Five Marketing Fallacies

Five Marketing Fallacies

Does any business discipline generate as much misinformation, oversimplification, or just plain bad advice as marketing? The more I see and hear about “how-to” market a business, the more convinced I am that many marketing consultants are doing a disservice to the very businesses they’re trying to help.

There’s no question that many businesses— especially small and mid-sized companies— need guidance to most effectively market their products or services. However, the cacophony of marketing rhetoric, buzzwords, and contradictory advice clogging the airwaves, bookshelves, and Internet fails to provide that direction. Instead, you get one-size-fits-all solutions (that don’t) and advice that’s based on the agenda of its provider, not the needs of its recipient. Confusion results.

The goal of this editorial is not to add to that confusion, but to expose some of the most common marketing fallacies being foisted upon business owners, CEOs, and marketing types.

Fallacy #1: Marketing, in and of itself, can be the key to your company’s success.

This is a lie perpetuated by marketing professionals who know only marketing, not the principles of what truly drives a successful business. Yes, marketing is important. It could very well be the most important element in your quest for success; if your service or product is not unique (as most aren’t), the difference between being an industry leader or an also-ran may hinge on your ability to market your company better than the competition.

But no matter how effective your marketing is, you need a capable organization behind you to succeed…at least in the long term. Good marketing counsel must take into account the company’s overall business goals and issues. That’s why, when clients tell me they need help with marketing strategy, the first thing I ask is how marketing fits into their overall business strategy. If they can’t answer, it usually indicates that they need to take a couple of steps back and develop a viable business plan that can give their marketing plan some direction.

Fallacy #2: The best way to get good press is to hire a PR company with the right connections.

The big PR outfits promote this falsehood because they sell the point that only they can get you the press you want because only they have the necessary contacts. There are at least two reasons that this is a misperception:

  • 1 – Connections with the right media contacts are relatively easy to develop, as long as you know how to do it. Most editors and writers are simply trying to get the best story as quickly and efficiently as they can. From a time management standpoint, they can’t afford to do otherwise. So if you provide an editor or writer what they need to get their job done more effectively, whether you have an existing relationship with them or not, you’ll get their attention. And then you’ll have the connections.
  • 2 – The media is notoriously volatile in terms of personnel changes. Editors and writers come and go at a clip unmatched by most professions. The relationship you develop inside a key publication today could be rushing off to a place you don’t care about tomorrow. So, once again, it’s more important to know how to provide useful, topical information to further the goals of the publication than it is to develop a friendship with a transitory contact who happens to be calling the shots at that moment.

Fallacy #3: You should avoid e-mail marketing because customers will think you’re spamming them.

The popularity of e-mail marketing is actually reducing its overall effectiveness because many people, fed up with the daily barrage of electronic communications, now instinctively click “delete” every time they receive an unsolicited e-mail. This has led some to conclude that marketing via e-mail will hurt, not enhance, a company’s reputation.

Should you be careful with e-mail marketing to avoid the perception that you’re spamming? Yes. But e-mail marketing is simply too cost-effective to leave out of your marketing arsenal. The key is to use e-mail marketing intelligently, rather than indiscriminately (as many novices do). You can do this through techniques such as writing a compelling subject line, making sure to target the right recipients, including information that’s relevant and valuable to the audience, and creating an e-mail marketing campaign that customers and prospects will actually request from you (such as an informative e-mail newsletter or online seminar series).

Fallacy #4: More is always better.

Some marketers would have you believe that you can never market too much, but I’ve found that to be false. You can reach a point where you’re guilty of “overmarketing.” And that could ultimately hurt your reputation among many clients and prospects.

Repetitive marketing works— whether through personal appearances, direct mail, electronic means, or some other form. You just have to know when to turn the switch down…or when to turn one switch off and another on.

Fallacy #5: You have to advertise where your competitors advertise.

Traditional advertising has its benefits. Unlike some forms of marketing, you control the message completely. An attractive, well-placed ad can do a lot to further your company’s reputation and positioning goals. And once a campaign is developed, it’s pretty easy to transfer it from source to source and medium to medium.

But many companies use advertising as a crutch. Ask a company why its marketing program is ineffective and you’ll often hear the baffled explanation, “But we advertised everywhere we were supposed to advertise.” It’s easy to keep plugging the same old ad with the same old message in the same old places…then write out a hefty check and feel like you’ve done your job. Hey, money talks, right? If you spend $20,000 on a full-page ad, what more can you do?

A lot. Advertising should be part of your company’s marketing program, not the bulk of it. It makes sense to advertise in places where your absence would be noticed. You may even want to spring for a big, splashy, expensive ad now and then. But unless you’re trying to appeal to the mass market, unless you’re Coca-Cola or Proctor & Gamble, you’re usually better off marketing through more personal, direct forms of communication. Use traditional advertising selectively and cost-effectively, not reflexively.

One last thing to consider: Take all the advice you get about marketing, this article included, with a healthy dose of skepticism. The best approach is to absorb all you can, take to heart all that applies to your particular situation, and discard the rest. Then do something. And stick with it. Many well-intentioned marketing plans never get off the ground due to inaction or bureaucracy. Many derail when the powers-that-be don’t see immediate or quantifiable results.

Any company that employs an aggressive marketing program– one that is strategic, well planned, and given time to succeed– will see its reputation spread and its business grow. And that’s the truth.

Jerry Guerra
February 13, 2003