The worst marketing sin

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Imagine you want to go to New York. And New York is a five-hour drive away. You start out on a certain route but after two hours, you haven’t reached New York yet. So you conclude that the route you’re on isn’t the right one and you change routes. An hour later, you’re still not in New York, so you change routes again. After yet another hour, you’re still not in New York, so you change routes again. And then you run out of gas. So you abandon your trip to New York; indeed, you begin to wonder whether New York ever really existed or whether there was any way at all that you could get there from where you were.

Nobody in their right minds would try to get to New York this way. Or come to those conclusions about getting to New York if their efforts failed.

But far too many technology companies try to get to market exactly this way, and it’s the worst marketing sin they could commit. Starting and then changing approaches on a whim before pulling the plug entirely is a more grievous sin than not doing any marketing at all. At least if companies spend no money at all, they will not have wasted resources in their ill-fated venture. But when they start and then stop, not only is the venture just as ill-fated but they will have squandered their money or that of their investors.

Usually, the decision to keep trying different routes is born of marketing ignorance. If New York is a metaphor for where your customers are, then no intelligent traveller would try to get there without first having plotted a route and been certain of how long it would take and how much gas would be required to complete the trip. In marketing terms, this trip-planning is called a strategy.

Twice in the recent past, though, I have witnessed companies that had effective marketing strategies choose to put their entire marketing programs on hold when cash became a little tight. In both cases, no significant cuts were made to any other function within these companies; marketing and marketing alone bore the entire brunt of their belt-tightening exercises. And so they left themselves stranded, halfway down the road to revenue. Tragic.

What can we as marketers do to help ensure this doesn’t happen at the companies with which we work?

Well, for starters, draw a bloody good map.

An effective marketing strategy makes certain, in the first instance, that the destination is the right one and that your company has the ability to actually reach it and to succeed when it gets there. That is, the strategy has figured out who your customers are, where they live, and what it is that you have to offer. The strategy is then clear about how the selected tactics are going to get the job done, how long it’s going to take and how much it’s going to cost. To avoid constant plaintive executive wailing of “Are we there yet?”, a good strategy builds in clear milestones that let folks know exactly how far you’ve come and how much farther you need to go.

My favourite quote attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte is, “If you start to take Vienna, take Vienna.” Stouter marketing counsel would be difficult to find.

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. 

Francis Moran
Francis Moran
Francis Moran is principal of Francis Moran & Associates, a consultancy that provides business-to-business technology ventures with the strategic counsel required to make their innovations successful in a highly competitive marketplace. Francis can be reached at [email protected]

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