How to Avoid the High Cost of Marketing Mistakes

Does Your Marketing Cost Too Much?

There’s no doubt about it, marketing mistakes can be expensive, especially for a growing business. You want to invest wisely and maximize returns, but that’s not as easy as it sounds. Even my most business-savvy  clients regularly ask me questions like, “How can I improve my marketing ROI?

Here’s one answer that always works: Shift from a reactive to a proactive approach.

Reactive marketing means you’re doing something because someone else suggested you should. It could be a vendor pushing a great new service, or one of your bosses that has an awesome marketing campaign in mind. Because these “opportunities” are situational and spur of the moment, they carry a big risk of sucking your budget dry with limited results.

Avoiding reactive marketing can be tricky, especially if your manager insists that the latest idea is simply the greatest. When you’re accountable for marketing results, take a moment to assess what’s really going on before moving forward. Watch for these three cues that you’re about to step into reactive marketing:

1. Roadblocks in your path– Responding to whoever happens to be calling on you today is dangerous for marketing ROI. The pitch usually sounds like this: “I have a great special on an ad package, but it expires tomorrow.” Believe me, it they’re offering you that deal today, you can negotiate something similar it later, and probably do even better.

There is always a path around roadblocks, but first you need to recognize them for what they are.There are internal roadblocks as well, such as “use it or lose it” budget ultimatums and well-meaning executives who insist your try their suggestion. Don’t, unless you’re confident it will yield real results.

2. Tugging at your Heartstrings – Letting emotional appeal overshadow your business sense is a sure way to waste money. When you get a call to a support a charity, give to an important cause or sponsor a special event , you still need to think about what’s in it for your business.

  • Will participating help you reach your target customers?
  • Will it give your business visibility and build your brand
  • Will is increase your company’s reputation in the industry or community?

If you can’t find a valid business case, it’s best to pass on these opportunities. If you find that you or your company’s executives are really passionate about a cause, find another way to support it like encouraging employees to volunteer or making a donation instead.

3. Fear of missing out – Just because “everyone is doing it” doesn’t make a marketing tactic right for your business. Any time there is a new shiny object to capture your imagination, the opportunity arises to waste marketing dollars. New marketing fads can easily trigger the instinct to get there first or not be left behind, and that’s where waste happens. Think before you commit your precious marketing dollars.

For example, in recent years social media and SEO are two areas where executives fell victim to the fear of missing out, particularly because the nuances seemed somewhat magical and mysterious. If you don’t fully understand something but feel pressured to do it, get objective advice before proceeding. (And I don’t mean ask the agency that’s selling to you, they’ll be happy to tell you it’s the next big thing! Talk to someone who knows, but doesn’t have a stake in your decision.)

In contract, proactive marketing is planned and purposeful. It’s not random, on a whim or reactive. Proactive marketing meets three important criteria. It is:

  • Strategic – Decisions about what to do when are made based on how each initiative fits into your strategic marketing plan, and how they work together to help achieve your objectives. This requires you to have a marketing strategy, but it doesn’t need to be a long, complex document. It can be as simple as saying, “I know my best customers are health-conscious local moms in their 30s and 40s with lots of discretionary income. I’m going to be sure that my marketing appeals directly to them.
  • Intentional – Smart choices about marketing tactics are made with focus and intent. If you want to run a campaign, sponsor an event, offer an incentive or run a special, you’re doing so because the activity is directly tied to a specific marketing objective. You can only do this if you’ve checked off the strategy box, so start there. Then you can say, “Yes, this fits,” or “No, that’s not going to reach the right people.
  • ConsistentMarketing is not a faucet that you can turn on an off at will. The most successful tactics have a rhythm to them, using repeated and consistent patterns to make an impression on customers. When you commit to marketing consistently over time, without spontaneous stops and starts, you’ll dramatically improve your results because of the residual value of your prior efforts. You’ll also find that as time goes by, less investment is needed because your building on the awareness and reputation you’ve already established. It’s like compounding interest…the impact grows over time.

A final note about proactive vs. reactive marketing. You can and should be reactive to business conditions. It’s good business sense to have tactical activities at the ready that you can deploy if business slows down unexpectedly. This is different that the reactive marketing described above, because you are driving the decision process, not responding to an outside stimulus. As long as you’re in control and can measure your choices against your own decision criteria, you’ll be in good shape.

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