Marketing Missteps

Posted on April 29, 2009

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Marketing Misstep #1: Slip sliding away

One of the most common mistakes I see companies make when it comes to marketing strategy development and implementation happens so subtly it is almost always ignored, with disastrous results. What is this terrible secret? I like to call it marketing or idea “slide.”

Let’s take, for example, mid-sized organization A. The marketing team spends weeks researching demographics, psychographics and customer needs. They wisely arrive at a short list of unmet needs their company could ably fill for a target customer segment. They develop a marketing approach and present this along with summary data to leadership. Great. Seems simple.

Well, not so fast. Coming up with great marketing ideas based on solid research is the EASY part. Implementing these ideas without serious “slide” is near-impossible without constant vigilance.

In this example, company A’s leadership is initially gung-ho and on-board. Great ideas! Serve unmet needs! Let’s go! But as the marketing team begins to work on the campaign further, questions and revisions begin to take shape. What about the way we’ve always done things? Tell me why are we doing this again? That seems like a BIG change. Hmmm. Maybe we should try this instead.

Suddenly, middle management is wary, sensing leadership’s hesitation to move ahead. They begin to chip away at the new ideas, taking away their potency. They don’t reiterate the data that drove the marketing decisions for fear of seeming pushy, overbearing or like a know-it-all. Great ideas become middling ideas. Unmet needs give way to a campaign that merely restates old promises to existing customers. Lots of effort. Hours of work. Little to no results.

Keep in mind this happens over time. Many, many meetings and small incremental changes that seem so minor when they occur, why object? But taken cumulatively, they have stripped the campaign of its original vigor and effectiveness. Six months down the road, a good deal of money will have been spent yet little achieved.

So how can companies avoid the inevitable slide? Quality theory and processes can help here. Marketing is an area where quality review, dashboards and the like, are rarely implemented but can be enormously helpful. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Create your own dashboard that includes a regularly scheduled review of all marketing efforts pre-launch. Pull out that data you so painstakingly analyzed. Go back to the original concepts and ideas. Does your ready-to-launch version still meet your vision? Are you still reaching out to the target customer segment? In many cases, in the beginning, the answer will be no and you may have to go back to the drawing board. But if everyone is on the same page and following the same agreed-upon quality processes, and you repeat this process over and over again with each new effort, eventually the group will learn how to avoid “slide” and stay on target throughout the process.

Like all quality implementations, this can seem a bit painful and time consuming. You need to get everyone to agree on the right “dashboard” and evaluation process. Then you need to make sure everyone actually uses the system, testing for weakness and adjusting as you go along. But once you find the right fit for your organization, you have systematized your marketing effort in a way that will bring lasting results and make the evaluation and implementation process much less adversarial and time consuming. And in the end, this benefits everyone.