Battling Back Against Marketing Malpractice
BY John Miller
October 24, 2018

Have you ever been sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting for her to come in and solve whatever ails you? Of course. We all have.

So, how does that interaction go?

As you sit on that ungodly crinkly white paper reading last July’s People magazine, you have a basic understanding of what will happen when the doctor walks in.

You also know what won’t happen.

The doctor most certainly won’t walk in, take one look at you, and prescribe a medication within the first ten seconds of saying hello. Rather, she’ll ask, “what brings you in today?” Depending on what you say, she’ll ask some follow-up questions. Then, on to the appropriate physical exam, a diagnosis (or at least a next step to get a better idea of what the diagnosis is) and a plan of action.

Why don’t we marketers act the same way?

A doctor that gave a prescription before arriving at a diagnosis would be guilty of malpractice. But in marketing, it’s standard operating procedure.

We need content. We want to launch a video campaign. We’ve decided SnapChat is where we can make our mark.

Diving into the solution before fully understanding the problem to be solved is the equivalent of malpractice. Marketing malpractice.

Now, certainly there are situations in life that don’t require convening a focus group. If you’re craving a cheeseburger and you know that a cheeseburger is the thing you need to get through the next half hour, that makes sense. You probably don’t need to step back and consider the why of your hunger before you go ahead and order that cheeseburger. Sometimes you just know what you need.

But our marketing efforts should be a bit more considered than lunch. Just because the other guys have a cool podcast does not automatically mean you have to have one too. The keeping-up-with-the-Joneses approach to marketing is a surefire way to bust your ass in order to end up in second place. Which is not your job.

The problem with jumping to the prescription too quickly

When the person you’ve hired (or are considering hiring) is too quick to jump to a solution, it becomes too easy for them to focus on their goal, rather than your ultimate goal.

For instance, if you have someone hellbent on improving your SEO, their goal is improving your SEO. Logical, right? But it means that their focus is not winning new customers. I mean, it sort of is, but it might be a little bit askew from what you’re really trying to accomplish. The focus of driving traffic to the website does not automatically convert to more business for you. It simply means you have a lot of people on your website. Well, what happens when they get there? Is it a good experience, or does the content look like it was written for Google’s spiders? Do they bounce away quickly?

This isn’t particular to SEO—any marketing person or agency that has a specific focus is going to think that focus is most important … and potentially ignore other important aspects of building your customer relationships, and in the process, run the risk of actually doing more harm than good.

A confession, sort of

Like most folks, we have a bias—we think content is at the core of all great marketing, and we also think that’s precisely where most marketing teams struggle. So we tend to push solving the content puzzle because, ya know, that’s what we do.

But we realize that just because we own a hammer (the biggest baddest hammer in all the land, mind you), doesn’t mean that every problem is a nail. The answer to every marketing conundrum is decidedly not “content!” Just like it isn’t video or podcasts or SnapChat or billboards or … anything. They’re all possibilities. Maybe they should all be considered. They almost certainly should not all be pursued. Some of them are right for your audience. Some of them are wrong. Some of them are complete blue oceans for your industry because, let’s face it—no one is doing an insurance podcast—but then again maybe that’s the opportunity.

But, back to the confession; we admit that we tend to look at things through the content lens, and we’re working at trying to not leap to prescription before we know the diagnosis.

That means asking lots of questions when we visit with clients. What brings you in today? Is anything causing you pain? What are you trying to accomplish? And how does the audience you’re trying to connect with play into this goal?

Maybe we can help you reach that goal. Or maybe we can introduce you to someone else who is better suited to solve this particular pain. Either way, we don’t want to mistreat the problem, because that’s not going to solve the problem; it’s most likely going to cause a new problem, or perhaps just drag us further away from solving that first problem.

What we’re striving to do is to help our clients get better—better at marketing, better at business.

Let’s talk about growing your company.

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