“We’ve seen a dip in sales over the last few months. Our repeat customers aren’t coming back, and I can’t remember the last time we’ve gotten a referral. Our marketing must suck right now! We need to ramp it up!”

I suspect this is a conversation most marketing professionals have faced throughout the course of their careers. A boss or a client shares their challenges and frustrations, and looks to marketing to “fix it.” They get excited about investing more in marketing, launching new campaigns, dreaming up catchy promotions, and maybe even establishing a new online presence. You start getting drawn in by this rush of energy, but then the rational side of the marketing brain puts the brakes on.

You realize marketing is not the problem. All of the challenges your boss/client has described can be traced back to not delivering what the brand promises you’ll deliver. When that happens, customers feel it. Word spreads through social media. It impacts the business, and there is no long-term fix that marketing alone can implement.

Every company faces a similar situation at some point in its existence, and it’s important to recognize when you’re there so that you don’t overspend on marketing or abruptly change tactics. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with clients to not only look at the promotional piece of their marketing, but also the customer experience piece which is just as (if not more) important for your marketing. There are four primary things I’ve encountered that are important to consider:

  1. Be sure your operations are scalable.
    If you’re looking to grow, and launch a large-scale marketing campaign to help spur that growth, you must be prepared to serve it. Consider what personnel and resources you’ll need to keep up with the call volume that new exposure can bring. If you’re not adequately prepared, you will likely not be able to deliver on your brand promise. Customer experience will suffer, as will your long-term ability to sell your product or service. Marketing won’t fix that.
  1. Have a plan to keep enough inventory in stock, or readily available.
    If people want to buy your stuff, you must have it available for them to buy. Unless you’re Apple. And you’re not. We once experienced a client go out of business before he even really began. The promotions started running, a big news story hit the media, and within a matter of weeks, he had no product and was unable to get more any time soon (several months to a year). Before long, the company was being ripped apart online. Potential customers were going elsewhere. There was no damage control at that point. He was done.
  1. Put the right people on the front lines.
    Your people make or break your brand. If your brand promise is to deliver knowledgeable, expert advice to your customers as they contemplate your purchase, but your business is staffed with folks that know nothing about your product or service, you’ll lose. And I’m not just talking about the sale, I’m talking about your reputation. It’s quite difficult, if not impossible, to market your way out of that one.
  1. Be honest – and I mean completely honest, all the time.
    People can find out a lot of things through Google, so it’s best to not try to pull a fast one. If you say you’re the lowest price, you’d better be the lowest price. If you say you’re the only person in town with a particular product, make sure no one else has it. You’ll get called out in a heartbeat and gain a reputation as a shyster. If customers aren’t patronizing your business because of this, your marketing isn’t going to help.

We marketers are eternal optimists – creative, enthusiastic, and among the biggest cheerleaders for your brand. But even we must set that optimism aside at times to examine all contributing factors to your business trends. So before you ax your marketing, do something drastic like run a Super Bowl ad, or abandon your brand promise, consider what might be happening in your business first and tweak your marketing second.

Article written by

partner/marketing visionary/Don Henley worshipper