The E Myth Revisited, the classic on entrepreneurism by Michael Gerber, talks about the needless management failures of small businesses. I’m reading it for the first time (thanks Kaarina Dillabough for suggesting it). It reminds me of the needless, all-too-familiar small and midsize business marketing failures I’ve seen over and over again.
So here are the top five causes for marketing failure that make me wonder: “What are these people thinking?”
Maybe you have a few others you’d like to add in the comments below.
1. Willful failure to understand and heed the customer
Small business owners can be so overwhelmed by operations that they don’t have time to communicate with customers on a regular basis. But what about those that have time for trade shows, association meetings and being wined and dined by vendors – but no time to study and interact with the influencers and decision-makers who can make or break their business?
The sad truth is many business owners, especially in B2B businesses, aren’t curious about their customers’ needs, ideas and feelings until sales start to plummet. Fail!
2. Failure to create key relationships
Taking it a step further, businesses often have no relationship with a customer company’s actual decision maker. It’s not easy to form these relationships, but if you can offer them some value – information, perhaps – you can make your own luck. A B2B firm may get 80% of its revenue from a handful of individuals within their client companies. It’s essential to create relationships with them, ask questions about their needs and issues – and listen.
The same principle holds true for B2C businesses. If you can’t meet them in person, identify the digital marketing tools you can use to create relationships. Can’t make the effort? Fail!
3. Failure to develop or adhere to a plan
This is where a lot of companies let the perfect become the enemy of the good. You don’t need a perfect plan. But you do need:
- An understanding of the people you’re trying to serve
- An educated idea of where the marketing opportunity exists
- Some ideas of how marketing might serve that opportunity
- Some reasonable goals
- Some ways of measuring your progress
A plan, based on some knowledge of your market, helps you develop momentum and supports your business objectives. What you shouldn’t do is lurch from initiative to initiative, with no organizing principle. No time to formulate a plan? Fail!
4. Failure to develop key (or strategic) messages
To me, this is the foundation upon which marketing is built. But it’s a step that even sizable businesses skip. So instead of being market leaders, they just muddle along.
Companies that don’t develop a set of compelling, complementary messages, using consistent, plain-spoken language, risk boring customers and employees alike. And confusing them. Fail!
5. Failure to address major weaknesses in products and services
Do your prospects just not get why they should give you their business? Do they keep objecting to your product, pricing, or to some other component of your overall solution?
Or are you just not listening to what they’re telling you?
When the market signals that you are not meeting its needs, go back to the drawing board. Invite your best customers to go with you. Make fixes that allow you to compete.
Unfortunately, many businesses think marketing’s role is to paper over substantial product problems. Fail!
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These are some of marketing failures I’ve seen over and over again. I bet you’ve seen some – can you add to the list?