The Top 5 Ineffective Marketing Habits

Marketing is something everyone wants, but no one wants to pay for. While most businesses see the value in getting their message out, few see the value in building a strategic marketing plan, complete with repetition and prospect nurturing. A lack of marketing directly correlates to a lack of sales opportunities. To fill your pipeline and drive revenues, avoid these common partner mistakes:

1) The business thinks marketing is done, based on need.

Statistics show that once you stop your marketing engine, it will typically take you 8 to 10 months to start it back up again. A well-oiled marketing machine consistently and constantly trickles out a steady stream of prospects that are interested in talking with your company.

What makes a sales team successful is moving companies in and out of the pipeline. By engaging with companies in varying stages within their buying cycles, your sales team stands a much better chance of closing deals on a consistent basis. Closing deals on a consistent basis helps balance your delivery team and their capacities, produces happier customers and drives better overall profitability to a partner.

A recent study by Salesworks and IDC showed that a “new” customer typically produces 6 times the contribution margin and 5 times the top line revenue as compared to an existing customer. This shows that adding customers is essential to any business that wants to remain healthy.

Shutting off new entries into the pipeline is suicidal for any company and should be avoided at all costs.

Prospective customers are moving in and out of the buying cycle on a day to day basis. Just because the economy has slowed doesn’t mean these prospect companies aren’t still actively moving in and out of a buying cycle. Just because you think you’re too busy to take more work today doesn’t mean that a prospective customer will wait for you. You are simply fueling your competitor’s pipeline.

So, even if you think that a slower than normal economy is a good excuse to cut your marketing investments, you should avoid this action at all costs.

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2) There is No Coherent Business & Marketing Strategy

The old saying “Be careful what you ask for…” is 100% true. A company’s marketing strategy should always be linked back to that company’s business strategy. When creating a business strategy the management team identified how they expect to utilize every type of resource at their disposal to the best possible advantage, in an attempt to build / grow a healthy company.

Marketing’s job is to take the business strategy and use it to attract the types of customers defined as “ideal” by the management team. In addition, the marketing team should create core messages that exploit the business strategy and leave simple one or two word thoughts in a prospect’s mind of what your company stands for.

An example of this “core messaging” would be if you think of automobile manufacturers and I mention that the core message is “safety”. I would be willing to bet that when you think of automobile manufacturers and you think of safety, somewhere at the top of your list is Volvo. Safety is one of their core messages and they spend millions of dollars every year to make sure you understand that.

Everyone that works for Volvo understands that Volvo stands for safety, and acts accordingly. Safety is also import to a large number of prospective car buyers.

Safety is drilled home by the marketing folks at Volvo in everything they do.

While I have not yet met a business that can spend as much money on marketing as what Volvo spends annually, standing for something that makes sense to the prospect, differentiates you from all your competitors, helps you to stand out and helps the prospect lean more towards your direction is all that is required.

3) Failure to establish a unique company image and market positioning that differentiates them.

Prospective Customers are typically comparing several competitors when evaluating business applications.  If everything about the business appears to be about the same, the quickest, easiest and most common way to determine who to buy from and what to buy is price.

You need to have something that differentiates you from other competitors.

Don’t fall into the trap of telling me that you have the best or most experienced people. If you look at 10 competitor’s web sites, I am willing to bet you that 7 or 8 of them will mention that they have the best people and the most experience.

You might even truly have better people and more experience than these others, however, in the world of marketing perception is king and is thereby the only thing that matters. The prospective customer’s perception is all that matters. Therefore having the best people and the most experience can never be used to differentiate your company from others.

Failure to differentiate is the number one reason that partners are forced to discount products and services.


4) Failure to commit the resources needed to develop and execute an ongoing program

Marketing requires a commitment of time, effort, money, and resources. Few companies have ever really taken the time and effort required to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy. I believe this to mean that few p companies have the resources required to do this work internally. A huge mistake would be to try to recruit / hire these resources, unless your company is approaching 100 FTEs or larger in size.  Contracting with a marketing expert that understands your business, your market and your competitors is a much less expensive and much more effective alternative.

Developing a marketing strategy is pretty much a one-time requirement that is reviewed on an annual basis.

I recommend that companies with fewer than 30 people not even employ a full-time marketing person. For companies of this size, marketing is very much an administrative function. Execution of previously created materials / programs is the job requirement, and this is often easily handled by an existing admin team.

At about 30 FTEs, a business will start to bring a marketing person on in a full-time role. At this size, the business will start to require someone who can make adjustments to campaigns, organize and execute events, campaigns and webinars and manage a Pay-Per-Click program. This hire should be a fairly junior (in-expensive) person. Over time this person will take charge of all the marketing functions.

A huge mistake that is common would be to hire an expensive marketing person and then have no money left to spend on demand generation. With less than 80 to 100 FTEs, marketing within a  business is all about “Demand Generation” period, and thereby internal marketing executives are not needed.

5) Search engine invisibility

I don’t think I need to talk much about the importance of the web to a typical business.

Remember, your website is the “first impression” a prospective customer gets of you. Consider that if you are invisible to the search engines, you never get invited to participate in the potential deal.

A tremendous waste of money that I see occurring every day is businesses fighting over the exact same key words, while bidding on words that a prospective customer would likely NEVER use to search for a company. This competitive bidding only makes search engine companies rich, drains the marketing budgets of the business and does little (if anything) to help fill your pipeline.

On a related topic, some businesses claim that the cost to execute an on-demand marketing campaign is more expensive than traditional methods / campaigns.

We have found that the cost of on-demand campaigns come down as we (as an industry) get better at them. Targeting the correct keyword phrases, not over bidding for a word or phrase, and matching the keyword phrase with the offer and the landing page, all work to control the cost of on-demand marketing.

If you find yourself guilty of any one or more of these five crimes, take action today. Delaying action costs your company money every single day!

– Software Delivered as Promised. No Surprises.

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George Brown

Insight written by George Brown

Senior Vice President at Rand Group

A thought leader and pioneer in the areas of cloud computing, sales and marketing, George is a highly regarded subject matter expert and leader with over 30 years’ experience in strategically propelling businesses forward.

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  • Very good article. Having worked with Microsoft partners for over 10 years, I agree heartfully.

    I also think that many busy business professionals undervalue the importance of coaching. The problem with marketing is delayed gratification. You need to work on something regularly but it may not pay back before 7-10 months. Having a coach can help you stick to your marketing routine until you reach your goals. We call it the “weight watcher” success recipe. 🙂