Why Most Marketing Doesn’t Work

Does your marketing get lost in the crowd?

We live is a fast-paced, ever-changing world. It seems the demands on our time, the voices screaming for our attention get louder every day. There’s a ton of opportunity out there. So many needs to meet, ways to serve, problems to solve. Yet many organizations still struggle to succeed and grow. Why is that? Whether you run a non-profit mission, lead a small business, or are a partner in a professional firm it’s just tough to get noticed by the people you want to help. Even if you get noticed, you then have to be believable. Assuming you can capture the attention of your ideal audience, and they actually believe you can do what you say you can do for them, have you made the case that your product or service is worth more than something else they would rather do with their money? Organizations rely on their marketing to answer these questions.

To some, marketing is looked upon almost as a necessary evil…it’s trying to con people into buying something they really don’t need or putting a fresh face on a sub-par product. I suppose less scrupulous businesses could use their marketing efforts for these purposes, but that’s not you, right? You genuinely want to help people and have a way to do that. With that in mind let me share with you some of the most common reasons why good people and good companies don’t have the impact they could have and why their marketing efforts come up short.

    • Wrong Focus – What I mean by that is all the marketing focus is placed on describing the product or service offered. I know it sounds logical, but the truth is, people don’t care about what you have to offer nearly as much as they care about whatever problem they want to solve and whatever positive benefit they want to experience that your service will help them enjoy. So step back and take a fresh look at the focus of your marketing message. Do your headlines and graphics emphasize what you offer or how it will help your customer? Which is better: “These sheets are made with the finest grade of Egyptian cotton, that have been meticulously sewn to ensure long life wash after wash,” or “You’ll feel like a queen as you slide under sheets so soft, that you’ll think you’re a guest at Buckingham Palace.”  Which sentence creates a stronger mental picture in your head? Which one focuses more on how you will feel?
    • Too Bland – Years ago Seth Godin wrote a best-selling book called The Purple Cow in which he makes the point that if you are driving along a highway and see a field of cows, that is an unremarkable scene, not something that would grab your attention or be memorable. But if you happened to see a purple cow, now that would be something to remember and share with your friends when you arrived at your destination. Most marketing today is peppered with unremarkable adjectives: “best,” “great value,” “sure-fire.” After a while it all starts to sound like more blah, blah, blah. I had a boss years ago who challenged me to read whatever promotion copy I had written and ask myself if I could insert the name of several other similar products, would my copy still read well. If so, I needed to start over because I was not writing about my product (which happened to be a magazine) in a way that was unique enough to be truly helpful and compelling. I started over…and my marketing text got sharper, clearer, more visual and more interesting.
    • Inconsistent application – Most marketing types are creative.  As creative people they get bored easily.  Short attention spans are common. As a result, we want to try lots of different marketing campaigns and themes, and try lots of different strategies. The problem is that it takes time and repetition to get your message out there. There are always a few “one-hit-wonder” exceptions we can look at but more organizations need to have continuity and consistency over a period of time in order to build brand recognition for what they offer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for constantly testing new ideas, new ways to reach your audience. But don’t confuse a systematic, thoughtful testing of new marketing concepts and promotional offers as a part of your overall messaging with having a scattered marketing strategy. If you have a local audience, you can afford to reach that audience through multiple channels. Doing social media, radio, billboards, newspapers, and direct mail all within a highly targeted zip code area is not unreasonably expensive. However if you are selling nationally, you may want to focus on a few channels of exposure and hit those consistently and with a consistent message, evaluating your results before you broaden out into other avenues. Are you trying to do too many things and as a result none of your efforts is really having that much impact?

Is it time to do an objective review of your strategies? It’s a noisy world. Make sure your messaging is clear, compelling, authentic, and on-point with the needs of your audience. If you’ve got something the world needs it would be a shame for people to miss out just because you didn’t work hard enough or strategically enough for them to notice.

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