Four ways executives screw up their company’s marketing

Marketing is one of those business functions that seems so obvious, yet is perhaps the most misunderstood. Marketing departments the world over are staffed with creative types, the fun ones, the people with all the good ideas. Or at least that’s what a lot of business people think. They also believe that marketing is a good place to start when it’s time for budget cuts or it’s a place where the CEO’s niece can secure her first job with her degree in French literature.

The truth is that marketing is a critical business function and requires skill, knowledge and experience just like any other part of a business. Executives should hire marketing or communication professionals to run their marketing or communication departments, and then, listen and let the marketing pros do their jobs.

When executives do the opposite, inevitably, their marketing is soft, confusing and ineffective. Aside from likening marketing pros to the function of “party planners,” here are several additional ways executives screw up their companies’ marketing strategies and efforts. If you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions, don’t be too hard on yourself. The opportunity to have a functional and productive relationship with your marketing teams is sure to yield great results.

  1. Executives expect an immediate return on investment.

    Return on Investment (ROI) is business lingo that’s become a mantra for executives and MBA grads the world over. Building a business is not for the faint of heart and no one wants to blindly spend money hoping it will move a business forward. However, if you attach an intended ROI on every single marketing initiative, you’ll slow things down and as usual, be disappointed in the results.
    Spend your marketing dollars wisely and in the right way, and you’ll reach your intended customers. The best way to do that is to research your customers, understand what motivates them to buy your product or service and what their objections are when they don’t buy.

    Set goals and set a budget. Quit thinking “if I spend $1,000 on Google AdWords, I better get $1,000 in immediate business or else the whole initiative is a failure.” If you’re running an effective marketing campaign, Google AdWords is just a piece of your whole campaign. You absolutely need to evaluate the effectiveness of individual initiatives, but you need to look at all of your marketing efforts together to see if your marketing is working and driving sales like you intend.

  2. Executives change marketing strategy on a whim.

    This goes back to my point about effective marketing taking knowledge, experience and skill, and letting marketers do what they do best. Marketing and communication can sometimes be subjective. An executive’s personal perspective can often times cloud their judgment about their company’s marketing efforts.

    Let’s say your company is planning a user conference to connect with your best customers. Your marketing team does their research, sets attendance targets based on goals from the sales team, and creates a plan to reach out and invite customers. They create and design an electronic invitation and submit it to the company executives for final approval.

    You, as the executive, take a look at the invitation and decide to take it home and show it to your family. They hate it. The color is all wrong and you think a printed piece is much better because YOU like a physical invitation to post and remind you of the event. You head back to the marketing team give them your feedback, and they quickly get to work redesigning according to your direction.

    The problem is that you completely disregarded the work and research the marketing team put into determining that an electronic invitation was best. You’ve effectively changed strategy and put the success of the conference in jeopardy. Ask questions of your team to understand why they made the decisions they did, but don’t change direction on them because of your own personal approach.

    If you’re still convinced that your direction is the best, consider the option of running the tactic that you feel is right AND the tactic recommended by your marketing teams and analyze the results once the campaign is complete. This will resolve friction between you and your marketing teams as well as provide valuable information. Knowing what works and what doesn’t can save time and headache on your future campaigns.

  3. Executives don’t give marketing time to work.

    Rarely, does a single initiative produce mind-blowing results overnight. I’ve seen a variety of statistics, and in general, it takes an individual seeing or hearing something from a company a minimum of seven times before they take action, whether that’s to buy your product or even just step foot in your store. I’ve seen statistics that say people must see or hear your marketing messages as many as 21 times before they make a buying decision. Bottom line, a single marketing initiative put out into the marketplace once, isn’t going to move the needle. You need to commit to your marketing plan for at least a year to see real results.

  4. Executives focus only on the numbers.

    Marketing is part art and part science. It’s a combination of left and right brain thinking. It thrives on a yin and yang mentality. The numbers are extremely important and all marketing efforts must have measurable goals and objectives to shoot for. However, if that’s all you’re doing, you’ll be disappointed in the results. Take Starbucks for example. I don’t know what their sales goals are exactly, but in general, they need to sell hundreds of thousands of cups of coffee and coffee drinks every day to survive. Those numbers are important, but if that’s their only goal – to sell cups of coffee – they don’t have much else. 7-11 sells hundreds of thousands of cups of coffee every day, too.

    The difference for Starbucks is their marketing, communication and overall branding. When they set out to take over the coffee world, their focus was on creating a “third place” – home, work and Starbucks. A “third place” can’t be measured in the same way the sale of a cup of coffee can be. This is where the art comes in. Combine the “third place” concept with sales goals and you have marketing success.

Executives can screw up their marketing efforts in many other ways as well. To avoid being the problem or getting in the way of real marketing success, provide direction, collaborate and trust your marketing pros. After all, they are creative types, so let them be who they are. You just might have your mind-blown.

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