6 Common Pitfalls to Avoid: How to Unlock Marketing Success

Leadership, Strategy

Running an agency for nearly two decades has given me a unique perspective on the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and senior executives. I estimate we have collaborated with over 500 companies, and I have observed a recurring pattern: some businesses immediately grasp how to leverage our services effectively, while others struggle to harness the power of marketing. In this article, we will explore six common signs that indicate your organization may be grappling with marketing-related issues and dive into the key elements necessary for marketing success.

Here are six signs signaling that marketing isn’t optimized in your organization:

 

1. Marketing Feels Like a Black Box

If you find yourself asking, “What is marketing even doing?” it’s a clear sign that your organization lacks visibility into the impact of your marketing efforts. You routinely feel frustrated that marketing feels too slow and disconnected from the business. Many organizations fall into this trap, where marketing becomes a mysterious process detached from tangible outcomes. 

 

2. High Turnover of In-House Marketing Talent

If you regularly find your in-house marketing talent stays for less than 24 months, it’s likely one of two issues. You don’t know what capability you really need to execute on the strategy (because you don’t have a strategy) and so the marketing pro you hire is tasked with needing to know everything about everything. OR, there are too many priorities for marketing, and their time, resources and energy is spread so thinly that nothing really gets done well. 

 

3. Limited Insight Despite Marketing Technology Investments

Many organizations allocate significant resources to marketing technology but struggle to derive meaningful insights from their efforts. If you’re spending money on marketing tech without seeing tangible results, it’s time to reassess your approach. This is likely a sign you have underdeveloped processes for clean data collection, analysis, and reporting, which keep your team from being able to make informed decisions.

 

4. Marketing Operates in Isolation from Business Strategy

A common pitfall is treating marketing as an isolated function, detached from your overall business. For marketing to thrive, it must be seamlessly integrated with your broader organizational objectives — fostering collaboration and communication between marketing and other departments, such as sales, product development, and customer service. 

 

5. Over-Reliance on a Single Source of New Revenue

Relying heavily on a single source of revenue can leave your organization vulnerable to unexpected disruptions. Whether it’s relying on a trade show, founder sales, a major relationship, or key sales personnel, diversifying your revenue streams is crucial for long-term sustainability. If you’re struggling to develop meaningful channels that derisks your primary legacy channel, you have unmeasured risk in your organization. 

 

6. Overcorrecting when Navigating the Ever-Changing Marketing Landscape

In today’s competitive business environment, everything feels hot and trendy, and there’s an inherent pressure to stay ahead of the curve. This constant pursuit of the latest marketing tactics often leads to a common issue we call “tactic jumping.” It occurs when organizations constantly switch strategies, chasing the newest trends without allowing sufficient time for their efforts to yield results. This lack of consistency can hinder your marketing efforts and impede long-term success. 

If these are the problems, how do you make them go away?

To unlock marketing success, senior executives must address several key elements:

 

Alignment: Clearly define the purpose of marketing and prioritize objectives that align with your business strategy. This alignment ensures that all marketing efforts are focused and contribute to your organization’s overall goals. 

Test: If you ask everyone around the executive table what marketing’s most important goal is, are the answers the same or vastly different? 

 

Ownership: Establish executive-level accountability for marketing. By assigning ownership and responsibility, you create a culture of responsibility and continuous improvement. This individual should not only be accountable, but enthusiastic and vocal about marketing’s place in executive-level discussion.

Test: If there is an issue with marketing, does the same person raise their hand and say ‘Hey, that’s on me to fix,’ or does everyone point to people outside the room?

 

Resourcing: Determine the appropriate level of investment and resources needed to achieve your marketing goals. This includes allocating the budget, hiring top talent, and providing the necessary tools and technology.

Test: Is there parity between your goals and the pace of progress expected with the resources allocated to solving?

 

Change Management: This section could also be called ‘culture.’ It’s imperative that your brand message and marketing become part of the very fabric of your organization. Sales, service, engineering, product, HR, finance – everyone needs to understand the role of marketing, what it aims to do for the business strategy, how the relevant functions will be supported, and how their contribution supports. Marketing is not an individual sport. 

Test: Is marketing ever talked about in town hall meetings or all company gatherings? Does marketing routinely attend other department meetings to collaborate and collect ideas? 

 

Operations: Integrate marketing with your business strategy and ensure alignment with sales. Develop a system for measuring progress and reporting results, allowing you to make data-driven decisions and adjust your strategies as needed.

Test: Can you define the metric, dataset, owner and process that gets activated to ensure real measurement of marketing impact?

 

Drawing a Parallel with Finance

In marketing, we too often expect episodic tactics to do the work of an integrated strategy. 

Let us parallel the world of finance. Just as hiring an outside CFO to create a budget does not equate to financial sophistication, merely investing in one-off marketing tactics will not guarantee success. 

A sophisticated financial environment requires a thoughtful approach, including a chart of accounts, accounting processes, reporting mechanisms, and disciplined behavior. Similarly, marketing demands a strategic and comprehensive approach to yield desired results.

 

Executives seeking growth must overcome these common marketing pitfalls to unlock sustainable success and value creation. By addressing the signs of marketing struggles and focusing on alignment, ownership, resourcing, and operations, you can position your organization for growth and market leadership.

Tiffany Sauder is the CEO of Element Three, a full-service marketing consultancy in Indianapolis. After taking over in 2006, she’s transformed E3 from a small creative shop into one of the fastest-growing marketing consultancies in the Midwest. Outside the office, she spends time with her husband and three daughters, runs half marathons, and is practicing for the day The Food Network calls to cast her on Chopped.

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