Time for a new marketing approach?

You’re just not pleased with the way things are going. Sales seem to be down, despite that new marketing campaign you launched three months ago. And frankly, you’re tired of it.

So toss it aside and come up with something new.

Bad idea. And I say that as someone who profits when companies need brand-new marketing approaches, because it usually means that they need a new website, brochures, advertising — all those things they hire people like me to help them create.

Company leaders who change their marketing approaches only slightly less often than they change their underwear are usually wasting time and money. Simply put, if your company needs a new marketing approach every few months, something is fundamentally wrong — and the problem isn’t in your marketing.

Marketing and advertising efforts often become the proverbial tail that’s expected to wag the dog. Companies invest buckets of money in marketing and advertising as though they were some kind of magic potion crafted to solve a whole flock of issues. Sales staff just not producing? Let’s run a better ad! Some inherent flaws hurting the product’s competitiveness? We’ll spin its advantages and ignore the rest! Customers think our price is too high? Let’s make our website’s design fancier!

That’s because far too many managers think marketing begins when they’re ready to promote a product or service. In reality, promotion is only one component of the marketing process. It requires far more depth than coming up with a single clever ad or a witty web address. Essentially, it demands that you really know your customer (not just think you know her), understand her needs, develop an effective and affordable response to those needs — and then, and only then, make her aware of that response through promotion.

It’s true that you can use marketing tactics to soften the rough edges of your product or service, but trying to rely upon those techniques as a quick fix for everything is invariably going to fall short of your expectations. That’s when many managers declare marketing to be worthless, because they tried something and it didn’t work.

Fact is, the most effective marketing approaches are consistent, long-term efforts that are built upon a company’s strategic plan. When you think about it, that makes perfect sense, because the strategic plan spells out the company’s mission, vision, and the long-term strategy for connecting the two. Marketing activities are a key part of the steps that turn the strategy into action. So, if you’re not changing your strategy every few months, you probably shouldn’t be changing your marketing that often.

Should you adjust and adapt your efforts to reflect what’s happening in your marketplace, or to seize unanticipated opportunities? Absolutely. But that’s not the same as throwing everything out and starting from scratch every time you feel frustrated and disappointed. In fact, if your feelings are what’s driving your marketing efforts, that may be the root of your problems. Business strategies should be based upon rational and dispassionate analyses, not upon your emotions at any given moment.

Think of the large companies you admire. What do they stand for? Can you describe them in a short phrase? Odds are their basic marketing philosophies and executions have been consistent over years (and I mean years, not months). Sure, they’ll toss in a new ad strategy here and there, or layer on a new component like a texting-powered promotion, but the underlying strategies remain the same. I could name a dozen companies, and the images that pop up in your mind would be identical to what pops up in mine.

That’s because those companies know who they are, and they know what appeals to their marketplace — and they have the confidence in that knowledge to stay focused over the long term. They’re not shifting gears every three or four months or jumping every time a competitor provides some kind of perceived threat.

If you’re not 100 percent sure of who your company is and what your marketplace wants, you probably shouldn’t spend so much on trying to create connections between the two. You may actually succeed from time to time, but it will be more of a lucky accident than the result of brilliant strategy.

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Scott Flood creates effective copy for companies and other organizations. His guide to evaluating freelance creative talent, The Smarter Strategy for Selecting Suppliers, can be downloaded at https://sfwriting.com/freeguide, and his blog is at https://sfwriting.com/blog. ©2014 Scott Flood All rights reserved.

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