29 March 2006

Why doesn't Marketing deliver results for smaller businesses?

Marketing should focus on the profitable delivery of products or services to customers. Does it manage to do that in practice? In manufacturing they say “you get what you inspect, not what you expect”. On that basis, very few companies get what they expect out of marketing. Why is that? Why do companies advertise, produce brochures or buy stand space at industry trade shows without measuring the payback? I don’t have a good answer – but unless businesses try to measure and test what they are doing, then it is probable that they will spend money which doesn’t give them the market advantages that they hope for.

One of the reasons that marketing doesn’t often deliver a payback is that for many smaller companies, marketing is confused with advertising. Now that wouldn’t be a bad misconception if they had an idea about what kind of advertising would work for them. Too often, a fledgling business takes a look around the market and decides to loosely copy or “improve on” the advertising that is being placed by its competitors. There is no question - copying competitors’ advertising strategies is nearly always guaranteed to end in failure. The competitors aren’t sure what works, they aren’t measuring what they are doing and much of their investment is probably money down the drain, too. For the smaller business, there is little merit in brand advertising, but an advert with a clear call to action can work well, providing it is correctly placed and the offer is presented with compelling copy.

So, how can Marketing be made to deliver? I’ll use direct mailing as an example to illustrate the point. Many businesses carry out direct mailings. They have a brochure, or they print a brochure or promotional offer specially, they send out the mailing to their entire database and they don’t track whether they gain any sales as a result. They aren’t disappointed with the results – how could they be, they aren’t doing any measurement? Businesses like this are often pleased that they are carrying out a marketing activity because they feel that it’s a good thing to be doing something.

These companies need to develop a clear idea of what it is they want to achieve and then start measuring the effectiveness of everything they do. Any direct mail should only be undertaken after they have tested the offer thoroughly and are confident that it will produce an economic return.

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