A prospective client recently reached out to me, having found me by searching for fractional chief marketing officers on the Internet. This C-suite executive, who shall remain nameless, dispensed with formalities and said, “I am interviewing 15 marketing firms, and I’d like a list of things that we could do for $20,000.”
After I took a beat to absorb his “unique” approach, I responded as any ethical Chief Marketing Officer should – calmly explaining that there are many, many steps required before we could even begin to develop a budget to spend those $20,000 hard-earned marketing dollars – things like identifying goals, objectives, priorities and the like.
After this individual moved on to the next marketer on his call list, I pondered his approach to marketing – and also realized that invariably some marketer would take the bait and start flinging those marketing dollars wildly. That’s “marketing malpractice,” I thought.
It is true that, as bottom-line-watching chief executives, we are wired to seek out the most value for the least cost. However, with marketing, it’s critical to find a results-oriented service provider who will help you to spend wisely as a means of maximizing the return on that marketing investment.
I thought a good starting point for this discussion would be to understand some ways in which “marketing malpractice” is committed, so you can avoid those pitfalls and make savvier marketing decisions.
- Random Acts of Marketing. This is my term for the practice of investing in a whole spate of varied, disconnected marketing tactics to see which ones might work. No plan, just action. Some would call this the “throw it against the wall, and see if it sticks” approach to marketing.
- Scare the Customer. Pointing out differences between you and your competition is one thing – but using marketing to invoke a doomsday scenario, using fearful images, as a means of gaining customers almost never works (unless you are the CDC, in which case it’s an absolute necessity).
- Go Social, Exclusively. With the easy access to social media tools, it’s tempting to want to use it as a substitute for a thorough, integrated marketing plan. While it’s true that so much of our selling cycle is conducted before we even have direct contact with our prospect, social media is really just another tactic – great when used appropriately, useless at best when done poorly. Good marketing will help you determine the precise context, content, mindset and method for the right prospect to receive your message.
- Inconsistency or No Consistency. Multiple marketing messages are flung into the ether, with no regard to synergy or without any coordination or set plan of action. This will simply confuse the prospect and muddy the waters. Without any consistency to focus your brand awareness, this is a recipe for disaster.
As I hinted earlier, the marketing dollar allocation is only one, disconnected part of a much larger picture. Sure, you want to be mindful about what you can afford, but the focus should always be on what you need to acquire that profitable customer. A solid marketing strategy should be asking the key questions:
- Do we understand who our ideal customer is that we are trying to reach?
- Do we understand the average revenue we earn from each customer?
- Do we understand the average life span of a customer relationship?
- Do we understand the margin we earn on the customer’s expenditure with us?
- Do we have a gauge on the pricing sensitivity for our product or services?
- Can we measure how we are tracking to reach our revenue goals?
One last bit of advice -- don’t try this at home. To ensure your strategy is sound and that you are maximizing your marketing investment – not committing “marketing malpractice,” – find a partner who can help you develop strategy and plans, which lead to actions, which lead to results. A fractional CMO or the right marketing consultant will take that broader snapshot of your playing field and will develop reasoned steps to help you reach your goals.
What are some ways you’ve seen companies commit “marketing malpractice?”