Marketing is No Mistake

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We all know, "People make mistakes." So true. Yet it's not an excuse for the marketing blunders that seem to reach customers a bit too often. Many can be chalked up to carelessness, insensitivity and lack of relevance or connection.

Most organizations could benefit from a communications audit. This type of audit is normally tailored to the client and can cover both internal and external messages. Items like wayfinding signage, advertising, mail campaigns, and even voice messages are common targets that we see for review. However, there are some basic marketing mistakes, (happening ever-more frequently) that, while they could be caught in an audit, require basic, internal review, proofreading and communication. Here are a few basic questions to ask as you consider your campaigns and appeals.


Rightfully so, it’s the first question to be asked. Often, marketing dollars trickle in multiple directions that really have no alignment with the marketing plan or the broader strategic efforts. Dollars may be used to appease a group or person or simply because (our least favorite) “we’ve always done it.” This is most likely to happen when there’s a lack of leadership and ownership of the marketing plan. Outside, influential parties, (often with little direct marketing experience) can get involved in pushing an agenda that forces the efforts off track. It will take a strong individual to remind them that the “request is not aligned with our plan or objectives.”   


As simple as this seems, this presents a problem for countless organizations. We've experienced our share of marketing appeals and websites recently that contained inaccurate or outdated information, typos, etc. All were items that could have been easily identified with a bit of care and communication. Wrong names for locations or groups, inaccurate addresses and bad grammar communicate carelessness, or worse yet, that you are out of touch with the market. An organization can spend a great deal of time, effort and money in building a brand or value and have it chipped away by a few oversights. Proof, proof and proof again and involve people in this process that were not involved in the creative. They are most likely to spot the error in your ways because, like your customer, they are seeing it for the first time.


Have you ever asked, "Why did I receive this?" When one takes a deeper look at substandard marketing campaigns, it's easy to spot the contributing issues. Perhaps the most glaring is the lack of effective targeting. The inability to tailor a message and hone in on the appropriate medium is not just ineffective, it's costly. Typically, these "off target" appeals come from smaller shops that don't have the budget or benefit of conducting impactful research. Ironically, the same shops making these mistakes are the ones that covet those wasted resources the most, but not always. We've seen larger organizations make them as well. Need an example? Why is your ad in a newspaper if you're targeting millennials who seldom read one? If a business is targeting women, then why is the ad ran in a medium dominated by males? If you know your target, then today more than ever, it's important (and easier) to focus on "narrowcasting" your message instead of broadcasting to a larger, uninterested audience.


"The friendliest _____ in town." "We make ______ simple." "We're the fastest _______." "Same day_______ available." Yes, we hear the claims on a regular basis, but when we walk in the door, make that phone call, or communicate via e-mail, we experience a reality that is totally different. Nothing can erode the trust more than saying one thing to your customers or prospects, and then having them encounter something opposite. Outside analysis can help spot those issues before dollars are wasted on the campaign. Surveys, secret shopping, focus groups and interviews can help take the pulse of the organization and its image, before you take the claim public. The investment will more than offset the likely erosion of trust which is so valuable, and ever so difficult to rebuild, following false claims.

Your brand, image and reputation are valuable assets and too important to leave to chance with inconsistent and inaccurate marketing efforts. Doing more with less may create an environment which produces inferior collateral product. Just remember, your customer and prospect are relying upon this marketing effort to make important decisions. Done haphazardly, long enough, and your customer or prospect may become a customer of one of your competitors.

David J. Fry, CDT, MPS is President/CEO of Effective Advancement Strategies in Greensburg.

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