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May 18, 2019


4 min read

Why “Marketing” Doesn’t Work

Richard Byrd
Why “Marketing” Doesn’t Work

Often times when people think marketing, they aren’t really thinking about marketing.

I’ll explain—first, by telling you what marketing is not.

Marketing is not one-off magazine advertisements. It’s not tradeshow booths. It’s not giveaways. It’s not paid search or SEO. It’s not social media content or videos. It’s not the cool new marketing tech tools either. It’s not your CRM, CMS, or fancy marketing automation system. These items are simply marketing tactics.

Don’t get me wrong: all these things can be an effective part of a good marketing campaign. But they unto themselves are not marketing. If used correctly, marketing tactics can be an integral part of a greater strategy.

On numerous occasions I’ve seen companies skip the crucial step of formulating a strategy and skip right to marketing tactics. They don’t take the time to consider all the pieces of a marketing strategy, and then think about how these pieces work together in a much larger marketing campaign.

Soon they are left with an almost impossible way to gauge the true return on their marketing investment. Using tactics by themselves aren’t very measurable when they aren’t tied to a larger strategic objective.

Poor results? Then why stay the course?

Companies use disparate marketing tactics year after year. They place an ad in a trade publication before a big show. They spend thousands on extremely novel giveaways to hand out at their booth. They sponsor a speaking engagement, logo displayed behind the panel. But in the end, they don’t get any results. No positive outcomes, like uptick in traffic to their website, highly qualified sales leads—or better yet—an increase in sales revenue.

Why don’t they change? Likely because this is the way it has always been done before. Even if they aren’t getting to where they want to be from a revenue growth perspective, they are afraid that if they stop deploying these marketing tactics things will get even worse.

What should they do? Begin by stopping what they are doing—what has traditionally garnered little return—and start examining their objectives with fresh eyes.

Throw away tactics and get strategic

Let’s say you were one of these repeat offenders. Let’s start anew. First things first: think about what would make a material difference for your company. From there, you need to build a campaign that serves that, starting with a good diagnostic approach.

And please—be proactive. Don’t wait until you’re losing market share or have given in to demands to reduce pricing. Realize now where you stand in the marketplace, diagnose your strengths and weaknesses properly, and design a marketing campaign aligned to your brand and to your goals. Dig deep and ask questions. What does success look like for you? What will give you more bang for your buck? Once you know this, you can better understand how to achieve and even surpass your marketing goals.

Getting right down to it

When working with companies, I begin by asking serious questions about what they are trying to accomplish. Topics we explore can be anything from last year’s revenue trends to what the company’s revenue should be three to five years from now. Then more probing questions: How are they going to do that? What are some ways to get there? What obstacles are standing in the way?

In my experience, companies usually have a number in mind, but rarely how they will reach it with the help of marketing. For instance, your goal could be to ride the market to a 12 percent growth rate. But if we think about this, unless you are in a high-growth industry, don’t count on it. Chances are that you are in a mature industry and your competition is getting stronger and stronger. And competition is not going to just let you grow 12 percent because you’re nice people.

But what if you take a different route and start by breaking down your market by customer type and product line? Are you launching new technology? How will your existing customers adopt it? Are you selling legacy technology as much to new customers as to old customers?

This is the beginnings of a solid strategy—a true marketing perspective to help sales hit those revenue numbers.


Achieving growth: Breaking it down into quadrants

A good way to brainstorm growth opportunity is  to divide customers and products, legacy and new, into separate categories.  Counter clockwise from bottom right: legacy products for legacy customers (low risk, yet low growth),   new products for legacy customers (low risk/moderate growth potential), new products for new customers (higher risk, but with higher growth potential), and legacy products for new customers (low risk, but moderate growth potential.)

Understanding the 4Ps: Product, Placement, Promotion, and Price

As I mentioned before, many companies go straight to promotion, not realizing this is only one aspect marketing. True marketing covers the “Four Ps”: Product, Placement, Promotion, and Price.


To market a new product to customers, you’ll do best to examine these multiple avenues, broken down here with some questions for discussion:

  • Product: Do you have a new offering? Does it complement your existing offerings, or will it replace current offerings?
  • Placement: What channels to market make sense for your product? (For many B2B companies, that might mean looking outside your traditional distribution models.) Do you work with distributors? How is that working? Are you in the right geographies? Which ones are performing best?
  • Pricing: For your legacy products, can you see and uplift by simply adjusting the price of the product? With new features and added benefits, can you expect customers to pay more?
  • Promotion: (This is the aspect that most people think about when they think marketing. But as you can see, it’s only one aspect and certainly not where you should start.) How do we get the word out now that our message has been shaped for our target audience? What marketing tactics should we use? What traditional and digital marketing channels should we use as part of a campaign?

Again—I can’t stress this enough. Promotion should be your last step.

Marketing success is based on diagnosis, not tactics: My final chirp

You’ve tried marketing tactics. They don’t get sustained results. You need a plan, with tactics being part of the plan. Remember: they are not THE plan.

By being proactive, reflective, and honest at the beginning of your marketing strategy, you’ll get an understanding of why things aren’t working and better yet—what might work best. This is where working with a consultant can pay dividends; someone who can provide an outside-in view and has real-world experience and can push pack on current assumptions is key.

And what if some things don’t work? Don’t give up. If you know your target audience and what they are looking for, you’ll come to understand the right message for them, deployed using the right methods.

Prepare for takeoff.

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