Wednesday, March 21, 2012

For the C-Suite: 5 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Some of these may seem so fundamental to you and if they do, congratulations. Unfortunately, these mistakes at the C-Level are all too common…

Flip Flop – We are living in lightning speed times and the good thing about that is if you really make a blunder, you can pull the plug, reverse positions or reframe strategy very quickly. With that being said, the worst thing to do is to use this as a management practice.

 If your team has researched a position and developed a campaign strategy, let them execute it. Don’t dictate that email marketing is the Holy Grail because someone told you it was successful for them and when you don’t get the same results after the first week, switch to traditional ad placement as your new Holy Grail next week. This approach will not only continually fail as you are not giving any tactic long enough to take effect, but you will drive your marketing and sales team crazy. It is a fast way to go broke, lose good people and a sure straight line to never finding out what your businesses’ true marketing mix should be.

Go Back to Old Tricks – For the same reasons as above, “we are living in lightning speed times,” when you find yourself in a slump, don’t revert back to what worked when you first opened your doors. Many young businesses hit a slump somewhere between 7-10 years into business. What this usually means is that it is time for the leadership to assess, re-strategize and try a new approach. However, at this time many make the mistake of thinking that their business will be revived if they go back to the approach they used when they started the business. What many fail to see is that their business is not what is was when they started, their customer is far more sophisticated than when they started (and so is the competition) and the tools today are more vast than ever.

Let me relate this for a moment to raising a child. What worked to guide them as a one year old does not work when they are 13! In my own case, I can remember that only 12 years ago, I gave my young child a pager so we could keep track of her. The thought of using this tool in today’s world makes me laugh. Although it was a step up from the school bell my mother rang through the neighborhood when it was time for her flock to come in from playing and get washed up for dinner and do homework, it is an archaic electronic leash in consideration with what is available to parents today. Times have changed, the tools have changed and the market is more complicated.

Micromanage Creative Thinkers – If you are micromanaging marketing, creative or sales staff, you might as well fold up the tent now. Read, listen and learn what makes creative thinkers thrive. Even say the words out loud, “CREATIVE THINKERS”. They need to think – for themselves! Telling them what and how to do every aspect of their job will stifle them and short change your business from solving problems. It will also choke the organization and if you can’t get on board and embrace the positive in your creative thinkers, at least be smart enough to get out of their way and let them be creative, solve problems and make money for you. Most micromanagers are control freaks and I don’t mean that to be disrespectful. I want my accountant to be a control freak and maybe even have a little OCD ;) – so if you have ever been accused of this, step aside and exert your control by holding your creative thinkers  accountable for results. Success is what matters not micromanaging every step along the way.

 Management by Consensus – Listen, we all have our opinion and sometimes it is based on experience, words of wisdom past down from others or just our own deductive thought process, but there comes a time to voice it and move on. If you run the C-suite with the expectation that “nothing moves forward without consensus” then you are putting a huge cork in your company’s trajectory. Stop it! Allow everyone to voice an opinion. Input is healthy, good and often new ideas spin off of feedback but when decision time comes, let the most knowledgeable person on the topic be the decision maker. After all, they have to fly or die by the outcome of their decision. If you can’t trust them to make a decision in their area of expertise, then you have the wrong person in the job.

No Plan/No Budget – Many start ups, entrepreneurial environments and some corporate halls are run without budgets, plans or long term strategy. Fly by the seat of your pants is their MO. This might work and I have seen it work in the very early stages of a business. If you have success with this approach, it is luck. When you are at the point of hiring professional marketers, require and use a plan and budget. Don’t induce an “ask as you go” budget approval for each project or email campaign as you go. It is an inefficient and ineffective way to manage. At best, you will clog up decision making. At worst, you will not approve something that you should because you don’t understand the context in which the expense falls and asking your marketer to explain it to you , EACH TIME, is a waste of everyone’s time. Get a strategy and budget up front, approve it and hold your marketer accountable to produce against the expenditures. Demand ROI – don’t demand begging to spend every dollar.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Is Your Marketing Strategy Stuck in 2010? WARNING! It is almost Q2 of 2012

At times, I feel like a broken record, “Follow the data. Follow the data. Follow the data.” However, recently, this became so clear to me that I not only need to keep repeating this but perhaps I need to get a megaphone and blast it from the rooftops! “FOLLOW THE DATA!”
While reading a few articles, I ran across an old one in the related articles section that is often underneath blog or article postings. The topic was Digital Marketing Trends for 2010. On the top five recommendations were:
<!>Paid Search
<!>Email Marketing
<!>Social Network Marketing
First of all, if it were only that easy... follow this recipe and you will be successful. I wish I could tell you it was that simple.
Secondly, not one word of the article referred to analytics on the front or back end of these activities. NOT ONE WORD!
Thirdly, I sadly realized that so many clients I talk to are STILL busy spending time, money and resources JUST STARTING to implement these strategies or at least becoming consistent with using them. And the DIY Email Marketing SaaS Providers make it look so easy, don’t they? Sigh….
So many caution alarms went off when I came to the realization of how prevalent and dated most businesses are in their Marketing. And, I am not bashing any of the above tactics as they all have their place and can be effective for some businesses. But they just ARE NOT a one-size-fits-all solution. Businesses continue doing them because of their perceived cost effectiveness. But, everyone wants an easy 1-2-3 Marketing Plan and Email Marketing and SM are deemed to be cheap - so a lot of focus is being spent on these two areas, regardless of whether or not it is currently producing results or not.
Please be warned that the above list is two years old and your customer, whether B2B or B2C, has become a lot more savvy and has much higher expectations today. Not to mention the C-Suite expects bottom line results – or else.
While poking around and doing research, I also read a fascinating article that offered information relaying that most buyers are 60-70% done with their buying research by the time they contact you. What does this mean? They are doing the DIY! They are looking through data, customer feedback, consumer reports, etc. before they decide who to contact to fulfill their needs.
So how do you influence this? Content and Data.  Provide content for the “DIYers” to devour about your product or service. Keep ON TOP of your SM outlets and take care of ANY negative comments/remarks as soon as they are posted. Praise and thank the positive posters.
Use the tactics above from 2010, there is nothing wrong with them; just be sure you are analyzing them and they are providing you the exposure, leverage, branding and ROI that they should.
It is almost Q2 of 2012 and you need to Market like it is. Are you stuck blindly following two year old advice and wondering why your sales are falling? Take charge and keep up with the current and upcoming trends in Marketing. Got mobile?  Never before have we lived in such an exciting time when technology can deliver us such exciting tools and possibilities. Embrace them - if the data shows they pay off ;)
Happy Marketing!