Marketing fails. In fact, it may fail more than any other part of your business. The reasons for failure are endless – starting with the increasingly relentless number of options and tools and highly fragmented, overly-stimulated audiences. Failure is often unavoidable. By its very nature, marketing is an experiment of both science and art. But many of marketing’s failures are completely avoidable if you are aware of these things:
- Have a great brand. As we frequently say at Root + River, a great brand solves a thousand business problems. One of the problems a great brand solves is withstanding marketing failure. A great brand allows you to experiment with a wide variety of marketing tactics to see which resonate and which don’t. A great brand reduces the pressure on marketing to produce some tangible (and often immediate) results.
- Razor-sharp messaging. A boring, uninspiring message turns pretty much any marketing tactic into a dull blade. To sharpen the message, speak to and from the heart. Don’t BS, manipulate, persuade, coerce. Just speak the truth directly and succinctly. And keep that blade sharp by frequently re-examining your messaging. Make sure this message can be communicated in any medium – especially off-line conversations.
- Remove tactical bias. Every marketer brings to the table a set of knowledge from past experiences and efforts. Some of those tools and tactics worked and, because marketing is about failure, many did not. Your brain remembers both the things that worked and didn’t work and applies that knowledge to current situations. Start from scratch. Look at each marketing scenario with a fresh set of eyes and ears. Don’t make assumptions.
- Put word-of-mouth at the middle of your strategy. Word-of-mouth (WOM) is often viewed by marketers as an after-effect or a hopeful outcome. While that’s true, putting WOM at the center of your marketing strategy aligns all of the marketing tactics to serve the same goal. If you create delight in the customer experience, you increase the number of conversations. If you increase the number of conversations, you increase the number of leads. If you increase the number of leads, you can put your marketing resources into more long-term initiatives.
- Implement agile marketing principles. Just like in software development, agile principles allow you to move faster and smarter. This is one of the reasons why we don’t create year-long marketing plans for our clients. It’s a waste of energy and resources to make a series of assumptions about the marketplace. Instead, we focus on 90 day cycles and a rolling Top 5 of marketing initiatives. We also focus on role clarity – making sure everyone knows who is doing what. Of course, we also align the marketing tactics to expected outcomes/KPIs/metrics. But we build in failure knowing some stuff won’t work. That’s why we never take our eye of the brand (see #1 above).
My business partner and co-founder of Root + River, Emily Soccorsy frequently says, “marketing isn’t rocket science. It’s clarity of message delivered consistently over time.” There are thousands of things you can’t control in marketing. But Emily’s quote contains the three things you have absolute control over: clarity, consistency and patience. These three eliminate a bevy of “ifs” and “shoulds” and “hopefullys” from marketing efforts and properly set expectations for marketing’s performance. And if you are in internal marketing person, the methods presented here will help you hold fast against unreasonable expectations and outlandish assumptions.