The 7 Deadly Marketing Sins of 2009

Our job as marketers is to grow sales.  Regardless of the environment we face.  The choices we make either work or they don’t.  Two thousand nine has been a challenge for many of us.  Here are seven marketing sins I’ve seen small business owners commit in their attempts to improve sales in a tough economy.  The lesson in all this: you can only fail if you stop moving forward.

1.  Trying to give them everything. The more sales slip the bigger the temptation to throw in another benefit: if six reasons why your software rocks is good. . .nine reasons are better!  Actually, the more benefits you pile on the more you sound just like everyone else.  Understand what makes you different and important, then COMMUNICATE IT.  One caveat: the reasons people buy what you sell have probably changed in this economy.  Make sure you know what’s important to your customers NOW.

2.  Not changing enough. A new headline for your ad, a fresh look for your aging website or a snappy new brochure won’t be enough if your message stays the same and your customers’ world has fundamentally changed.  And, your customers’ world has fundamentally changed.  Chances are pretty good, then, you need a new value proposition.  Figure that out, THEN change your ad, website and brochure.  Caution: this is not an easy way out, it’s definitely the hard way out.  But if everything else doesn’t seem to be working, chances are good a new value proposition is in order.  That’s the bad news.  The good news: it can change your life, it can be a new wind under your wings that lifts your company to new heights (cue the music, the clouds part and rays of bright sunlight fall upon your brow. . .).  Actually, it’s true.

3.  Waiting. Let’s just hunker down until things get back to normal.  Sorry chief, we’re not in Kansas anymore.   Now, or close to it (somewhat better) may be the new normal.  You can’t wait this out, so get going!

4.  Not embracing social media. Yes, it can remind you of high school.  And no, it isn’t something your agency can do for you.  You have to do it.  But it is where your customers are spending an increasing amount of their time.  So, end of story, you need to be there too.  And if you still aren’t buying the argument, believe Google.  Google is now including a variety of social site content in their organic results.  So is Bing.

5.  Giving in to fear. Most of what’s on this page results from acting out of fear.  Fear slows you down at best.  At worst, it stops you.  Be brave.  Sounds silly maybe, I don’t care.  Be brave, don’t be afraid.

6.  Hesitation. The only way you can fail is by stopping.  Test something, measure, refine or discard it, then repeat.  This may be bad news if you’re a perfectionist, but this is how marketing gets done.  You fail by stopping, by NOT refining your last marketing effort and putting it out again, or by NOT discarding it and testing something else.  A corollary to this: don’t bet the ranch.  That is, don’t invest so much in an effort that you don’t have enough money to take the next step.

7.  Losing sight of your customers. It’s easy to reduce your focus to inside the boundaries of your business when things get painful.  It becomes a problem, however, when you lose sight of how what you do impacts your customers.  Fewer people in the warehouse or less inventory helps your bottom line, but does it stretch delivery times or hurt customer service?  You are exactly right to get your costs in line with where sales are.  Just keep the best interests of your customers in mind as you decide what and how to cut.

Bonus sin-

8.  Not investing in yourself. Making changes, thinking, being smart about things and finding and implementing new ideas, somewhere in here is where the solution is for you to growing in this economy.  If you don’t  recharge your creative batteries, bring in fresh ideas, fix weaknesses you’ve been meaning to fix and otherwise improvie your business, things aren’t going to change.  Invest in yourself.  Go to that conference.  Buy customers lunch and listen to what they have to say, even if it means getting on an airplane to do it.  Redo your website.  Buy better accounting software.

It’s true the most opportunity comes when things are the toughest.  When’s the best time to buy real estate or stocks?  When the market is in the dumps.  When’s the best time to increase market share?  When your market is in the dumps.

10 thoughts on “The 7 Deadly Marketing Sins of 2009

  1. Alan

    Great stuff, especially the part about being brave. Sometimes I wonder if I’m a little too intrepid for my own good, especially in situations where I feel as though I may not have the experience to do what I’m diving into, but most of time things seem to work out once I go forward with my decisions.

  2. hamilton Post author

    I actually thought twice about including the “sin” of not being brave. It can sound strange talking about bravery in many contexts. But it is an issue. Many equate being brave with doing extreme things — betting the company, for example. More often, I see the opposite, fear, stifling action. This is a tough one. Doing what brings fear is always tough, even if it’s moving forward when others are not. But again, the point is being fearful and doing nothing brings the consequence you are trying to avoid more often than being courageous and taking action; even the wrong action. Thanks Alan, and be brave!

  3. Wayne

    Thanks for making me re-think why people buy our products in this changed economy. Customers use to buy wireless headsets because it was a luxury. Now with staffs trying to cover down sized departments, they have become a necessity. We need to target that change. Thanks again!

  4. hamilton Post author

    I agree. As a huge wireless headset fan for probably 10 years, it is absolutely a necessity. I couldn’t live without mine. Glad the post gave you a nudge! BTW, for anybody who’s interested, I use the Plantronics WO 200 Savi wireless headset, and Wayne’s company is the only place to buy it from.

  5. Mike Guggenbickler

    Bonus Sin #9 …. Focusing ONLY on attracting NEW business
    When times get tough, the tendency is to do everything possible to attract new clients by focusing most all marketing/advertising $$$ and efforts in that direction. The businesses that tend to sustain and even grow thru tough times are those that have built strong client relationships thru a focused Client Relationship Marketing effort. 30% – 40% of a marketing budget/effort should be directed toward current clients with a focus on personal not promotional.

  6. hamilton Post author

    Outstanding, Mike. On three levels: focusing on current customers is important and it’s not on my list; the level of commitment you prescribe (a healthy chunk of a budget) means a company has to be serious about it; and making it personal. Thank you!

    Good, good stuff.

  7. Keven

    How can i get a face book account for my Company? i have one personally but i think i can only have one per email address. is this not true? how do others do it. What other sites are good besides face book? my Kids do Myspace but it seems like kids play.

  8. Jim Norman, CPA Consulting

    Hamilton, Thanks for the reminders in the Seven Deadly Sins. The interview/ introduction was great to watch. I can never thank you enough for what you have done and what you are doing for Norman & Company, Ltd. Last week I got the ultimate compliment in a rave about my web site that you did for me from a top financier I’m trying to introduce to one of my clients. I get compliments all the time….it seems people percieve that something important is going on. And this year is the most important ever!! P.S. I got a new Cisco Flip Camera from my family for Christmas which will help us “Change the World with Cisco Telepresence and StoryBoarding by 2015.” You’re great help. Thank you.

  9. hamilton Post author

    You’re welcome Jim. Glad the site is performing for you and I look forward to following your work with Cisco. I heard a prediction today: we’ll all have home telepresence by the end of this decade.

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