Why Marketing Programs Fail – Reason # 5

May 20, 2009

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

As marketers, we all have a specialized skill set that allows organizations to attract and retain customers.  This is what we do.  Yet how often does someone in finance think they can write copy, lawyers crush the intent of the copy, or sales tries to take the lead on creative?  We’ll all experienced this.  Today’s blog tells you how to diplomatically keep these individuals at bay – so you can do your job well 

  • Thank them for their input and interest.  Once you thank them you have their attention.  Then you can explain why things are the way they are.  Much of the time this will be sufficient to get them out of your hair. 
  • Ask them why the change to copy/input is important.  You’ll likely get an excuse of some type – to which you restate the goals and strategy of the program and how although their idea is “interesting”, it does not fit the particular project you are working on.
  • Address the impact of their suggestion on the budget of the program.  One client we had wanted us to mail a block of wood etched with a marketing message in it.  Besides the obvious difficulty in mass etching a block of wood, the post office was less than thrilled.   This program died a quiet death once the costs were considered
  • Go over their head.  This is a last resort, but if thanking them and discussing the project with them (to make them feel included) does not work, you may need to go to a senior ally in the organization and work top down.  If you do this, be sure to have a solid case for your POV.
  • If all else fails, document everything.  If it turns out you have to do it their way, document everything.  (Especially the impact you think the changes will have on costs/response/customer reaction).  Provide alternative plans along the way.  When the program fails, do not rub it in their face.  Instead show how the program results were as you expected (and shared), talk about what was learned from the program, and propose one of your (original) ideas as a next step.

Too many cooks in the kitchen can be delicate as far as client relations and internal politics go, but with a little foresight you can come out on top – or at least not tarnished as you could be.

Happy Marketing



American Idol Ends 2-Nite

May 19, 2009

American Idol:  I love to watch the show but can not stand the rampant cross-promotion that is so much of the program.  I would be happy if each performer sings 2 or 3 songs, and the judged judge and it’s over.  Instead I will have to endure another ‘pop-star’ huck their latest album or worse yet tired old stars reliving past glories. 

It was kinda creepy during disco week this year when some disco-diva grannies came out in form fitting sequin crusted gowns to sing hits from 30 years ago.  I felt like my Great Aunt from New Jersey was about to take the stage next and do the chicken dance like she does at every family event I attend.

In any case, Adam loses tonight.  Kris wins the prize – but gets divorced in a few years.  Such is the price of fame.

Why Marketing Programs Fail – Reason #4

May 19, 2009

  A few years back I was running the marketing for a financial services company.  We were in the middle of a mailing and did not see the typical response to the promotion via our web site or service center.  We contacted the agency that was managing the promotion for us and they assured us that all was fine – yet we had not seen a single 3602.   (A 3602 is the proof of mailing certificate the post office provides).  After a few more days of waiting I sent one of my teammates up to the letter shop unannounced.  When he got there he found that the entire mailing was still on the dock awaiting a new indicia. 

It turns out that the post office rejected the mailing due to a technical violation of the rules.  No one told us.  The lettershop had hoped to fix the error without telling us. Hiding issues is one of the biggest sins in my book when it comes to vendor performance.  Here are some warning signs that mean it may be time to find a new vendor;

  • There is a lot of turn-over in the account management team. 
  • The company is being sold or bought
  • They have no available positions (slowing sales) or are always hiring a specialized skill such as programming. 
  • Deadlines are continually missed
  • It is difficult to get a straight answer from the organization
  • Your requirements no longer align with the organization

 Lastly, to stay on top of vendors you should do a quarterly meeting with them to discuss what went well, what challenges were faced (and how they were handled) and what goal/projects will be for the next 3 to 6 months.

 Good luck and good vendor managing

Why Marketing Programs Fail – Reason #3

May 15, 2009

You Design for Yourself and Not the Customer

A number of years ago I worked for an ad agency for one of the big 3 auto makers.  My team had just completed an extensive analysis of customers who bought a car and what made them tick.  While delivering our findings we called out the fact that first-time new car buyers like the vehicle a lot.  At this point the brand manager interjected “Oh that can’t be right – Car A car is our entry level car.  Car B is supposed to be our BMW 3 series fighter”

Needless to say our marketing did not convert the BMW aspirant to Detroit Steel. 

Not knowing who your customer is (and what is important to them) is another sure-fire way to kill a marketing program.  More unforgivable is the point illustrated above – ignoring who your customer is to fit into a niche you have created for them.  Big companies have a tendency to do this – despite having a vast amount of customer data and access to research.  So here again is another list of things you ought to consider to become more customer centric 

  • If your customers all say service is an issue.  It probably is.  If you can not solve your service issue, do not tell the world about your ‘great service team’.  Focus on what you do well.  Denny’s would never promote service or cleanliness.  They promote price and volume (of food).
  • Evolve into what you think your customers want.  Revolutionary change rarely works.  Change a few things in your messaging/creative and gradually move towards the end state.  And don’t forget to test the changes you make.
  • Don’t force customers into response channels because they are cheap. A lot of companies drive customers to website or automated phone (IVR) systems because of the low cost to serve.  However, if your product is complicated or is better suited to person to person interaction, a bunch of voice prompts or stale FAQ’s will do a lot of damage to customer perception.
  • Form an online panel of customers to tell you how they feel.  An online panel is particularly useful in getting real-time opinions to current events, new products, or on-going issues.  They also can become evangelists for your brand.  A good panel is invaluable.

I hope these tips help you grow your business.  If you’ve got questions or think I am full of it, reply back and tell me what you think.  I’ll listen.

Why Marketing Programs Fail – Reason #2

May 14, 2009

A Failure to Operationalize the Campaign

This happens too often to mention.  A campaign is launched but the service center is not aware of the campaign and is unprepared for a surge in calls or the discount code needed to get free shipping on the web site is not set up correctly.

Failures in marketing operations not only cause stress for your co-workers, they often lead to dissatisfied customers and higher costs to serve.  Fortunately with a little advance planning most of the issues associated with operations can be solved with a simple check list.  Here are 7 questions you should always ask before kicking off a project;

  • Will the project require changes to the web site?
  • Will the project create calls to the service center?
  • Will the project impact field sales?
  • What do I want to measure/learn from the project?
  • What tactics will I use to execute the campaign?
  • How will orders be fulfilled
  • What other projects will be in market at the same time?

For each of these questions, identify the person(s) responsible for the task and invite them to a project kick-off.  Go over all details of the project and make sure everyone leaves the room understanding the project and what is required from them.  This is important.  If the team is unaware of expectations, you will have last minute fire drills. 

That’s it for today.  Obviously there are a host of activities that come out of the kick-off – and it is unlikely that everyone will march out of the kick-off meeting in lock-step with you and your goals. But…..

….that is a subject for a different blog posting on a date in the near future.  Until then, keep the creative juices flowing.

Why Direct Marketing Programs Fail – Reason #1

May 13, 2009

A failure to set expectations-

The surest way to hang both you and your team is to set unrealistic expectations regarding the success of a given marketing program.  A campaign that garners 100 profitable sales will be viewed as a failure if it only hits 90 sales whereas setting expectations at 90 sales and hitting 93 will be viewed as more successful even if the profitability is lower than in the former example.  Sorry, this is the way humans work

In order to prevent this from happening, here are 5 things you need to do before you publish expected results;

  • (duh) Look at past campaign results.  What have been results in the past?  What type of trends do you see?  Pull this data in (however subjective) and use it to filter results (up or down)
  • Round down.  Publish 90% of what you think results will be.  Underestimating results slightly will help put a reasonable estimate in front of your client/boss – and help cover your butt
  • Understand why the organization needs a certain response.  If you know that the goal can not be reached with the program you are designing, show why and (more importantly) how you can reach the number. Be prepared to offer to pull the plug on the program if goals can not be met or get the team to agree to lower number  (maybe trade raw results for profitability)
  • Plan B.  When early results show lower than expected number, have an alternative plan/campaign in you back pocket.  If you were good about raising concerns early you can look like a hero when you say “I was worried this might happen, here’s a plan to make things better moving forward…”
  • Innovate – find ways to spice up the campaign with the caveat that these are tests and it will be hard to predict the results.  Get agreement to just “see what happens”. 

Keep all these points in mind and you will likely (note: I qualified my promise) have more satisfied clients and co-workers

Post Number 1

October 23, 2008

Tomorrow when you get up,  I want you all to try to count the number of marketing impressions you are exposed to during a given day and then try to think about 10 that caught your eye.  I bet very few messages got through the clutter of your day.

Now ask yourself –are you getting through to your customers and prospects?