So here you are in the peak of the summer season. You’ve managed to get through a heat wave, crab grass, a vacation if you’re lucky and the extra work you inherited as a result of other people’s vacations. Your friends around the barbeque ask you how business has been and with perhaps just a little flinch, you tell them it’s been great. Has it though? With all the time slipping by, has your sales team been rolling in an abundance of warm leads and prospects to call? Has that marketing program you said you would do after last year’s holiday season really gotten underway with any momentum? It’s OK to be honest on this one. After all, nobody is around to call on you from the front of the lecture hall.
If you’re hanging your head a little low on this point, you’re not alone. Many business owners are in the same boat where marketing is concerned, and there are many reasons for this that actually have very little to do with summer slumps. In fact the vast majority of small to medium size businesses we speak to have some nominal form of marketing going on at one level or another. The question is whether or not these programs get half the attention and maintenance one would give to his swimming pool around this time of the year.
And that brings us to the main reasons why most marketing programs don’t work.
Procrastination – One of the most common barriers to effective marketing has nothing to do with creativity, print space or budgets. Many owners and managers have a tendency to put marketing off because they are too busy coping with other functions. This can happen in smaller organizations that don’t have anyone wearing the marketing “hat,” or when the core management team is doing everything it can to prospect and handle service issues. It also happens frequently enough among those people who mistakenly believe that marketing is best done when “things slow down.” The first scenario is understandable – not ideal, but understandable. The second one is absurd and based on no workable models or standards. Yes, it can be pure chaos from time to time and the idea of assembling a proper marketing strategy and plan during a peak order period can appear to be rather daunting. Yet the truth is, marketing (at any level) is by definition the very thing that moves products into the hands of your target audience. The longer you put it off, the longer it will take to build revenue from product sales. This is a simple, natural law that is often omitted from the battle plans of even the most energetic managers in the business.
Spits and Spurts – For every industry I’ve ever been involved in, there is this idea that you can gauge the success of a marketing program by trying one or two tactics. This is like learning how to swim by dipping your toe into the water, once. How could anyone think they will raise awareness for their business its products and services and influence a target audience into believing they should even consider going to that business for its widgets if they do not communicate regularly over time? Many business owners have flat-out told me they don’t think they should fund a direct mail program because “we tried it once and the phones didn’t ring.” Now I don’t want to get into an argument over the rationale for direct mail, but here is a tactic that ranks among the most affordable marketing actions available to most businesses, particularly those that operate on a regional basis. It also provides a great deal of control meaning we control what the message is, who sees the message and when they see it. If anyone puts up a barrier and tells you direct mail didn’t work or an ad failed to produce any results, the first question you need to ask is not about the creative execution, but rather on how often the promotion was done. Hit or miss, starts and stops and anything else like it prevent your target audience from even becoming aware of your business or products. And without that fundamental awareness, you become very easy to overlook the next time that prospect is ready to inquire.
No Surveys – This is an easy area to get critical on, particularly since it is dismissed all too easily by the best minds in marketing including veteran ad agency executives themselves. Here’s what happens; the promotional concept is drawn up by your team. It gets scrutinized up and down for its aesthetics, cleverness and prose and then launched. Nobody carved out any time to survey the target audience to determine what they would most likely find important or appealing. A beauty shot of a piece of equipment set against the backdrop of the Grand Canyon looks great in the hands of a professional designer. However, if the prospect in Baltimore doesn’t feel motivated to respond, the piece is a flop; unless the headline hits a nerve he’s been trying to handle with an incumbent supplier (i.e. “Does your current service provider leave you in the middle of nowhere?”). A survey would reveal ahead of time if that concept is a “button” which will get prospect response, and be very useful in gaining traction from your marketing whether you are pursuing prospects among several industries and professions or you’re after a niche market. Anything else is simply guesswork that can leave you digging endlessly into a mountainside looking for gold while being just two feet from a large vein.
These are just THREE of the most fundamental aspects of marketing — and also reveal the most common marketing mistakes. In later posts I’ll cover some of the finer points of marketing communications that are based on proven technology.
Tim Votapka is the Vice President and Director of Marketing at Prosperity Plus Management Consulting, Inc. He may be reached at 631-382-7762 or at firstname.lastname@example.org