Why would any company sabotage their own marketing efforts?

Man, over the years, I’ve seen lots of good reasons. Well, they weren’t good reasons in the end. But when managers consistently put their internal considerations before customers’ buying considerations, then marketing pieces end up being targeted to managers…rather than customers. I know, I know, I tried to tell them.

Managers look around, and what do they see?

Well, their plant and facilities. Their employees. The company Mission Statement hanging on the wall. All great starting points for a marketing initiative, right? Uh, no. Not unless their Mission Statement includes a solution for the complex technical issues that their target prospects are stressing about at this very moment. And please, don’t tell me about your employees’ experience. Show me your employees’ genuinely effective approach to my predicament…due to their experience. Or, you want to boast about your firm’s commitment to excellence? Sorry, phrases like that make my mouse reach for the ‘Back’ button all by itself.

Let’s distinguish ourselves by, um, doing what everyone else is doing.

Okay, we all know that Volvo stands for safety, Mercedes stands for luxury and BMW stands for the driving experience. They’ve all been very successful positions. So, gosh, why are most companies so afraid of standing for something, anything? Often I guess because they’d be afraid of losing those two dozen Volvo drivers out there who may be more interested in speed than safety. So they dilute a potentially strong and appealing positioning for the great majority of their prospects, for the sake of a few on the fringes who don’t fit the profile. I’ve seen it time and again.

Now, don’t start getting all emotional on me.

Say, a local hospital’s staff is exceptional at calming nervous patients, empathetically addressing their concerns, and helpfully answering their questions. Wouldn’t you think there’s a unique campaign theme in there somewhere? But instead of showing, and hearing from, relieved and confident patients, we get “A history of quality care since 1974.” Okay, so now I know what year you opened, but I’m still freaked about my foot surgery tomorrow. If managers took off their managers’ hats, and put themselves in their clients’ shoes, they’d understand the huge factor that various emotions play in the choices we humans make.

Be creative. But not too creative.

I’ve seen marketing agencies make a pitch to a client, and good news, the client loves their funny, cool creative concept. But it turns out that the agency is better at selling to clients than they are to the client’s customers. Because, unfortunately, the creativity has completely overshadowed the selling message. Try this: the next time you notice truly compelling, flashy, impactful visuals in a TV commercial, see how much of the message you recall when it’s over. Whoops.

What, success takes hard work? You’re kidding.

A company sells to three distinct market segments, but apparently it’s too much trouble to do separate brochures so they can address each audience’s specific needs. So they do a single brochure that’s so delightfully general, it addresses no one’s needs. Another firm assumes that everyone knows about the higher-grade components it uses, so it doesn’t bother to advertise the significant cost savings of less-frequent replacement. In yet another business, the VPs squander so much time trying to come to a concensus on the details of an ad, that the business opportunity that had presented itself has already gone buh-bye.

The list goes on. A company would come out looking good if it compared its service plans with those of a competitor on its website; but the VP doesn’t want to hurt the feelings of the competitor. Or a firm refuses to update to a fresh, contemporary graphic look, simply because it doesn’t match the old look they’ve used in the past.

These are the same kinds of managers who tend to cut the budget because “marketing doesn’t work.”

Sadly, and for a whole colorful variety of reasons, much, if not, most of the money put into marketing budgets gets wasted. Not necessarily because the sales potential isn’t there. But because company insiders have their hands full with their own short-term priorities. Before investing more money into marketing, maybe it’s time to get away, sit back, and invest some time thinking about our audience’s long-term priorities. And start there.

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