Why Hope is NOT a Marketing Strategy.

crossYourFingers1I think we would all agree that having hope in one’s life, personal or business, matters a lot. Without hope (or dreams) whatever the positive outcome is that you’re looking to achieve, there is nothing to plan or look forward to and therefore no reason to put forth an effort. So while hope is important, basing the success of your marketing efforts on hope, like in “Well, we’re going to try this out and hope for the best,” is probably not something you want to bet your job or the sustainability of the company on.

You see, while hope may fill your heart… in marketing, Hope is not a Strategy. It never has been and it won’t be in this growing and increasingly competitive marketplace. Hoping people will register for a loyalty program or hoping the 5000 direct mail pieces you sent out will generate some leads or hoping that word-of-mouth on the new product introduction will open up some doors is all nice but without strategic thinking coupled with creativity (in the delivery of the message and how it’s delivered) your hope is nothing but a pipe-dream. In short, if there is no marketing strategy to match the business goals all you are doing is relying on luck to drive the business. In football, they call this the “Hail Mary”!

Speaking with the number of Marketing Directors that I have, you’d be surprised at how many of them and their teams use the word ”hope” to describe their marketing efforts. The reasons most of these folks live on hope has as much to do with human nature as anything else. Most people prefer the path of least resistance – the easiest track.  You see, having a grasp of what your current customers and prospects are looking for and how you fit that need requires an understanding that takes work and resources. Oh, and let’s not forget that if you look too close, you might uncover some truths that you might not want to know existed.  And rarely does one budget time or money for testing to learn what will have the best chance of success. For the “hope group,” it seems it’s easier to just create the marketing program and run with it rather than invest the resources and thinking to at least have some confidence in the outcome.

Here are a few things that “Hope Marketing” does and doesn’t do…

…Built around tactics and not strategy:

Hope Marketing people focus on the newest and sexiest marketing tactic du jour without any appreciation for how it fits in an overall marketing strategy. I’ve also seen entire marketing plans that consist of nothing but a series of tactics strung together one after the next without an over-arching marketing strategy. 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.

…Based on an “insight-out” view of the world and not an “outside-in”:

Inside-Out thinking means the company is less sensitive to how the customer is interfacing with the market. Hope Marketing has slipped into thinking it’s “all about us and what we sell.” Inside-Out companies are surprised by poor sales results.  They don’t feel threatened when a new competitor enters the market. They’re out of touch with what value they really bring – or don’t bring – to their customers.  In short, their Hope Marketing mindset is “Here are our products and services and this is how we help you.”  The problem with this approach is that it relies on your customers having to work to find a place for your solutions in their lives.  Alternatively, “Outside-In” focuses on the customers’ point-of-view.  These companies stand in the customer’s shoes and view everything the company does through the customer’s eyes. They depend on marketing to increase the conversation they have with their customers which in turn allows them to seize on business-building opportunities. They ask their customers what their upcoming needs are and then figure out how to give it to them. These companies don’t wait around for change to happen but rather they create change by seeing their world through their customers’ eyes, allowing them to more quickly meet the customers’ needs.

…Not really understanding who your customer is:

It’s safe to say that it’s probably been a while since a Hope Marketer has actually taken a close look at who they should be reaching/their customer, to produce sales. When was the last time a customer profile was established? What are the best channels nowadays to reach these people? When was the last time the company spent real, quality time doing research – surveys, interviews or even focus groups.

…Not clearly knowing what customers or prospects think of you:

On the subject of research, there’s no excuse for not doing it. Yes, I know that budgets are tight, but if you’re spending money reaching an audience that may not think of you as they did in the past, then the money spent Hope Marketing is money wasted. Hope Marketing believes that nothing much has changed and if it has, it’s not affecting the company’s sales/preference/etc.  Maybe…and maybe not.  Doing research online or on social media to see what customers or people are saying about you doesn’t take soooo much effort.  Sending out a survey to current customers on a variety of different subjects isn’t an overwhelming project. You might not love what you hear but you’ll be better knowing it than guessing why marketing activities are not succeeding.

…Not understanding what makes your company and what it offers unique:

It’s not unusual to hear in organizations that engage in Hope Marketing differing answers to questions about what defines them or makes them unique in the marketplace. As a result, the marketing reflects that they’re trying to be all things to all people.  At closer look you see that messaging is different from one marketing channel and marketing initiative to the next. “We do it all” is more or less the message but in doing so, no real value proposition is ever delivered. Without a good USP you’re dead!  If you can’t very quickly describe what makes you, your product, your service or your company truly special in the eyes of the customer, don’t expect your customer to do it for you.  By default, they’ll just put you on the shelf called “commodity,” and there you’ll stay.

So, if you still want to hope for things to look forward to…great. I’m all with you.  Hope for a better tomorrow; hope for a cure to Alzheimers; or hope for anything else that you can’t directly control. But please don’t hope your marketing programs work.  If you don’t know or believe the marketing will succeed, you are not setting your efforts up for success. Time to stop crossing your fingers.

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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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