Committing Malpractice of the Marketing Kind

MalpracticeAs a marketing firm that’s always looking to engage in new business relationships with interesting companies, we continue to have more than our share of new business meetings. These companies run the gamut from small to “you’ve heard of this company before” and while they’re sometimes far removed from one another in terms of sales and recognition, a surprising number of times there’s not that much of a difference in their approach to their marketing initiatives which, as my business partner puts it, “borders on marketing malpractice.”

How am I defining “marketing malpractice?”  Well, while it might take form in a few different ways,  it’s primarily about a breach of duty that does harm when another course of action, as performed by a reasonable person, should have been taken. In short, it’s about negligence.  While malpractice is commonly associated with the medical, financial and legal world, it could also be readily applied to the marketing world as well.

With that in mind, let’s look at 5 ways that companies and marketing leaders could become guilty of marketing malpractice:

Not having a full grasp of the marketplace

Too many companies assume that there is absolutely no need to substantiate their beliefs about the marketplace, about what their prospects want, about why their customers are buying, about what people think of their brand, about most anything having to do with those whom they want to purchase their products or services.  Generally the thinking is that no one can know the marketplace as well as the company and the market will accept whatever you offer. Are you pretty darn confident on how your specific industry is changing and what is needed to get out in front of the competition?   Understanding the marketplace as a whole will create the opportunities that bring with it the sales, visibility, prominence, trust, etc., that you might be looking for. And you get there by doing some research…the right way.

A lack of focus

The “We have to be here, there and everywhere” thinking is a sure way to squander the limited budget that you have. And who said that you need to be all over social media platforms like LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest? Heck, you’ve got your product literature online, and your Web site has a blog and videos. Not to mention all the offline activities ranging from tradeshow activities to advertising to PR, etc. Why did you believe you need to be in ALL of these media locations in the first place, and, just as importantly, who is making sure that all of these activities work together?

Inconsistency or mixing of marketing messaging

When different aspects of your marketing messages don’t reinforce each other, the inconsistencies alienate prospects and current customers. Inconsistent marketing distorts clear expectations, makes potential customers unsure of the characteristics of your products and creates unhappy customers who don’t get what they expect. These inconsistencies affect businesses by reducing both initial sales to consumers as well as repeat sales from dissatisfied customers. Throwing stuff up against the wall to see what sticks is a clear path to wasting resources and confusing people/organizations that you want as customers.

Being just like the other guy

How many times have you read or seen something from one company that looked just like what one of their competitors has or is currently saying? For an example, go online and look at professional services firms and tell me why one is different from the other. The fact is that there is no relevancy to what you’re saying if you just keep repeating what others have said already. Your company/products/services only has value if you’re different and if you can find a way that you can take who you are, what you make, and what you offer and create a relationship with prospects and current customers that is instantly captivating. Striving for differentiation rather than being a “me-too” allows for the organization to seize on new sales-producing and revenue-generating opportunities. Otherwise, you’re just a lazy copycat…two words that don’t leave the minds of the customers and competitors anytime soon.

Confusing strategy with tactics

Maybe, just maybe, the most common marketing malpractice occurrence is not having one over-arching marketing strategy – and ensuring its implementation through all your tactics.  Executing marketing tactics without having a well-developed integrated strategy is a recipe for disaster.  It’s easy to start with the “how” but if you haven’t identified the “what,” you may find yourself spending a lot of time executing tactics that don’t take you where you want to go and in so doing, you’ll be wasting time, resources and losing out on sales-producing opportunities. What is needed is one single integrated strategy that looks across all delivery platforms whether online or offline, print, broadcast, or mobile. Your customers don’t have an online self and offline self and neither should you. Think holistically about all your marketing initiatives.

At the end of the day, both the short-term and quite possibly the long-term prospects of the company could be affected as a result of marketing malpractice. Whether done because one doesn’t know better or because of expediency, it happens and the organization will have to live with the results. So, while you won’t be brought into court (unless you did something very egregious), one question that a marketer has to ask oneself and answer honestly, is: “Have I breached my duty as the marketing leader for the organization so much so that it has caused harm to both short and long term sales, visibility, prominence, market share, and trust for the company?”  Hopefully, the answer today and in the future will remain a resounding NO.


Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit  You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.


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