Pointing the finger at Marketing

Blaming_someonepointingOver the years, whether within an advertising/marketing agency or in the corporate environment, I’ve worked with people who have a distorted view of what marketing can do. Mostly these people think that all it takes is slapping together a few concepts to create an ad coupled with little bit of social media and some PR for good measure and the marketing is complete. The thought being that sales will be pouring in the door and big bonuses are just around the corner.  After all, most anyone can do this “marketing stuff,“ right?

Alternatively, when a company is not realizing their business or sales goals, we as marketers hear things like: “We’re just not getting the sales that we should because our marketing just isn’t working.” Or “It’s Marketing’s fault that sales are down!” while, in fact, there are other business issues that are at the root cause.  There’s no question a solid marketing program can increase your business, but realistically, it can’t fix everything (although ineffective marketing activities might very well make matters worse).  Below are 5 things marketing can’t do for you:

Marketing cannot overcome leads that are not being followed up. I did some consulting at company and upon seeing a couple of boxes marked “Tradeshow forms,” I asked them what that meant. They told me it was customer inquiry cards that they had received during the past 3 months of tradeshows they had attended. These customer inquiries had yet to be entered into the system which meant these prospects hadn’t yet been contacted. Which meant potential sales were not happening.  And yet, this company had hired me to help them find ways to generate more sales from …wait for it… new prospects. When opportunities like the aforementioned happen, you’ve got to act on them and quickly. If you were interested or wanting to hear from a company regarding a product or service they offered, especially after having given them your contact info, how soon would you expect to hear from them? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Marketing can’t make people buy things they either don’t want or can’t afford. It doesn’t matter how great your product or service is, if you’re selling to people who either don’t have the interest or the means to buy it, then your marketing is going to fail no matter how brilliant it may be. Yes, marketing can create messaging that ignores the problems with a product or service but with 24/7 access to information and customer comments on the web, problems or issues get exposed quickly. Bottom line: is your product or service delivering on the promises you’ve made? Have you provided the value that the customer is looking for? Basically it all boils down to this: before you decide you need more marketing, take a few moments and make sure the marketing you’re doing is really the right solution for your business.

Marketing can’t be done without a realistic budget. The fact is, if your company is spending a good deal less than the competition, you’re probably not making any significant gains in market share. Yes, there might be a competitor that’s overspending, but my experience working with companies from the Fortune 100 to small mom-and-pops is that you don’t pose a serious competitive threat unless your marketing budget is in the same ballpark with your competition….it’s just one of those “marketing truths.” Developing and then executing the marketing activities takes skill, experience and money and it doesn’t come cheap from anyone who knows what they’re doing. You get what you pay for.

Marketing can’t fix bad service or a bad customer experience. Again, in your own personal life, how often do you keep doing business with a company who doesn’t really value you as a customer as evidenced by their poor customer service? While marketing activities can bring prospects to the door, it can’t ensure that they’ll have an experience that they’ll want to repeat. Unfortunately, despite all this talk or lip service within organizations about being customer centric and “engaging” with their buyers, far too many companies see customer service as something other than what it is…a marketing opportunity that allows the customer to feel valued and appreciated. At the end of the day, when customers continue to have a lousy experience with your products or services or with your customer service reps or sales people, you and I know that’s a bad, bad place to be. Not only have you lost a customer for good, but they’ll probably go and tell others, which means you have to potential to lose future prospects as well.

Marketing can’t make you successful by tomorrow morning. Just because you start a marketing program doesn’t mean you’re immediately going to see your business explode. Marketing is about getting your name in front of your target market on a regular basis until they finally decide to give you a try. Investment in marketing communication for some brands should therefore be seen for what it is: reinforcing/strengthening favorable brand perceptions and insuring your brand’s strength and status for the future. Just as one or two workouts at the gym won’t immediately make you more muscular or leaner, you know that it’s improving your health for the long-term. Think of marketing in the same way…it takes time. That said, if pressed for new sales or new business clients right now, launching into a new marketing program may not be enough to get you where you want to be and you may want to start looking at other options.

And, we haven’t even addressed other issues such as the company not closing leads or not invoicing or collecting on unpaid accounts or it has too many expenses, etc., all issues that marketing can’t solve.  At the end of the day, while it’s easy to immediately blame marketing for lack of business, we need to remind people that marketing is intertwined with many other aspects of the organization aimed at getting and keeping customers. Yes, it’s important to judge and course-correct marketing activities if business is lagging, but we need to look at the whole organizational picture to understand why business is slipping off. Otherwise, Marketing will continue to have the finger pointed at them.

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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 www.LAadsMarketing.com.  You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.

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