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7 Ways To Guarantee Marketing Failure AND How To Avoid Them

Author's avatar By Danyl Bosomworth 04 Jun, 2010
Essential Essential topic

Anyone who"has worked in an "in-house" B2B or B2C marketing environment likely understands what it means when there's so much to do that you might scream, yet commercial pressures from within the business are pushing even harder for results. To work effectively with these pressures, it's important to still get the marketing fundamentals right and avoid distractions which will divert you off track.  Here's what I've found are 7  de-railers that limit any chance of marketing success and my advice on how to avoid derailment!

1. Flying Blind

If you don't know where you are going you'll end up somewhere else. Operating without considered objectives and/or a means to measure progress, including web analytics, is essentially flying blind. You might have an activity list, but you don't have a plan.

It's impossible to define success if you have no way to establish and track your objectives. Those objectives have to relate directly to the business objectives, otherwise you'll be out of synch with management. The same applies to other marketing measurements such as lead acquisition or building brand recall.

The consequences are serious, you'll spin around achieving nothing and the business will feel that digital marketing is adding nothing at the business level, whether it is or it isn't. I have experienced very senior managers that at times I have felt don't "get it" - and I learnt that a big part of my job was to make sure that they did. Senior managers must be on the same page as to what "success" in marketing or digital marketing really means; otherwise, you're in for some pretty uncomfortable meetings.

2. Seeking The Silver Bullet

The irony can be that the transparency arising from aligning marketing to the business (the point above) simplifies the realities of digital marketing. How often, due to time and target pressures, do we here the comment "Can we just...", whether the "just" is getting more natural search traffic, or converting more visitors leads.

99% of the time digital marketing success takes insight, creativity and application across a mix of activities to be successful. Rarely is there a silver bullet, and I'd suggest when there is it' s identified by chance.

Despite recognizing that we cannot bank on a single tactic to drive our businesses, some marketers (and senior managers) will continually try to do this. Maybe it's easier to agree and rationalise "action". Common examples are excessive use of sales promotion or discounting, or believing that PPC or affiliate programmes are infinitely scalable. Or that we have to put more time into our Facebook page because that's what everyones talking about at the moment. It's just not that easy.

So, decide on a mix that meets your budget - one that builds on past successes and also has room for experimentation to challenge and optimise that mix in the future.

3. Over Meeting

Suffice to say that meetings are ultimately about making decisions. In order to make decisions there needs to be clarity around roles and responsibilities, as well as any relevant supporting data to gain agreement. A missing or poor agenda in combination with these two elements is fundamentally why meetings take so long.

"Paralysis by analysis" is common where there's a lack of confidence to make the necessary call - it may be lack of confidence in the data, in the processes or in the team members. Yet, get it right and data can set you free.

Irrespective of data, what's needed is clear roles and responsibilities that allow a team to know who the decision maker is to make the call and pursue opportunities or initiatives. Somebody has to since deciding later is not a decision.

4. Dilution Of Resource And Energy

Plan and prioritise in realistic time frames like 30, 60 or 90 days. Despite there being a lack of silver bullets it doesn't mean that you can't focus on a few things at a time. This is where the effective and short meetings come in!

Prioritise activities and tactics in terms of their complexity and ROI (yep, you need to have a rough idea at least on ROI, see point 1 again!). Tackle each line item one at a time (two or three at a time if the resource is available - this is your decision, and there's that  word again).

This process will help keep you on-time and on-budget in order you can maneuver should the competitive landscape change. If you are doing too many things when a major competitive shift takes place, it could impact several projects and damage ROI, or worse leave you unable to adjust at all.

5. Understanding "Enough" About Your Market

It is very easy for marketers to feel that they already know their objectives, the opportunities and the threats, it is also easy to forget the voice of the consumers, their perspective, their media consumption habits, and of course your ever changing competitors.

It has never been easier to get access to market research, to listen to what customers and prospective customers are saying about your brand and to research and monitor the competition. There are just so many tools available for free (thanks Google) or at least very cheaply.

Taking the time to research and get a better understanding of the key drivers in buyer behavior such as the keyphrases used by purchasers (natural and paid) on transacting journeys and also understanding your share of the searching market on those keyphrases is but one example of that in action. Decisions are supported, and arguments settled, when there is solid data and research.

Research can sometimes be the source of wasted time (and meetings!). Assuming the research is useful (note - actionable), it's often the fact that some people are not empowered, resourced or confident enough to make the decisions.

6. Effective Delegation

You do not have to write every piece of copy, sign off every email, send every tweet or, dare I say it, attend every meeting. Nor do you need to be an expert in email marketing, social media, buyer psychology, copywriting and web usability.

You do need to have clarity on the big picture, what success looks like, understand the customer and the market, and manage resources, people and processes well. Success in digital marketing requires effective delegation and accessing external expertise at the right time.

It is increasingly difficult for marketers to both keep up on their own industries let alone the next big thing, for example Web 7.0 (only joking). I would always recommend that marketers get the overview, appreciate the strategic implications, set metrics, and - most importantly - hire and manage the right people who are best placed to do the job whether full time team members or part time experts. Particularly experts that can maintain the level of knowledge needed to be effective within their respective disciplines. Also - be alert to new technologies that make some jobs easier.

7. Poor Budget Management

It is pretty difficult to create a plan without having a budget in mind. It is difficult to know where to prioritise budget without understanding the overall spend and expected return. The key to planning and managing a budget is to consistently operate with ROI in mind and have an amount to test and play with.

There is a budget number tied in to every idea, every channel, every tactic and campaign. It has to fit within the budget of the marketing department, or if it supports other initiatives within the marketing mix, it can be moved from other areas. There can and should be an ROI number that we can have confidence in, enough confidence to prioritise and make decisions. There's that word again.


I believe that the single most important bit of experience that I can share is to have "enough" data, analytics, research, resource, planning time and (if you have to) meetings to get decisions made. They are the pre-cursor to doing something.

As Seth Godin says, "The goal is to have the rare skill of actually getting things done, making things happen and creating outcomes that people [employers] seek out.

You can read more about his thoughts on that here.

Author's avatar

By Danyl Bosomworth

Dan helped to co-found Smart Insights in 2010 and acted as Marketing Director until leaving in November 2014 to focus on his other role as Managing Director of First 10 Digital. His experience spans brand development and digital marketing, with roles both agency and client side for nearly 20 years. Creative, passionate and focussed, his goal is on commercial success whilst increasing brand equity through effective integration and remembering that marketing is about real people. Dan's interests and recent experience span digital strategy, social media, and eCRM. You can learn more about Dan's background here Linked In.

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