Six Marketing Mistakes CEOs Can Avoid

Updated: November 20, 2010

#1 Marketing Gotcha: Tactical Tunnel Vision

Symptom: "We need a payperclick campaign in order to jumpstart leads and sales."

Do you have a favorite marketing tactic? Maybe it's one you tried a few years ago, and you were thrilled with the results. Now that times are tough, you automatically want to try the same tactic again. You may find yourself saying something like:

"We need a pay per click campaign/ telemarketing campaign/ webinar series/ media outreach/ new website design in order to jumpstart leads and sales."

That's tactical tunnel vision ‐‐ grabbing at a solution before you have even analyzed the problem.

Here's why it probably will hurt you more than help you. Before you even start thinking about marketing, you already have three things going against you:

  • Your time is constrained
  • Your marketing dollars are constrained
  • Marketing has gotten more complicated in the last decade or so

The first two points don't need explanation. To understand the third, think for a minute about cars.

No more shade‐tree mechanics

When cars had carburetors, anybody could adjust the idle by popping the hood and twisting a screw. If you were ambitious enough and could follow the manual, you could do some fancy repairs like replacing the timing belt.

You wouldn't dare try that with today's cars. You know better than to fiddle with a computerized fuel injector the way you might have with a carburetor. In fact, you need an expert mechanic with the right diagnostic equipment just to tell you which part of your car isn't working right.

But thanks to those same technological improvements, cars today are far safer and perform better today than they did years ago. They last years longer. Overall, your cost of ownership is way lower.

Marketing has evolved the same way. In fact, it has gone further. If your car had improved as much as marketing has, it would have full autopilot, hold thousands of people, fly, and dive under water. Everyone on your staff would be driving the car. And the car would be clear; everyone around the world would see what you're doing!

When your car performs poorly these days, you take it to an honest, well‐trained professional to figure out what's not working, and the quickest, cheapest way to get optimum performance. You don't just order up a bunch of parts and try putting them in yourself.

When your marketing starts to perform poorly, don't start ordering a new campaign or website design. Take it to a marketing pro who can put it up on the rack and see what's really wrong. Once you know the answer, you may even be able to install some of the new parts yourself.

#2 Marketing Gotcha: Hiring Specialists Too Soon

Symptom: "Ed, help us put the right bids on the right Adwords keywords."

We've urged you to use a pro when it comes to improving your marketing. But what kind of pro? With marketing getting more sophisticated each year, there are at least a dozen sub‐areas, each with its own experts.

To complicate things, B2B marketing is often listed as a subdiscipline alongside web design, email marketing, PR and other specialties. The fact is, though, B2B marketing cuts across all those other specialties.

So here's the key question: Do you pick a specialist, or a generalist?

The answer: It depends.

  • Is your marketing program well established? You may be able to pick the right specialist or "a la carte" service. The key is to complement your in‐house skills and programs with just the right outside skills, methods, and/or technology choices.
  • Is your marketing program just getting underway, or are you an executive with broad responsibilities? If this is you, for reasons we detail in an e‐book titled "The New Rules of Outsourcing B2B Marketing," you'll get better ROI from a well‐rounded, full‐service agency.

Working on your game

Say you're a coach in the NBA. You notice that all your team's turnovers happen when the player can't shake his defender and gets a low bounce pass that comes in at his shins. You have your team practice fakes to get free. Everyone works on smoothly handling awkward passes. The interceptions stop, and your team ends the season with a winning record.

Now suppose you're not an NBA coach, but instead someone who plays every Saturday with a bunch of the guys. Your team loses a lot, but you're not sure why. Is it that you don't score enough, or that you don't keep the other team from scoring? Do you need better three‐point shooting, or a better inside game? Or does everyone just need to hustle more?

When it comes to marketing, if you're like an NBA coach, you already can see which specific area needs work. Hire a specialist to help in that area. But if you're more like the weekend player, get a generalist to look over your whole game before opening your wallet for help in a specific area.

#3 Marketing Gotcha: Awareness - The Red Herring

Symptom: "These mailers/ads/calls will raise awareness about our company."

Marketing is not about creating awareness. Every faithful Pepsi drinker in the world is aware of Coke. Awareness alone isn't going to persuade them to switch.

Here are some other things that marketing isn't about:

  • Branding
  • Reaching people
  • Search engine rank

Here are some of the right reasons for a marketing campaign:

  • To get found by the right people at the right time
  • To start meaningful conversations with the right people
  • To help alleviate prospects' worries about buying

Take this quick test: Is your marketing helping your sales staff get the right customers? If it is, keep doing what you're doing. If not, change what you're doing.

#4 Marketing Gotcha: Push Marketing

Symptom: "It may take seven tries or more before she responds."

Are you annoyed by interruptions? So are your prospects.

Imagine trying out some in‐person push marketing on one of your prospects, a business decision maker, as she starts out on a cold Monday morning. She's parked her car and is headed into a coffee shop on the corner to grab a hot drink. You'll play the consultant who is standing outside, marketing your professional services.

You step in front of your prospect as she approaches, extending your hand to introduce yourself. You describe your company - its innovative approach, its hassle‐free solutions - and ask her to complete a short survey. She avoids eye contact and politely excuses herself.

"Well, are you happy with your [insert problem you solve]?" you ask, hoping to extend the conversation. "I'll give you a coffee card if you'll complete my survey."

The next morning, you do the same thing. And the next morning. Your marketing agency prepared you for this. "It may take seven tries or more before she responds," they warned, "Don't throw in the towel too early." So you grit your teeth and pitch her each day. On the third day, she's avoiding the coffee shop. So you email. You leave voicemail. You send a letter. Is this approach working?

Pull here

It's better to attract prospects than corner them. That's what B2B marketers mean when they talk about "pull" or "inbound" marketing. Many B2B marketers have shifted to this approach. They'll help you be visible and helpful when prospects are looking for companies and guidance: facilitating comparisons, providing all the elements of a strong business case, and being authentic.

Consultants stuck on the old outbound approach essentially teach you how to interrupt busy executives. Is that really what you want to be known for?

#5 Marketing Gotcha: Uncoordinated Specialists

Telltale symptom: "Make sure the guy designing our branded giveaway items talks to our web designers and PR agency about this big conference."

If your B2B marketing is not fully managed in house or by an agency partner, you will need to navigate dozens of choices — including which specialist providers are needed, how to keep different teams coordinated, how to track ROI, how to stay abreast of best practices, technology choices, and more.

Providing just PR, or just web marketing, or just graphic design is one thing. Seeing all the options and making them work together for you is quite another.

A full service B2B marketing agency should make you more effective more quickly with much less hassle and much less worry than going it alone. They should explain all your options - not just one or two tactics. They should guide you through technology decisions, track your marketing ROI, and be a single point of contact for all your marketing efforts.

Which agency is best? If you need to narrow down your options, here are "test" questions you can ask to make, or shorten, your list of potential partners.

  • Are you B2B marketers or consumer marketers?
  • What is your system or method for getting results?
  • Do you cover all major marketing disciplines?
  • Do you practice inbound trust‐based marketing?
  • Can you provide case studies showing that your approach works?

#6 Marketing Gotcha: Me-too Marketing Plans

Symptom: "I'll have what they're having."

You want your prospects to know that your company is better than the competition. The way to show them is with a marketing campaign designed specifically for you, not one generated by filling in blanks on a template.

If you use a marketing plan template, you'll miss the whole point of planning. You won't be taking the best advantage of your strengths, or uncovering weaknesses that you can work on.

Think of the difference between ordering a tailor‐made suit and buying something off the rack at a discount store. Both will have sleeves and buttons. But one will show you off to your best advantage. The other may create the impression that you don't quite have your act together.

Marketers have been saying for decades that the most successful companies see themselves from their customers' perspective. While that hasn't changed, the marketing environment has. It takes more groundwork to be visible, trustworthy, and interesting to your best prospects.

It takes a methodical approach to ensure that all the moving parts of an inbound marketing program are working together.

How does an experienced marketing consultant help you reach business decision makers in the places they are looking and in the ways that they prefer? First, before you launch a campaign aimed at affecting prospects' perceptions, the consultants help make sure you have a compelling value proposition and supporting messages in the context of your specific market niche. Then they make sure your marketing plan includes the tactics that are most likely to work with your audience.

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