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Classic Marketing Mistakes

There is an inherent contradiction in exploring marketing mistakes because marketing is, almost by definition, a process of trial and error. Many marketing gurus have stated that lack of mistakes is an indication of a lack of creativity in a marketing program, meaning that while the company may be playing it safe, they are limiting their potential by doing so. One response to the inherent errors of the marketing process has been to transform marketing into a science whereby options can be determined through study of the market and results can be measured via statistical analysis. While this approach has, in some ways, improved marketing by making it more exact (although not completely exact, as some would claim), it also, at least to the same extent, diminished marketing because has removed creativity and limited the exploration of options, leaving behind possibilities we'll never know even existed.

Perhaps one way to reinvigorate marketing is to limit the mistakes made, countering the "scientists" and making a strong case of the "creativists". Mistakes that should be avoided include:

Mistake: Under Appreciating Marketing - marketing is more than brochures, websites and advertising. It is the creation of the environment (and the tools needed to support it) within which sales can flourish. Your marketing should be raising awareness and creating interest in your company and its products and defining and delivering your offer. Your marketing should be generating leads for your salespeople and creating the atmosphere within which they will be welcome and indeed greeted.

Solution: Use marketing to do what it supposed to do ¡V and use marketing professionals to do it.

Mistake: Relying Too Much on Research - perhaps the very raising of this issue reveals our predisposition against too much research (because certainly some would claim that there is no such thing as too much research), but just as too little research leads to not having enough information, an over reliance on research could lead to too much information. This usually means that decisions are not being made without the support of research, even though most honest marketers will admit that just as research can mold decisions, the decision preferred can also mold the research. In other words, we can get the research to show almost any result we want. How we structure and execute the research will help determine its results, and whether by design or error, the results of research, while helpful as one (of many) determining decision making factors, cannot be the sole factor.

Solution: Integrate research into your positioning and product testing processes, using the results from these exercises to help arrive at decisions on marketing strategy and tactics. Do not test any one specific proposition or idea, but rather a range of ideas, making sure that the research is not predisposed to any one answer.

Mistake: Throwing Good Money After Bad - it's always hard to admit that an idea isn't working, particularly if the idea was supported with marketing dollars and someone's head is going to roll if the program is suspended. It's easier to continue to support the program in the hope that it just needs more time to kick in. After all, everyone liked the idea, the research said it would work, and after all, isn't marketing all about trial and error? So, how do you know when to pull the plug? When the results are dismal and the market has rejected the product/promotion. Committing additional resources to the project won't result in proportionately better results. All it will do is keep resources from a better idea.

Solution: Have reasonable expectations from each program and cut those programs that are not meeting the anticipated results. No matter how good the idea seems, if it isn't working¡Kit isn't working.

Mistake: Treating Price Like it's King - it is easy to understand why many companies believe that price is king ¡V after all most price driven products do well. So there is a segment of the market that is price driven ¡V but the rest of us are value driven. In this sense most consumers are interested in getting what they pay for, so if they pay more they want to get more ¡V and conversely, if they get more they are (often but not always) willing to pay more. So price is not king, value is king.

Solution: Make sure that your price is correlated to your quality and your position in the market. If you coordinate the three elements you will be able to pursue a policy not based on price, but the value equation, which is price versus perceived value. If the customer believes the price is consistent with the products worth, they will buy it.

Mistake: Underestimating Competitors - in most cases a company can name their competitors, and yet when it comes to understanding their capacities, intent, and forthcoming moves, often only the major competitors (larger competitors) are mentioned. While it is true that large competitors can cause changes in the market that require you to adjust (or even better ¡V predict and neutralize), but so too is it true that smaller competitors are thinking creatively and doing all they can to displace you and take your place as the more successful company.

Solution: You need to know all your competitors, large or small, and make an effort to keep track of major moves they may be making to gain market share, introduce new products, change pricing structures, or change the rules of the game in some way. If you respect your competitors and their skills you will minimize any damage they can cause you.

Mistake: Placing Too Much Importance on ROI - the idea that every dollar spent on marketing should result in more than one dollar in company revenue is noble and a worthy pursuit, except¡K The "except" comes into play when the demand for ROI drives marketing into a short term, immediate enterprise and not a long term activity designed to create and maintain a market. Sometimes your company will need to engage in marketing activities to thwart a competitors move, or introduce a product that supports another product, or some other non-ROI generating action.

Solution: Don't shy away from making strategic marketing decisions just because there is no immediate return on the investment. Take a broader view of "return"

and you will find that marketing benefits your company in ways that expand beyond solely the generation of revenue.

This article was titled "Vol. 1" because the second part of this article will be featured in next month's newsletter. By understanding the potential mistakes we might make while vigorously marketing our companies, we can avoid the pitfalls and improve overall marketing performance. By doing so we are doing a service to our companies, and as we see it, to marketing as well.


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