When Good Marketing Advice Turns Bad

It was a windy day in February 2004 when I left the corporate world behind to set up my own business.  Those were dark days initially with many people offering me business advice, ranging from family members through old friends and business contacts to small business advisors and consultants.

Some of the business advice was either excellent (especially on finance) or good but most of the marketing advice was poor.  From this I developed a key rule:

Be very wary of accepting marketing advice from people who haven’t run their own business. This includes banks, accountants, Government advisory services, people from solely a corporate background, people who have worked at a lower level in an SME than Director etc etc.

These groups all offered marketing advice with the best of intentions but about 95% of it was either poor or potentially disastrous.  Why?

There are 3 main reasons:

1.  SMEs must market differently to larger organisations due to budget restraints and recognition. For example, advertising works well for corporates but will not work for SMEs who have yet to establish themselves.

2.  95% of marketing gets disappointing results. Oddly enough, marketing that wins awards usually gets the lowest return.  Famously, Rosser Reeves, the inventor of the USP, said he’d fire anyone in his marketing company who won a marketing award.  This is because clever, artistic marketing doesn’t sell products anywhere near as well as marketing with a strong selling message. 

3.  All of the above mentioned people base their advice on whether they think the marketing piece was good or not based on their own opinions rather than the results it produced. 

Having applied this final rule, I also found that marketing advice from successful business owners and marketing consultants could also turn unexpectedly bad.  There are 2 ways this can happen:

1.  They never measure the results of a specific marketing campaign and presume it’s a success.  This is more prevalent than you think.

2.  Their advice is applicable to their industry and market but not yours. Such ideas are rampant with industry specific guidelines being given as marketing laws which they are not. 

The most prevalent of these is that outbound marketing is dead and inbound marketing is everything.  This is not true for 95% of industries.  Yes, inbound marketing is an important new channel but it complements existing marketing efforts it does not replace them.

The only real way to know if a particular marketing tactic or strategy will work for you is to properly trial it and measure the results it produces. This is why it is important that you track your various marketing campaigns.

Test, track and tweak is the winning formula but you must market in a way so that you can track your responses.

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