Sales pressure and revenue objectives often push many businesses into pursuing growth “hacks” and various short-term and in some cases unethical digital marketing strategies. From email list buying, to keyword stuffing, to soliciting reviews from friends/family, there’s a variety of these tactics that, surprisingly, some still use.

Additionally, the term “hack” has become a cliché whose meaning is much different than it was previously intended. “Hacking” which was originally used to describe the act of gaining unauthorized access to a computer, has now become a term which suggests a quick, easy and little-known method for doing something. The term is often associated with developers and coding, but is increasingly finding its way in the digital marketing space.

When searching for “digital marketing growth hacks” many sites, articles and resources show up. The interesting thing is that many of the “hacks” I clicked on were complex, customized and comprehensive strategies that aren’t replicated or executed over-night. These aren’t “hacks,” these are tactics.

It isn’t easy, nor should marketers suggest it is, to grow a business, let alone grow a business quickly. There are too many variables that are outside of the realm of digital marketing to make such promises. The reality is, digital marketing should be a patient, thoughtful and substantive exercise, especially for small businesses.

Consumers are more empowered and informed than ever before. Much of the “heavy lifting” when selling to these audiences happens online when consulting reviews, reading web pages or blog posts, searching online, etc. One recent study found that the majority shop online simply to browse.

In today’s digital landscape, digital marketing strategies should serve more as a match making exercise, where your business seeks to reach, influence, empower and engage target audiences that are in the market for your products/services. This isn’t done with some purchased email list. This takes time, thought and execution.

Small businesses finding success aren’t necessarily utilizing some novel digital marketing approach. It’s a matter of having the fundamentals of digital marketing down, such as websites, social media, email marketing, SEO, online reviews, etc. Layer on top of that transparency, great customer service, skill, quality, integrity and an understanding of what your customer wants, and you’ll grow.

Whether a new business or an established company with stagnant sales, the “anything goes” approach to digital marketing isn’t going to work. However, for those trying to build long-term, lasting and personal relationships with your customers, thoughtful digital marketing strategies will take time to build and execute, but can deliver the growth you want.