Avoiding Marketing Malpractice

As marketers, our profession – and our professional obligation – is to help our companies and our clients attain increased market share and higher earnings.  We do this in a number of ways, some aiming for short-term results, some with a longer-term payback.  Some of our efforts show tangible results, some are harder to measure (branding and name recognition, for example).

But no matter what we do and how we do it, our job can be summed up as revenue growth and extended reach and market recognition.

Over the years, I’ve seen too many marketing efforts – and companies – fail because of several basic errors, errors that to my mind comprise marketing malpractice:

  1. Not truly understanding the marketplace.

A marketplace exists in a context.  It is marketing’s responsibility to know – and understand and appreciate and make the rest of management understand how the company’s products/services fit in the economy as a whole, in its customer’s world, not just its tiny slice of the world.  For example, Kodak was an iconic name in photography virtually since the beginning of photography.  But it refused to recognize the full impact of the digitalization of the world around it.  In 2012, Kodak went bankrupt, with some 15,000 patents in its files.

  1. Following a marketing – as opposed to a marketplace – trend because everyone else is.

Marketing is as beset by fads and fashions as any other field.  But the confusion between a marketing fad and a marketplace trend can be both time consuming and costly.  For example, for a while Facebook was going to be the answer to maintaining customer contact and “engaging” the customer.  There was little or no thought given to what the platform was actually designed to do, how it would work for a company, or even whether it would work for every company in every industry.  Everyone had to be on Facebook, and marketers diligently worked to accrete “likes.”  So now many companies, after significant expense and time that might have been better spent elsewhere, are either leaving Facebook or significantly down-grading their efforts there.

  1. Confusing tactics with strategy.

Sure, we all like to think of ourselves as strategists.  It is so much sexier and important sounding than “tactician.”  But, in reality, there is only one strategy; it is the business strategy.  Marketing strategy is no more and no less than a coherent series of tactics designed to implement that business strategy, to make it real and successful, in the marketplace.  And make no mistake about it, there is a true art to developing tactics that actually work.  But they are not strategies.

  1. Confusing the customer and the prospect.

Certainly, you are unlikely to have customers if you don’t have prospects.  But “engagement” and conversations, likes and connects, are not purchase orders.  The current mania for these likes, connects, follows, etc. should not be the goal.  They are only the beginning of the sales process.

  1. Mixed messaging.

Too often, we are so busy creating content, being active on a variety of social media platforms, and figuring out where and how to be noticed next that the company’s key messages get garbled, changed, and lost in the noise of the marketplace.  Marketing operations do not manage themselves – or at least not successfully.  Someone needs to stand back and conduct the marketing orchestra.  Without a strong, knowledgeable conductor, the various aspects of marketing become a variety of instruments all playing their own songs.

If we keep these basic – and time-tested – principles in mind, our companies and clients will prosper.

And there will be no such thing as marketing malpractice.

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