The 5 Deadly Sins of Marketing

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Actually, this post comes from a question I was asked last night at a startup event in DC —

What are the TOP 5 Marketing Mistakes companies make?

This is an absolutely fabulous question, so I thought I’d share my answer with your today.  Whether you’re using social media marketing strategies or traditional marketing strategies, these marketing mistakes can tank your efforts.

So, let’s count down the top 5 marketing mistakes.

Marketing mistake #5. Analytics: Monitor, Measure, Test

Many companies make the mistake of not measuring their results — or measuring the wrong thing.

Just tracking sales doesn’t give you the information you need to assess the success of your marketing strategy.  Let’ face it: marketing strategies aren’t going to generate sales tomorrow, but to say marketing strategies DON’T contribute to your bottom line is VERY short-sighted.  So, measuring sales is measuring the wrong thing (of course, there are exceptions to this rule).  A good tool to guide results measurement comes from the hierarchy of effects (I’ve developed a new version as a basis for social media marketing metrics).

In addition to monitoring progress down the hierarchy of effects, you should also monitor elements such as:

  • Social media engagement
  • Brand reputation
  • Sharing
  • Mentions
  • Brand sentiment

Testing is also an important aspect of marketing analytics, so not testing copy, offers, ad placement, share timing, or other critical elements can cause your marketing efforts to fail.

Marketing mistake #4: Budget

Especially in a bad economy, firms try to minimize their expenses, including their marketing efforts.  But, cutting back too far on your marketing budget starves your firm — and reduces profitability.

By the same token, you can easily waste your marketing budget without careful planning (see mistake #3).  And, without monitoring, you can also waste much of your budget.

Your marketing budget should relate to your objectives so that you’ve allocated enough funds to reach your objectives.  Just yesterday, I heard an entrepreneur bemoan spending $100,000 on a national advertising campaign only to realize the amount was seriously too small to have any hope of meeting the reach and frequency necessary to drive sales.

Marketing mistake #3: Lack of a long-term plan

I often find firms that haven’t developed a long-term marketing plan for their business and many don’t even use cohesive tactics — simply moving from project to project without any coordination.  Managers hear about a marketing opportunity or read about a tactic that worked for another firm and they jump in without considering how the tactic fits their business model.

Firms must create marketing plans extending at least 5 years into the future.  Marketing plans should scan the environment and containing enough detail to guide action.

Marketing mistake #2: SMART objectives

SMART objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.  SMART objectives are commonly developed in the marketing planning process after careful research on the environment — both the internal environment, such as current product strategies and sales, and external environment, such as competition and consumer taste.

Objectives then guide strategy as you develop plans based on their ability to achieve your objectives. During the plan year, you gather performance data to ensure you’re making sufficient progress toward meeting your objectives.

Marketing mistake #1: Target market

Earning the top spot, based on its threat to the health of the firm and frequency, is failing to understand your target market.

When I worked for the Small Business Administration as a consultant, I always started a session with a new client by asking; “Who is your target market?”.  Invariably, I got the answer; “Everyone” from the budding entrepreneur.

This shows a total misunderstanding of what a target market is.  Having a target market DOESN’T mean you WON’T sell to everyone, it just means you’re going to GEAR your brand toward some group of consumers who share similar taste, needs, incomes, lifestyles, or other attributes.

But, just setting a target market doesn’t help much.  You really need to align your target market with your brand by creating strategies that position your brand as being “FOR THEM“.  This means you need to understand THEM.

Firms who fail to understand their target market fail frequently.  At best, they’re leaving money on the table that might have belonged to them and their stockholders if only they’d done a better job of positioning their brand toward their target market.

So, now you see what I consider the 5 deadly sins of marketing.  What would you include in a list of the top marketing mistakes?

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