If small- to medium-sized companies are lucky enough, there comes a day when the C-suite decides that, in order to break through to the next level, they’ll need to establish marketing operations. Often, they see a competitor, “Company X,” making bold moves with their marketing, and they know that in order to play at that level, well, they’ll have to make some bold marketing moves too.
Getting intentional with your marketing — and executing it well — will no doubt take you from one level to the next, but there are many ways in which marketing infrastructures can fail and leave you frustrated and confused as to why things aren’t working. To help you build a strong foundation from the beginning, here are some of the most common marketing killers to avoid that we see time and time again.
1. Weak objectives
Arguably the most important lesson to take from this article is to level-up your objectives from the commonly pre-school level. If you do this, everything else will fall into place. Small- to medium-sized companies often set top-down objectives that sound like this: “Increase sales by 25% this year.” That’s like a football coach telling his team the strategy for the game ahead is to win — that’s not a strategy; that’s an outcome. A great objective instead would be to say something like this: “Increase consideration from 10% to 35% among target audience segment B by December 2023.” And next to that would be a dollar value for achieving this objective: “worth $250,000 annualized.” Once your team levels-up objective setting, the “how” – the strategy and its tactical plan – will follow suit in sophistication, and we promise the next steps will be more apparent.
2. Pre-specifying tactics and creative work
Pre-specifying creative work and tactics before objective-setting and laying a strategic foundation is acting as an “arts and crafts marketer” (i.e. just focused on the shiny object and short-term gain), and it’s arguable why companies struggle to pull the trigger on initiatives. The anxiety loop sounds a bit like this: “It’s really cool, but will it be worth it?”
Most of us who run companies have a story to tell about spending big on a shiny object only to be left disappointed by the results. If you’re far from operating at a CMO level and utilize agencies for your marketing initiatives, no worries – just ensure you and the agency are on the same page with the following before moving forward with creative initiatives:
- What company goal or objective is this initiative aiming to achieve?
- What is the target audience?
- What is the estimated ROI?
- How will the agency share performance along the way?
- What’s the agency’s adjustment strategy?
3. Overestimation of results and underestimation of time
Most of the time, companies try to boil the ocean overnight, when really it’s a long, slow haul achieving objectives. This causes companies to pull out of initiatives far before they even get a fighting chance.
To help set reasonable timelines, divide your marketing into two buckets: the long and the short. The “short” is quick-activation promotional efforts where results can be seen within 6 months or less, and the long is for further-looking brand-building and market share initiatives that typically run for a year or more.
A standard ratio marketing rule of thumb: Your marketing budget should be divided up 60% long, 40% short.
4. Misunderstanding of marketing vs. advertising
Advertising and marketing get shuffled into the same bucket too often. Quite frankly, we can’t blame people outside of marketing for thinking these are the same — advertising agencies are notorious for interchangeably using the word marketing with the word advertising.
Most commonly, advertising is running short-term promotional campaigns to bolster awareness, leads, and sales, and it’s a dial that should be turned up and down depending on real-time circumstances. Marketing, however, lives 100,000+ feet above advertising, bobbing and weaving with the strategic plan; utilizing KPI data to draw inferences and correlations; and then providing the marching orders based on changing economical and societal climates, and changing human behaviors, needs and attitudes.
How valuable would it be then, to have a skilled marketer handing you a recalculated roadmap every time new circumstances arise, directing in real time not just your promotional efforts, but all efforts — especially in challenging economic times?
5. Finance department sees marketing as an expense
When economic downturns hit, marketing budgets are among the first to be cut, mainly because marketers weren’t doing their jobs properly — or marketing’s role is just simply not understood. If this is happening in an organization it’s because the financial department has never seen proof of the value. Meaning, the marketing department and/or the agency had a track record of ambiguous ROI, leading to marketing being viewed as a crapshoot — simply not worth the risk. To elevate your marketing moves and mitigate the risk of failure, require your team – or agency – to present:
- Data that supports initiatives
- ROI estimates
- Plan of execution.
Marketing is one of the easiest things to have an opinion about, but one of the most complex to decide when, where and how to execute. Actually putting marketing into practice tends to be convoluted in nature, and that’s where we see companies struggle the most. Let these lessons guide the construction of your marketing infrastructure, and know we’re just a quick Cat Chat away should you find yourself still stuck in the chaos of marketing’s toughest questions:
- What to do now?
- What to do next?
- How do we pull it all off?
Marketing Strategist + Client Relations | CreativeCat.Co