these types of tactics, or are built solely on platforms that you, the business owner, do not own. (We’re looking at you, Instagram-only entrepreneurs!)

Using unsustainable marketing tactics, you can expect to see short-lived wins that manifest quickly, but burnout just as fast. With an unsustainable marketing plan, you’re forced to expend near-constant energy and money to keep your business going, or to live with the peaks and valleys that come from doing big, periodic marketing pushes that get you some results, but then die down to a gut-wrenching silence.

Let’s be clear though, just because a tactic is unsustainable, doesn’t make it bad. There are many reasons why we use and recommend these tactics for our clients, the important thing is that your entire strategy doesn’t revolve or rely around them.

Unsustainable marketing tactics

Unsustainable marketing tactics are those that need to be constantly fed in order to produce results. The worst offenders are social media, digital ads, and any other “quick fixes” you get sold.

Social media

There are two big problems with social media. First, you’re at the mercy of the algorithm. Second, you will never own the platform, so you have zero control over what happens to your content.

Since you don’t own the platform, you can never predict or control what happens on it. It leaves you — and the content you spent so long creating — vulnerable to things like:

  • Days when IG randomly goes dark
  • The platform starting to charge for exposure
  • Near-constant changes and content creation demands to keep up with
  • Getting kicked out of your account if someone reports you

Bottom line: The apps can strip you of your account, your following, and your platform at any given time.

Digital ads

Digital ads are a great way to supplement your existing content strategy, but they shouldn’t be your content strategy. In other words, if one day you decide to pull or scale back your ad budget, your entire business should not fail!

Just like with social media, you simply don’t have enough control over your ads. Companies can always charge more, or change the way they target viewers. 

Protect yourself by using ads as a boost, not a crutch!

Sales and specials

Some businesses rely on sales and specials to keep them running. Meaning that they’re constantly having to discount services and offerings in order to make a sale— and then if no sale is running, no sales are happening.

Psychologically speaking, discounts can dampen your consumers’ perceptions of the value of your product and your brand, so they should be used sparingly. 

Also, real talk: if your audience only buys when you reduce your prices, your offer is either irrelevant to them, priced incorrectly, or they’re the wrong audience for you.

Quick fixes

Avoid relying on quick fixes and anything that promises to be a magic wand, bringing you instant results.

Remember that at the end of the day, good content that engages your readers and is tied back to a big-picture strategy will never let you down. There are ways to optimize and streamline, but cutting corners never really works. If something seems too good to be true, it generally is. So be weary of people who try to sell you these solutions.

Why people choose unsustainable marketing

Reading the description above, plus all those examples of less-than-ideal practices, it’s easy to wonder why any business owner would ever get on the unsustainable marketing roller coaster, right? 

Thing is, it’s not as cut-and-dry as it sounds. Business owners who market unsustainably aren’t bad business owners— they’re just doing the best they can with what they have. They’re people who likely have a lot on the line (owning a business = a pressure cooker!), and who need their businesses to be successful.

Also, unsustainable marketing tactics are sneaky. They play right into the hands of someone who isn’t sure what to do, but knows they need results. They tempt unsuspecting business owners with “get results quick” promises that seem ideal, and gloss over their unsustainability.

Unsustainable marketing lures in business owners who:

  • Feel overwhelmed 
  • Don’t know what else to do
  • Haven’t had time to step back and market strategically
  • Don’t have 5k to invest in a website
  • Can’t seem to sustain blogging and other methods of marketing
  • Are learning and reacting to things on the fly

At the end of the day, “invest some time, effort, and resources into a long-term plan with results that take a few months to see but are more sustainable when they do arrive” will never be as sexy as “increase your website traffic tomorrow!” — even if it is the better and higher-return course of action. 

So, if you read this post and realize that your marketing tactics aren’t sustainable, don’t beat yourself up!

Ally and Kira, the Co-Founders of Akari Digital

What is sustainable marketing?

Sustainable marketing strategies consist of reliable, brand-building tactics. They’re built on platforms you actually own, and the effort you put into them compounds overtime. It takes longer to build, but the results last much longer, and continue to pay you back long after your initial work is done.

Investing time and/or money into sustainable marketing practices is likely to result in:

  • On-brand, evergreen content
  • Steady, continuous results (in time)
  • An engaged audience
  • Optimized content hosted on platforms you own
  • One of more automated funnels or processes that continually generate leads and/or sales

In other words: a super sustainable business that you actually control!

It’s worth noting that a sustainable marketing strategy can — and in some cases, should — be supported by less sustainable practices like ads and social content. But, the meat and potatoes of your strategy should always be the ones that are within your control!

Why doesn’t everyone market sustainably?

We’re biased, but sustainable marketing like this seems like a no-brainer, right?

But the thing that generally holds people back is the investment. It takes more time and energy (or money) to do it well and to do it consistently. Thankfully, you get back what you put in and then some— especially if you focus on things you can automate and you’re careful about tying other efforts back to a concrete, measurable goal.

(That’s why we always get our clients to set clear goals in advance. If you’re paying for a strategy or for optimized content, we want you to make sure you’re investing specifically in the things that will pay you back.)

Sustainable marketing tactics


We talk about blogging a lot, so I’ll just give you the Cliff’s notes here:

  1. Blogging builds your website’s authority and digital presence. 
  2. It lets you create and publish content on a platform that you own and have full control over (making it super sustainable).
  3. You can use it to grow an engaged readership over time.

Moral of this story: you gotta blog!


Use blogging but also SEO copywriting, website optimization, backlinks, and technical SEO to improve your website’s standing in order to bring new readers to you. Done right, SEO utilizes content creation best practices to properly communicate to Google what your content is about and who it serves. When you take advantage of your opportunities to optimize, you increase your chances of ranking, because if Google understands your content, it can do a better job of sharing it with those who may need it.

SEO becomes unsustainable when people with bad intentions (or people who’ve been misled) start using what is called “black hat SEO” or try to manipulate the system by doing gimmicky and self-serving things like keyword stuffing. It’s also unsustainable when it’s not maintained. If you focus on SEO for a year, build it up until it’s in a good place, and then quit optimizing and creating valuable content— you’ll lose what you’ve built.

Note: While you’ll never have full control over your ability to rank, you can control the quality of the content you create and the steps you take to optimize. If you make quality, client-serving content your main priority and do a little work to appease Google, you’re pretty likely to find yourself with at least half-way decent SEO. In our books, this makes it more sustainable than unsustainable.

Email marketing

Your business needs you to use email marketing. It’s one of the single most powerful tools at your disposal if you’re looking to grow your audience, generate more revenue, reach more people, and convert your leads. Seriously, we couldn’t overstate the value and importance of email marketing even if we tried.

But don’t just take our word for it! Check out these email marketing stats:

Related: 10 Reasons Why Email Marketing is Important

Email marketing lets you build a following on a platform that you own and control. It also lets you connect with your audience in a place where they’re open to (and even likely to) make a purchase.

Plus, you can automate your email marketing by writing up a few email sequences at once and then setting them to auto-send at a cadence of your choosing. This makes creating email content (or outsourcing email strategy) a super sustainable option.

Make your marketing more sustainable!

Did this post make you realize that your current marketing is unsustainable?

First of all, don’t panic! It’s like Oprah says: when you know better, you do better. Second, know that it’s completely possible to reinforce your current plans with a few more sustainable, long-term tactics.

If you’re a do-it-for-me person or you just wanna rip this Band-Aid off in one go, book a discovery call with us. We’ll walk you through what a marketing strategy upgrade could look like for you, and set the scene for where your business could be just a few short months from now!

Get data-driven marketing insights and exclusive resources right to your inbox.

Don’t just market more. Market better. Get exclusive access to resources and insights that introduce you to the once-confusing world of data-backed marketing.

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