Marketing has never been a laid-back, trouble-free game anyone can play. Today, it’s far
more perilous than ever, particularly since prospective customers are moving targets.
Just when you think you have them figured out, they’ve moved on. If you don’t know
what they want and the way they want to get it, they’re gone. If you disappoint them by
betraying their trust, they’ll strike back. Bank on it.
Today’s customers are touchy and unforgiving. They’re in charge and they know it.
While marketing can play a key role in a company’s success, it’s a fragile function; its
efforts can easily be undermined and rendered ineffective.
Here are 9 common mistakes that will doom a company’s marketing:
Mistake #1. The boss as Marketer-in-Chief
While there may be a marketing director or even a CMO, in many companies it’s the
boss who calls the shots as to what works and what doesn’t. Although the boss may be
knowledgeable in many areas, more often than not marketing isn’t one of them. Those
working in marketing get the message: either go along or go.
Mistake #2. Lack of budget responsibility
“Just let us know what you need and we’ll do it.” Even though the words sound helpful
and supportive, control of the budget controls marketing. It makes a consistent and
integrated marketing plan irrelevant, along with turning marketers into beggars.
Marketing initiatives are designed so they get approved rather than meet verifiable
Mistake #3. Always doing the same thing
This is the “well-oiled” approach to marketing. Since everything is working smoothly,
why make changes? It’s not only an appealing mistake, it’s also dangerous. Since
conditions are always changing marketing should be responding with more appropriate
Like others, marketers do their best work when they challenge their own performance,
identify missed opportunities, make data-driven decisions, and get feedback from others
in the company.
Mistake #4. Failing to deal with unrealistic expectations
It’s common for marketers to be faced with unworkable expectations, particularly when it
comes to time and cost considerations for marketing initiatives. It’s the old champagne
taste on a beer budget.
Without a clear agreement of expectations, marketers find themselves in the unenviable
position of having to say, “But, I thought you meant….” or “We don’t have the budget to
Mistake #5. Not exploiting brand value
Countless marketing messages shout self-serving messages in the hope that something
will stick: “We’re the oldest…,” “You can’t do better anywhere else,” “We love our
customers…,” and more.
Marketing’s job is creating customers who decide it’s in their best interest to do
business with a brand. Self-serving messaging begs the question: What do you offer
that aligns with their lifestyle, values, aspirations, or needs? In other words, taking
advantage of your brand’s value.
Mistake #6. Dropping marketing initiatives too soon
There’s always pressure to try something new and different. While there can be good
reasons for making changes, a strong case can be made for not quitting too soon.
Messages sink in slowly and action occurs when there’s a felt need.
For example, the hazelnut cocoa spread Nutella has a year-long campaign to own
weekend breakfasts that includes TV spots and social media. It offers rewards to
consumers who report on their weekend breakfasts.
Mistake #7. Not engaging individual customers
“If you can’t give me exactly what I want, you don’t know me so I’m gone.” This stark
message tells the story. Fortunately, the expertise, data, techniques, and channels are
available to meet the challenge for engaging individuals. As one restaurant chain puts it,
“You can’t fake steak.”
Mistake #8. Permitting constant interruptions
Uber’s CEO recently said the company’s 1,200-member marketing team was “bloated”
and promptly fired 400 of them. Far from being overstaffed, most marketing teams are
spread too thin. If that isn’t enough, they face a steady stream of interruptions. “Give it
to marketing, they’ll take care of it.”
Marketers are good at solving problems, which is why companies turn to them when
needs arise. Yet, if they are expected to do their best work, there comes a time to say
Mistake #9. Not having enough time
Marketing is all about creativity and that takes time. It can’t be forced like squeezing
toothpaste out of a tube.
Teresa Amabile, a retired Harvard Business School researcher, along with others,
studied the conditions for creativity and found that their subjects were most creative
“under low to moderate pressure.” When under more intense pressure, they still felt
creative, but, as she says, “What they tended to get done was not their most important
work. They tended to get done a lot of stuff that came flying to them, crises that arose,
that kind of thing.”
We kid ourselves if we think we do our best work under pressure. Things take time and
creativity is one of them.
John Graham of GrahamComm (Boston, MA) is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and businesswriter. He is the creator of “Magnet Marketing,” and publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No
Nonsense Marketing & Sales Ideas.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or