7 Classic Marketing Blunders that Cause Companies to Collapse

(or how to commit marketing  suicide in 7 easy steps)


Avoid the hangman by not making these 7 classic marketing blunders

“He was adamant in his opinion that advertising didn’t work, up until the day he ran a ‘Going Out Of Business’ ad!”

As the quote suggests, many of the marketing blunders that crash a business are ‘pilot error.’ In other words – self-inflicted by those running the business. During my 30+ years in marketing, working for all types of businesses, large and small, I’ve witnessed first-hand these seven, classic suicidal marketing blunders that owners, principals and senior management seem to prefer.

1. Not Having a Realistic Marketing Budget (or any budget at all)

“This is like trying to fly across the Atlantic with a 1/2 tank of fuel. Sure, you’ll make progress, but you won’t reach your destination!”

This is the #1 business killer. You must, must have a marketing budget that is large enough to promote your business effectively. Recently, I was retained by a new client, who just launched a carting company – a very competitive industry. He invested tens of thousands of dollars in trucks, dumpsters and equipment. And, how much did he allocate to marketing? “Zero!!!.” After all the start-up expenses, he had little money left to promote his business. Since I couldn’t help his terminally ill condition, I resigned the account. Soon, I suspect, his competitors will be able to buy slightly used dumpsters at a steep discount.

2. Not Making Marketing a Priority for Your Business

“If marketing is the engine that drives your business, shouldn’t you know how to turn the key?”

Many businesses struggle to stay alive because of ineffectively marketing – this stems from a single mindset – the people running the business don’t value marketing:

  • They don’t value marketing because they don’t understand its importance.
  • They don’t understand its importance because they don’t bother to study and gain knowledge about it.
  • And, they don’t gain knowledge because they don’t value it.

And so the vicious circle goes on and so on.

I tell my clients: “If you want to be successful in business, make marketing the first thing you do each day.” If you don’t, you’ll be consumed by the daily, “thick-of-thin-things” in running a business: answering phone calls, attending meetings, putting out fires, etc. and marketing will be the task you never get to.

3. Delegating Marketing to Inexperienced or Unqualified Staff

“Meet Suzie, our new Marketing Director, she just graduated with a Masters Degree in Social Media from Gotham Community College.”

This really is an extension of the second marketing suicide method: Not Making Marketing a Business Priority. Because they don’t understand or value its importance, many  principals and managers will delegate their marketing to an administrative assistant, junior employee, or someone fresh out of college, thinking it’s going to save a few bucks. It may in the short term, but your marketing efforts will continually fall short, and so will your bottom line.

4. Failing to Create a Long-Term Marketing Plan – Then Sticking to It

As Benjamin Franklin once said: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

His advice is especially true in marketing, and not following it is another effective business killer. Successful marketing is not a one-off effort, done haphazardly or sporadically – it is a sustained, long-term endeavor. If you want your business to live long and healthy – develop a strategic marketing plan, commit to it, refer back to it and refine it at least once a year.

5. Not Developing a Brand Strategy, Competitive Positioning and U.S.P

“I don’t know your company – I don’t know its products or services – I don’t know its record or reputation – I don’t know what it stands for…  Now – what is it you wanted to sell me?”

Following closely on the heels of not committing to a long-term marketing plan is not developing a brand strategy, competitive positioning or U.S.P. (Unique Selling Proposition).

  • Brand Strategy: this is more than a logo or slogan – it a thoughtful process of ensuring your core values and principles are reflected in your business image and marketing.
  • Competitive Positioning: understanding what makes your business unique and sets it apart from the competition is key to winning in the marketplace.
  • U.S.P: why should a customer do business with you, above any and all other options, including doing nothing, or whatever he/she is doing right now? Answer this question and your business will live a long and healthy life.

These three interrelated concepts form the legs of a successful marketing program. One, without the others, will cause everything else to collapse.

6. Trying To Be All Things To All People

“Trying to sell everything to everyone will only get you no sale to no one.”

Not recognizing who are your best customers and focus your marketing on them is a frequent mistake made by businesses – and an understandable one. No one wants to think they’re leaving money on the table. However, by narrowing your marketing to those customers who are most inclined to buy from you, your marketing will be more effective and cost efficient, thus more profitable.

7. Not Willing to Take Creative Risks

“You know you’ve got a winning idea, when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up!”

Most businesses are very risk adverse. This aversion to taking chances unfortunately leads to playing it safe in their marketing. They’ll produce ads that look the same and say the same as their competitors, and in doing so miss the opportunity to stand out. Many of the most memorable advertising campaigns, like those from Apple, Nike and Volkswagen took courage to buck the normal rules or advertising.

Let’s Review: So now that we’ve identified the top marketing suicide methods, it’s time to take the gun away from your head (figuratively speaking) and avoid these classic blunders in your own marketing program. Doing so will give your company a boost of vitality, ensuring it will “live long and prosper.”

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