When it comes to marketing and communication, a long to-do list, little time to execute, lack of resources, and other assorted stressors can distract us from making the right management decisions. And tens of billions of dollars spent on marketing every year doesn't mean that the people spending the money don't make mistakes.
Here are eight common missteps that marketing organizations make and how to avoid making them.
Over-reliance on technology to communicate can come back to "byte" you
While it's easy to text or email waiting in line for a latte, constant reliance on digital channels has a potentially negative impact on your relationships -- especially in marketing. Research shows that productivity, trust, and ultimately retention are at risk when your relationship is predominantly online. There are three components present during face-to face communication that are absent each time you hit send: context, speed and emotion.
A statement like "everything is fine" can be understood in different ways. The context, the speed with which you can have a dialogue around the specifics, and whether the speaker has a positive tone of voice, all influence whether or not things are truly "fine." Face-to-face meetings should be part of the plan, even if only for brief monthly updates over coffee or a quarterly state of the union.
Failure to define your primary and secondary audiences wastes time and money
You'd be surprised how many companies focus their PR, event strategies, and messaging on their industry (and thus their competitors) as opposed to their ideal customers. When you center your marketing efforts where your revenue originates, the industry will hear about it. If you go where the competition is, you get stuck in the echo chamber.
Start with creating a profile of your top buyers and all the levels within that organization that your enterprise interacts with. Include why they buy and the specific products, services, and differentiating (why you?) statements that align. Then follow it up with the specific tactics that will resonate with each audience. An event within your industry that is attended by your peers might not be as valuable as an event within the industry of your prospects.
Overcomplicating products and services can alienate customers
Albert Einstein is often credited with saying, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." He knew what he was talking about. Customers respond to advertising because of the promise of an improved life -- glamour is a huge selling factor in consumer advertising. With B2B marketing, customers buy into the promise of improving their business. Always lead with a clear statement on how a product or service benefits the customer's outcomes. More importantly, do this using the customer's terms and language -- not yours. There's no need to sound smart, and nearly everyone complains about the deluge of jargon used in ad tech. Simplified, clear explanations of benefits gets better results.
Keeping a new branding strategy, logo design, or sales messaging under wraps
Let's be honest, many companies within the ad tech sector have wacky names. Some work and some don't, often depending on the offering. Whenever a company changes its name, you'll often hear whispers of "what were they thinking?"
This ridicule happens because marketing and management didn't extend the conversation outside of the core team. Nobody asked if the name fit the brand, and what about the customers? You have to ask the customers about new corporate names! Customers are the most important voices you can listen to in this decision making process, so make them an integral part. Don't push creative for creative's sake -- make sure the logos, company name, and other messages and visuals are in line with how the biggest and best clients see the company. In fact, when naming new products, go to customers first and ask what they're calling the tool in-house. It's an easy way to capture the utility and come up with a catchy name.
Being afraid to market outside of the box
Don't be afraid to be a little bold (or a lot) in your messaging and marketing tactics. For example, the advertising technology industry is full of companies that look and sound alike. Standing out can be a good thing. Don't be afraid to say something different or approach the space and the message differently. And, just because your competitors or peers are doing it, doesn't mean you should.
At the same time, keep it on brand and socialize your ideas. Great marketing and management teams dedicate time to group think. The best teams include different internal and external people in the process, as you may find that a client or partner helps you break out of that box.
Relying on a website to market or sell for you
Setting up a site and finalizing sales collateral are major steps in the marketing process, but they don't represent the end. Staying top of mind with clients and prospects is a key factor and a sales department can't possibly cover every opportunity continuously. Social media, direct email blasts, and public relations can serve as air cover -- keeping the company name in the news and increasing exposure after the core components of the marketing plan are completed.
Never expect the website to sell for you either, especially if the goal is selling jargon-heavy technology. There's a parody website with a name and URL too racy to mention here (it's something like every[blanking]website.com) that skewers nearly every corporate website. Though wrought with profanity, it's a pitch perfect takedown of what many companies do. Websites are a dime a dozen and they all look the same. Make yours stand out and clearly communicate what you do and why it matters. But most importantly, use tactics that get potential leads off of the website and into an in-person meeting -- where the sale happens.
Lack of a marketing-specific mission
Many marketers start setting a course for their messaging and tactics with no real destination. You need a marketing-specific mission. This can range from a big hairy audacious goal like a rebrand or repositioning of the company, all the way to tactical missions such as "get our product covered in the New York Times" and "support sales in securing 10 new advertiser-direct clients."
This marketing-specific mission should support the overall company mission, but gives your team, management, and the organization a clear line of sight for what you will accomplish. Once set, build and adjust the plans against it, while measuring progress against each milestone.
Failure to communicate and market internally
This final point is the sum of everything we've already laid out, and unfortunately, it's the one most often overlooked. I can't tell you how many times I've talked to people within a company who don't fully understand other components of the business beyond their core focus, or grasp how the company is presenting itself to the outside world.
Employees are every company's biggest brand advocates and everyone needs to be preaching the same gospel -- both at their desk and when they step outside. Opportunity can present itself at any time, and even a junior level employee may find his or herself speaking to a potential client. By holding internal launches and updates, involving employees in the marketing process, and ensuring that everyone from the top down understands the marketing mission and the message, you ensure that your organization always puts its best foot forward.
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"Keep your distance" image via Shutterstock.