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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reality Check: Understanding What to Expect from Marketing

Even though it’s happened to me many times over the years, I am always surprised what clients expect from marketing. Although they have been told of marketing’s key importance, they usually have invested most of their money in developing their product or service. Now they think they can get us to throw together a few ads, create a couple press releases and presto! they’ll be raking in the money in no time.

If only it were that easy!

The reality is, however, that marketing is a continuous, evolving process that begins by knowing who you are. How are you different from the competition? Who are your target audiences? What experience will they have when they interact with you? Marketing can help you identify your strengths and opportunities; marketing cannot make you into something you are not.

When your identity, key messages, graphics and actions align, you have the basis for your brand. Once you understand your brand, you have the footing to develop a marketing plan. Too often clients are already focusing on typefaces or colors, developing a website or getting a TV interview before they have done the basic foundational work of developing a solid market plan. A marketing plan will give you focus; it will not guarantee that everything you do will be successful.

Marketing is as much an art as it is a science. There will be trial and error. Something that works one month may not work the next. With consistent ongoing efforts, marketing can produce slow growth; marketing will not guarantee you overnight success. Anyone who guarantees you certain results in a fixed timeframe is not being honest. The only thing that is guaranteed is that if you don’t market at all, your business will stagnate and eventually die. Use your marketing plan as a benchmark that can be tweaked and changed as you evaluate what works and what doesn’t. But don’t be too quick to throw the baby out with the bath water. What you THINK may have been futile may have laid the groundwork for your next success.

It used to be said that three exposures to your message were needed before your target would act. But with all the noise that exists among traditional media, social media and other alternative methods of communication these days, the number of exposures is now said to be 9. Marketing is about frequency; marketing is not about doing something once and forgetting about it. It is possible to have a spike in sales from one ad or article placement, but if you don’t continue to build on that success, you’ll be right back where you started.

Marketing can convey how your product or service can solve a problem for the consumer; marketing cannot make people buy things they don’t want or can’t afford. If you haven’t crafted the right message, targeted the right audience or priced your service or product competitively, even the most brilliant idea can fail. Focus on what your service or product can do for the consumer. Consumers buy benefits (“It will make my life easier!”) not features (“It has 27 programmable buttons!”) Think about it: do you want something that makes your life easier or do you want all the work of having to program a bunch of buttons!

Marketing should be an investment; marketing cannot be expendable line item. When times get tough, marketing is often the first thing to be cut. This is a mistake. Whether you do it yourself or you pay someone to do it, marketing needs to be a daily activity. This is even more true in an economic downturn. People who keep talking with their target audience will still be top of mind when the economy turns around. Those who disappear will be doing a lot of catch up at a much higher price.

If you are realistic about what marketing can and can’t do, your efforts will no doubt be rewarded. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Why do you think so many people hire us to do it?

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posted by Head Noodler @ 6:01 PM

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