By Francis Moran

With the possible exception of a client vying for a huge defence procurement project in the late 1980s, an undertaking for which money certainly seemed to be no object, I’m pretty sure nobody has ever told me they have more money than they wanted or was needed for a top-notch, multi-faceted, integrated and long-term marketing program. If I ever do find such a client, I expect they shall be in the unicorn-ranching business.

Given this near-universal reality, why do so many companies waste or spend poorly the already-inadequate sums they do manage to set aside for marketing?

No coherent strategy

The likeliest reason for a wasted marketing spend, one that never seems to produce the desired results, is the lack of a coherent strategy that clearly defines who it is you need to reach, what they need to hear at various stages of the marketing and sales process, exactly what mix of tactics you’re going to use to carry that messaging to its intended audiences, and how those tactics are going to be measured against the objectives and targets that are also set out in the strategy.

I’ve written in the past that not spending anything at all on marketing is not the worst marketing sin you could commit; it’s starting to spend and then stopping because the desired result was not immediately achieved. A variation on this sin is the ad hoc nature of too many marketing programs, one that sees various tactics randomly implemented, with no cohesive plan to ensure they all work together or any idea of what they’re supposed to accomplish or how they are to be measured. If you’ve got all the money in the world, then sure, go ahead and do this; eventually you’ll stumble onto something that works. But if you live in the real world, you’d better plan how every penny of your marketing budget is going to be spent for maximum impact. And that requires a solid strategy.

The gap between strategy and implementation

Marketing expert Jeff Campbell has written a compelling two-part series on our blog about the gap between sales and marketing, and what can be done to close that gap. It’s an important consideration. Another gap, however, yawns between strategy and implementation and it regularly swallows entire marketing budgets along with the fortunes of the companies that fail to bridge it.

The most common cause of this gap is the handoff between the marketing strategist hired to develop a strategy and the internal or outsourced team left to implement it. It’s astonishing how often I’ve seen this gap open up and swallow massive marketing budgets without producing a fraction of the return demanded of such an investment. For such a faulty approach to things, it boggles my mind how common it is.

I understand why companies, especially the younger technology companies with which I like to work, turn to an external strategist for help. They don’t have any internal marketing bones or, at least, no senior ones capable of doing a proper customer and market segment analysis, product-market fit, competitive analysis, differentiation, positioning and messaging, and the considered ordering of various tactical options that make up an implementation plan. But then their external consultant drops off the plan with one hand, picks up his cheque with the other hand and exits, leaving the poor company to navigate a document they don’t really understand and haven’t the skills to implement properly.

Misallocation of resources

The final significant contributor to a wasted and inefficient marketing spend that I’d like to deal with in this post is the misallocation of resources. So, you bought a good strategy from a competent marketing consultant and now you’d like to bring on board the resources necessary to implement it.

You used to have two choices, neither of them optimal.

The first is to hand the strategy over to a large integrated agency that offers most of the services the strategy says you need. This is a tempting option because you gain a one-stop shop that, practically by definition, should make sure that everything works together. The problem is, it’s a rare agency indeed that will offer everything you need doing, and rarer still the agency that is equally good at everything it does offer. So you’re going to forego some elements entirely, and settle for less-than-best on a couple of others. Plus, you’re going to pay the large overheads that most agencies must factor into their price structures and, because no marketer really wants to implement someone else’s plan, they’ll probably charge you to redo the strategy. This is a bad deal for most young, resource-constrained technology companies.

The other alternative that appeals in this situation is to hire in a marketing generalist, usually someone junior and affordable, to do a lot of the stuff that needs doing. Compared with the cost of outsourcing, this can be a really tempting option, but it’s generally an illusion. As a young company, you need rather small amounts of a rather large number of different, often incompatible skills. Most of the strategies and plans we’re writing these days call for a diverse array of skills including writing, design, audio-visual production, content marketing, SEO, product management and marketing, web metrics, social media, technical writing, trade show and events organizing, sales funnel and sales automation management, project management, vendor relations, media relations, research, big data … I could go on at length. Finding more than one or two of those necessary skills in a single person is unheard of, meaning that your hire will excel in a couple of areas but will waste most of what you budget elsewhere.

Nobody has more money than is needed to do marketing properly. So it is absolutely critical that not a single dollar be wasted. This means you first need a coherent strategy, and then the most effective and efficient implementation of that strategy.

We have developed what we think is an effective and efficient solution to this problem, and encourage you to contact us if you’d like to hear more about it.

But first, we’d like to hear from you.

How are you bridging the gap between strategy and implementation to ensure everyone is kept on strategy, on message and on target?

How else are companies wasting or spending poorly the already-inadequate sums they manage to set aside for marketing?

Do you have any case studies that you’d like to share of this problem occurring in small companies?

Francis Moran and Associates is an associated team of seasoned practitioners of a number of different marketing disciplines, all of whom share a passion for technology and a proven record of driving revenue growth in markets across the globe. We work with B2B technology companies of all sizes and at every life stage and can engage as individuals or as a full team to provide quick counsel, a complete marketing strategy or the ongoing hands-on input of a virtual chief marketing officer.

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