The top 10 mistakes marketers make

The late Art Linkletter hosted the long-running television show House Party in the 1950s and 1960s. He ended each show by interviewing kids. Every week he would say, “Kids say the darndest things.” And they did.

I think marketing people do the darndest things. Consider a conversation I had with the marketing director of a large software company:

PointClear (PC): Describe your market.
Marketing Director (MD): We sell to C-level executives in industries where excellent field service is integral to our prospects’ operational and strategic goals.

PC: What is the solution?
MD: Our solution extends ERP to the enterprise. It covers everything from supply chain management, back office, and customer and field services to sales automation.

PC: What is the buying process?
MD: The sales cycle is relatively long with multiple decision-makers involved. The average deal size is about $250,000.

PC: You mentioned that you were about to do a marketing blitz. What exactly are you going to do?
MD: We are going to mail 20,000 postcards.

I call this “an interview with a vampire”? Why? Well, it’s because campaigns like this suck the life out of many companies – maybe even at your company!

Here are 10 common mistakes many marketers make and what to do about them:

1. Unclear goals: Most marketers start with faulty assumptions and waste a lot of money. Is the goal lead generation or something else? The most common response I hear to this is, “We didn’t get many leads, but the campaign helped brand us in the market.” Unless you’re with a massive company, you can’t afford a branding campaign. A campaign has to drive tangible results or the money should not be spent.

2. Asking for too much: Don’t ask the prospect to do too much at first. Ask for one thing. Don’t make the process confusing. The buying process involves a series of Yes/No decisions. Make it too hard and get a “No” and you’re out of contention for business you could have won.

3. No financial model: Have you estimated best- and worst-case expectations? Would you invest if it results come in worst case? We use a ROI calculator to qualify prospects. Unless we have reason to believe we can drive at least an 8:1 return, we recommend that the prospect not use our solution.

4. Not testing: Has the lead-generation effort been tested? If not, why not? Testing is generally easy to accomplish and relatively inexpensive. Years ago I used direct mail to test creative for an expensive space ad campaign. The space cost $500,000 for a one-page ad. For $10,000 we were able to substantially increase our return because we knew in advance which creative approach would drive the best results. I use this example because direct mail was an unusual way to test creative for space advertising—but it sure worked.

5. Forgetting past results: If you have executed the same or a similar program, what were the results? If you don’t know, don’t do the program until you do.

6. Lack of a lead definition: Is there an agreed-upon definition of a lead if leads are the expected outcome? If marketing defines leads one way and sales defines them differently, chances are your marketing program is going to fail.

7. No lead qualification: Is there a process for qualifying raw leads? If leads go directly to sales without qualification (which is the case in most companies) that will result in the perpetuation of sales complaining about lead quality and marketing complaining about lack of specific feedback from sales.

8. No process for a results assessment: How and when do you assess results? If the answer is unclear then don’t run the program.

9. Inaccurate cost estimates: How much will it really cost? Many, if not most, companies underestimate the true expense of programs such as trade shows and content syndication programs. The mistake is focusing on the cost-per-lead rather than the cost-per-sales-accepted or sales-ready lead. If you don’t have a dashboard comparing the cost, number of leads, and closed business then you are shooting darts in the dark.

10. Focus on short-term and not long-term results: Will you capture qualified companies that are not immediately interested (leads)? Most companies don’t, wasting a substantial portion of their investment by simply starting over on each campaign rather than building a valuable list of qualified and not-qualified companies.

Dan McDade is president and CEO of PointClear, and author of The Truth About Leads. Contact him at [email protected].

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