Posted: November 29, 2009
The seven deadly sins of marketing and sales
Avoid these or suffer the consequencesChristopher J. Ryan
The original seven deadly sins are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. While the marketing equivalents aren't as serious, they can lead you to marketing and sales disaster if not addressed.
Deadly Sin 1: Lack of Self-Awareness. When I refer to self-awareness, I am talking about not only understanding who you are as a marketing or sales professional, but also where you shine (or don't) as a company. For most of us, our personal weaknesses can be found opposite our strengths. If you are studious and contemplative, some may see you as standoffish. If you are aggressive and persistent, some may view you as obnoxious or a bully. On the company side, self-awareness means acknowledging when your competitors are better at certain things than you are, and vice versa. If you do this in a spirit of openness and truth seeking, I guarantee it will be time well-spent.
Deadly Sin 2: Perfectionism. There are certain areas of life where perfectionism is highly valued-brain surgery and symphonic music are good examples. However, in marketing and sales, the need to be perfect can be counterproductive and the struggle for perfection can freeze you into inaction. Note that I am not encouraging mediocrity in any fashion. You need to be very good at what you do. However, good and perfect are two very different things. You need to realize that consistency and quantity of output are important characteristics of productive marketing, and a needless (and fruitless) search for perfection can be a detriment to your success. When you are tempted to pursue perfectionism, remember the words of Voltaire, "The perfect is the enemy of the good."
Deadly Sin 3: Living in the Past. This is one of those areas where past success can lead to future failure. The world of sales and marketing (and almost everything else) has changed dramatically. I would guess that some of what worked for you just two to three years ago may now be obsolete, let alone what you did ten or twenty years ago. To paraphrase Andy Grove, a good marketer is a paranoid marketer -- always wondering what new techniques others are using to gain competitive advantage. It's a big world out there, and by the time you have figured out how to do your job, others are taking it to the next level. One of the best ways to prevent living in the past is to be a watchful consumer. Keep an eye out for how companies are marketing and selling to you and emulate the best practices. Borrowing from good ideas is perfectly legitimate as long as you do not copy anyone's text, designs, and so on.
Deadly Sin 4: Failure to Quantify. When John Adams said that "Facts are stubborn things," he meant that people find it convenient to ignore or hide the facts when it serves their purposes to do so. However, in marketing and sales, data is your friend, not something to be shunned. It used to be that the big advertising agencies avoided hard metrics like the plague. Their efforts were about brand awareness and the only thing they measured was how many creative awards they won last year.
In tougher economic times, with competition from every corner of the globe as well as cyberspace, most organizations cannot afford to measure results in soft terms-rather, they need hard data that tells them how many people are seeing each promotion, how many are responding, and how prospects are being moved through each stage of the end-to-end process until they become customers.
Deadly Sin 5: Failure to Test. Marketers who do not test are marketers who don't get the best results. Whether you call it resting on your laurels or staying with the status quo, inertia is your enemy. Programs that work today will tend to deteriorate if you fail to refine them, and the best way to know what needs refinement is to test. Every element of marketing campaigns can be tested, including the target audience, offers, benefits, messaging, media, copy and graphics.
I recommend that you make testing a formal part of your marketing strategy and budget accordingly, devoting 90 to 95 percent of your finances to campaigns that have proven successful (control campaigns), and the other five to 10 percent on new programs, new offers, new audiences, etc. Keep in mind that you should not have the same expectation for success with the test budget items as you do for the rest of your campaigns. This is where you experiment, take chances, and roll the dice, in an attempt to beat the control campaigns. It's a fun part of a marketer's job, and it feels great when your test campaign becomes the new control.
Deadly Sin 6: Inaction. "When in doubt, attack," was one of Napoleon's maxims for military success, and it is equally true for marketers. There is never a perfect time to enter a market, launch a campaign, or execute a quick hit strategy. Sometimes you won't have all the facts, sometimes you won't know how a target audience will respond, sometimes you won't have the luxury of waiting for all the research to come in, neatly tied up in a bow, with no doubt as to the outcome. However, this lack of certainty should not freeze you into inaction.
Good marketers are aggressive marketers. Just as any athlete has his or her playing field (arena, stadium, etc.), you have your own playing field. That playing field is wherever you can give prospects real opportunities to know you, to interact with you, to enter the sales cycle, and to become customers. And if you are in a fast-paced market, it is sometimes necessary to forget ready-aim-fire and instead practice ready-fire-aim. You learn by doing, not just by studying, pondering, and analyzing.
Deadly Sin 7: Focusing on What Doesn't Matter. As a marketing or sales manager, you have two primary resources at your command: time and money. I am not sure where I see more waste. Certainly, there is a great deal of money spent on programs and activities that have little chance of success. However, there is also a great deal of time spent on the irrelevant and the counterproductive. You and your staff have a limited amount of time and no doubt, a large number of tasks before you. Every minute you spend on a nonproductive activity hurts you in two ways, first because you wasted time on something that is not helpful, and second because that activity prevented you from spending time on something that is helpful.
Many managers who are excellent stewards of their company's financial resources are frivolous when it comes to guarding the most precious resource of all-time. If you concentrate your time on just the stuff that is really important to effective marketing and sales, and drop the rest, you will not only benefit the company immensely, but you may even find a little extra time for the truly important things, like family and friends. Wouldn't that be great?
Christopher Ryan is one of the nation's foremost experts in B2B marketing and sales. Author of How to Create an Unstoppable Marketing and Sales Machine (Fusion Marketing Press, 2009), Mr. Ryan is founder and President of Fusion Marketing Partners (www.fusionmarketingpartners.com). Chris Ryan was formerly a senior marketing executive at noted companies like Stellent, Inc., FrontRange Solutions, PeopleSoft, Sybase, and Group 1 Software. Mr. Ryan's latest book can be obtained at Amazon.com or at http://fusionmarketingpartners.com/get-the-book/.