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How Marketing Strategy Misses the Mark

Marketing strategy cannot be created in a vacuum. Marketing’s job is to get, keep and grow customers. In this customer-centric role, marketing must understand the customers in the selected target markets and then create and implement strategies that mutually benefit those customers and the company. This doesn’t always work perfectly. Here are three ways marketing strategy misses the mark:

Failure to align with and support company strategy

I’ve seen some brilliant marketing strategies that didn’t work. This is typically because the strategies did not support company direction. Case in point: the marketing program that created amazing demand for the company’s consumer product. The problem was that the company’s strategy was to move into the industrial sector which had greater market opportunity and profits with the company’s heavy duty product. A costly “success” that took two quarters to remedy.

To avoid this type of mistake, always begin with a review of the company strategy -- the company’s plan for achieving its vision, prioritizing objectives, competing successfully and optimizing financial performance with its business model. Next, conduct a marketing performance review of the past year. What worked well? What didn’t? What should be changed? Successful marketing strategies develop and utilize brands, products, services, channels, pricing options and promotion to support company strategies. For each of these categories, how will you measure success for the marketing strategies? Select only those marketing strategies that will move the company toward accomplishing its strategies.

Failure to align with sales

There are many telltale signs when marketing and sales are out of alignment. Most telling are comments like these:

  • Sales reps don’t have a clue how to share our value proposition; they just sell on price.

  • I can’t use the marketing materials we’re sent because they miss the mark with our customers. Marketing doesn’t understand our customers.

  • Sales complains about not having enough leads, and they don’t use the ones we paid to generate.

  • Pricing developed by marketing is completely unrealistic

  • Sales doesn’t stick to the strategy.

  • The marketing budget is huge. They spend on a lot of things, but they’re not effective. They’re clueless about how to reach our customers.

I’m sure you could add a few choice quotes of your own. What’s the solution? Try these steps:

  1. Collaborate on identification of sales and marketing strategies that support company strategies. Begin by reviewing company strategies. Next, identify what sales and marketing approaches previously or currently in use are successful. Which are not? What competitor approaches are successful and unsuccessful? What approaches outside your industry might work? Select marketing and sales strategies and determine whether both organizations agree that these have a high probability of success.

  2. Work together to identify the most important customer personas. Start with determining your top three target markets. For each, who are the most significant buying influences? Develop personas for each that identify typical characteristics, preferences, behaviors, beliefs and attitudes. For example: a purchasing agent in XYZ industry is typically controlling, organized and detail oriented. More concerned with getting a good deal v. product reliability. Prefers to work with companies with a strong supply chain track record. Working together to create target market personas will increase customer understanding leading to better messaging and development of useful sales tools.

  3. Develop target market messaging jointly and test. After creating personas, work together to determine the biggest problems and challenges for each persona. Create messaging that identifies the problem, presents your unique solution AND focuses on the result the customer will realize. With input from sales, and creative messaging from marketing, customers begin to hear and understand your value. Test this with customers by asking for reactions and feedback to a variety of messaging options

Lots of tactics and no cohesive strategy

The number of potential marketing tactics that can be employed seems to grow daily. Consider this partial list from which to choose: social media, paid media, earned media, sponsorship, advocacy, infographics, direct mail, webinars, ebooks, events and conferences, live streaming, co-branding and partnering, interactive content, contests, blogging, email drip campaigns, curated research, interactive tools, gamification, YouTubeⓇ channel, content syndication. I’m exhausted just thinking about the options. It’s easy to see how marketing budgets are often depleted in the second quarter.

To prevent this, whenever evaluating a new marketing tactic, ask these questions:

  • What specific marketing goal the tactic will support.

  • Is the new tactic additive or duplicative?

  • Will this additional tactic reach your target audience cost effectively?

  • How will success be measured?

  • Would it be wise to stop using one or more current tactics?

  • Is this a good use of marketing budget compared to other options?

For more information on creating successful marketing strategies, check out this article: What You Need to Know BEFORE You Create Your Marketing Strategy. You can also see our resource, The Marketing Strategy Master Class.

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